We usually hear more about the plight of planning permission and its lengthy and somewhat tricky process more than we do about Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) . Permitted Development Rights allow you to make modifications to homes and properties without seeking planning permission at all.
Permitted development rights are granted by statutory laws including The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, and have been updated numerous times, including recently in 2019. Generally, the trend has been to grant homeowners greater powers to modify and extend their homes using PDRs within certain boundaries and rules. Not only does this encourage development and renovation, but it also takes the pressure off councils and planning departments who would otherwise be inundated with applications for relatively trivial modifications.
Most houses are granted permitted development rights but flats and maisonettes are not since they are part of larger buildings likely owned by other parties. In this case, planning permission would be required. For homeowners, though, permitted development rights cover many aspects of renovations, extensions and modifications.
PDRs vary from two-story extensions to adding chimneys and solar panels to houses. The categories are as follows:
All extensions fall under Class A as do changes to windows, doors and fascias. Extensions include anything that involves enlargement of the property and are typically allowed under PD if they involve single-storey or two-storey rear extensions that do not exceed 4m for detached houses and 3m for semis and terraced houses.
In 2019, larger rear extensions of up to 6m in semis and 8m in detached houses were made possible following a Neighbour Consultation Scheme whereby you have to inform the planning authority in your area who then will notify your neighbours of your plans. Your neighbours will have 21 days to put forward reasonable objections. This is still much quicker than obtaining planning permission.
Class A also covers garage conversions and basement conversions.
This class covers roof extensions and modifications including solar panels (turbines and other forms of microgeneration also fall under PDR). Roof extensions and conversions are permitted under PDRs so long as they do not exceed 50m3 external volume for detached houses or 40m3 for semis and terraces.
Porch extensions of 3m2 are typically allowed when constructed around external doors.
This class allows for the construction of other buildings relevant to the enjoyment of the house, e.g. swimming pools, decking, sheds and other small outhouses or constructions. They must be to the rear of the house and not cover more than 50% of the garden in England (30% in Scotland). There are various terms that depend on the boundaries with other nearby lands.
Other classes include Class F that covers hard surfaces, e.g. driveways, chimneys, in Class G and antennas, in Class H. Note, only porous driveways fall under PD, and not non-porous driveways such as tarmac unless drainage is provided on the property.
Some areas known as ‘designated areas’ restrict PDRs:
- Conservation Areas.
- Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
- World Heritage Sites.
- National Parks.
- Listed buildings.
Buildings in other areas can still be stripped of some PDRs using a council-issued Article 4. Usually, permitted development rights will still apply to some extent but you may be responsible for making sure alterations are strictly in keeping with the style and heritage of the area whilst protecting the environment during construction. Article 4s may be relevant when councils want to prevent local trends of converting offices and shops to flats or other residential accommodation at the sacrifice of the local economy.
When you buy a house, by law, you will have to bear in mind any modifications made by previous owners since 1948. So, if the house has already been extended under forms of PD since this date, you will be unable to additionally extend or modify it. This won’t apply to all types of modifications made under PD but it certainly will for anything that seeks to extend the size of a building. In essence, you cannot extend on top of extensions built since 1948 deemed ‘the original building’.
The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 also stipulates various ways in which other classes of buildings can be modified under PD, including commercial buildings (offices, shops and industrial buildings), farms and agricultural buildings, educational or health buildings, etc. Generally, the intent is to free up disused space for residential developments and thus, converting many classes of buildings to residential using PDRs is quite straightforward.
The specific conditions of permitted development for many commercial buildings is still nuanced and complex and will nearly always require a commercial property solicitor to sift through relevant paperwork, deeds, contracts and any Article 4 directions. However, by and large, permitted development rights for many commercial buildings are generous providing there is little or no interaction with the boundary or other nearby privately-owned buildings.
Some notable or more common examples of permitted development in commercial settings include A1 (shops), A2 (Commercial services, e.g. agencies) and A5 (takeaways) that can all be converted into residential buildings up to 150m2 or converted between each other’s classes. This is subject to Prior Approval – this will be covered in the next section. The Prior Approval process (in some form a streamlined version of planning permission) will judge whether the modifications will negatively impact the economy of the town or district, amongst other factors.
Agricultural buildings can also be converted to residential via PDRs up to 450m2 (e.g. barn conversions). There are many structural terms here that concern whether the new structure would be fit for residential use without major engineering work.
Furthermore, light industrial buildings are also relatively easily converted to residential buildings up to 500m2, specifically B1 (light industrial buildings) and B8 (warehouse/storage). The space can be divided usually into no more than 5 individual residential dwellings.
All of these conversions are subject to Prior Approval and factors such as building safety; contamination, flooding, noise, design, etc, will be looked into.
Also known as prior notification, some forms of PD may still require you to go through the local planning authorities (LPA) and notify them of what you intend to do. This also allows you to obtain a Lawful Development Certificate – official certification and legal right over what you plan to do.
Prior Approval is nearly always relevant to complex or larger buildings but it also applies when homeowners want to extend beyond the 3 or 4m limit. Here, the LPA will usually launch a Neighbour Consultation Scheme to assess whether there are any objections to plans. Otherwise, the LPA will measure up any proposed PD modifications to the National Planning Policy Framework and their Local Plan to make sure the changes don’t require a more thorough assessment via the planning permission process.
Situations where you’ll need to seek Prior Approval:
- Large Home Extensions.
- Agricultural and Forestry Developments.
- PD for many commercial buildings.
Lawful Development Certificates are not compulsory to obtain for making modifications using PD. They are, however, a safety net in case objections or complaints come to light and will most likely be required when a building is put up for sale to prove that any extensions were carried out lawfully. You can obtain an LDC by applying for one through the Planning Portal – it can take up to 8 weeks. LDCs are granted as part of any PD process that involves Prior Approval.
|Permitted Development||Planning Permission|
|Extensions within PDR limits – larger ones will need Prior Approval. Must be within PDR allocation, e.g. you can’t extend on top of extensions||Any larger extension or modification that is taking place in addition to prior extensions made under PDRs.|
|Basement and roof or loft extensions/conversions.||Changes/additions taking place near boundaries or where restricted covenants are involved.|
|Decking and garden installations.||Construction of new homes or buildings beyond the size of outhouses allowed under PDRs.|
|Outhouses such as sheds and swimming pools. Porches over external doors.||Changes/additions to listed and/or officially designated buildings (e.g. in a National Park).|
|Driveways and other surfaces.||Modifying street-facing features.|
|‘Attachments’ such as solar panels, antennae and turbines.||Splitting properties.|
Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) allow homeowners and owners of some commercial buildings to make both small and relatively large changes to property and other buildings without seeking planning permission. In some cases, owners must seek prior approval, where the local planning authority will check plans, possibly also arranging a consultation with neighbours. This may sound very similar to planning permission but it’s a much quicker process and so long as your plans comply with the objective statutory rules of PD for your building type then the council cannot stop you from going ahead with the plans. Planning permission is long-winded, more subjective and costs more/requires more legal involvement.
Always seek the assistance of a property solicitor or specialist if you’re not sure of whether your modifications fall under PD as it is a criminal offence to make unlawful modifications for homes and this can be extremely costly.