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The COVID-19 lockdown will have made many homeowners realise that they lack space, but with uncertainty about the economy, it could be wise to improve your home, rather than moving. We look at the planning considerations you will need to take into account…

After two months of having the whole family at home, with kids needing space for homework and adults seeking a quiet space for working, many homeowners will be adamant that they need more space!

With no definite answers about when all kids will be back at school full time, and the likelihood of employees continuing to work from home in the near future, many of us have recognised that we need a bigger home and there are some calls for housebuilders to recognise this in the new housing they design and build, and for the Government to reflect this in its ‘nationally described space standards’ – but this is not likely to happen in the short term and moving to a larger property may not be feasible for everyone.

In some parts of the UK house sales and prices have bounced back to pre-lockdown levels. Of course, there will be some people who were already on the verge of selling or moving as lockdown happened, so they have no doubt got busy with moving plans now that we are out of full lockdown. Likewise, there is anecdotal evidence that people who have been furloughed on full pay or working from home have managed to pay off debts or add to savings while everyday living costs such as travel, petrol, kids clubs, meals out, trips to the cinema and so on have been cut to a minimum. However, this situation is unlikely to remain indefinitely.

Many people are facing job loss, reduced incomes, or are just feeling uncertain about their financial future. With no clear answer about when school children will be back in full time education, parents are likely to take a financial hit if one partner is unable to work or is working fewer hours than normal. This uncertainty, coupled with the threat of a recession, may make it hard to secure a mortgage on a bigger property. So, for many homeowners, looking at expanding their existing space seems a sensible option.

Permitted Development

Good news for many is that the government extended the existing Permitted Development rights that allow even larger extensions than before, just a few years ago. This is connected to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 1995 (as amended), Schedule 2, Part 1, Class A.

Using Permitted Development rights means that you don’t have to apply for full planning permission – it will save time, money and effort. But you must ensure that any proposed extension or change of use (such as a garage conversion) qualifies.

To qualify, your proposed single-storey extension must not extend beyond the principal elevation (often your front elevation) or side elevation fronting a highway. It must not be deeper than 4m (detached house) or 3m (semi or terraced house), and it must not exceed a maximum height of 4m.

Even two-storey extensions can come under permitted development, as long as they are no more than 3m deep, 7m away from rear boundaries and window do not overlook neighbouring properties. You can find more details about permitted development requirements in our previous blog.

If you are planning an extension measuring more than 4 metres and less than 8 metres (for a detached house) or more than 3 metres but less than 6 metres (for a semi or terraced house), you must notify the council and submit specific information required to describe the proposed development. If this describes your situation, a planning consultant can certainly help to move your plans in the right direction.

Garden Office

An alternative to extending is to install a ‘garden office’ type building in your garden. These are generally cheaper than building an extension and offer a quicker option with less upheaval – especially important if you have smaller children or are busy working from home.

There are restrictions on what you can use the building for if you want to take advantage of permitted development rules – for example sleeping accommodation would not be approved as this is arguably ancillary accommodation, whereas the outbuilding should be used for purposes incidental to the dwelling house. For full details about permitted development, visit the government’s website.

While permitted development rights can make the whole planning process more simple, we do recommend that anyone considering building an extension should consult a planning consultant or architect, or pay for pre-application advice from the local authority, to avoid making any costly mistakes.

If you would like to discuss your own project with us, or just find out more about what we do, please continue to browse the website or drop us an email to:  info@apexplanning.co.uk without obligation.