Renovation Projects Without Planning Permission

20+ Ways To Improve Your Home

Our really useful guide to ways you can improve and renovate your home without the need for planning permission.

Play Audio ArticlePrintable PDFShow Article Contents

When you make a choice to extend or remodel your home, the first thought - and barrier - that you may come up against is whether you need planning permission. The good news is that this doesn't have to be a barrier to your home renovation dreams. You can improve your home without planning permission, and you can do it without breaking the bank entirely. 

Those self-builders out there that are looking to refurbish their home completely or outside buildings. Maybe happy to know that there is so much you can do without having to go through a vast approval process.

In this guide, we're going to talk about how to renovate without planning permission. As well as the projects that you could do for yourself. We're going to go through the following:

  • All about planning permission

  • All about permitted development

  • Reasons to extend the house

  • Home renovation project ideas

  • All about Building Regulations

Circular stone flag patio with flowers and dwarf hedgeCircular stone flag patio with flowers and dwarf hedgeCircular stone flag patio with flowers and dwarf hedgeCircular stone flag patio with flowers and dwarf hedge

A new patio so friends and family can take advantage of warmer days in the garden?

What is Planning Permission?

If you ever have queries about specific planning cases, you can speak to your local planning authority

In very basic terms, planning permission is asking the powers that be if you can do a specific building project. And in some cases, if you don't get permission where you should, you will be told to reverse your hard work. Your project question may be granted, depending on some conditions, or it will be refused. 

Sometimes, you can appeal the refusal, but as the government have given a choice to grant permission to local councils, it's not always guaranteed. If you ever have queries about specific planning cases, you can speak to your local planning authority, and they can answer any questions for you.

What Are Permitted Development Rights?

Permitted development rights are restricted throughout some areas of the country, and Conservation Areas are particularly protected

There is a massive range of projects out there that you can complete without needing to go through the formal planning permission process. For these, you have "permitted development rights", and it applies to a lot of common household projects. 

However, permitted development rights that apply to houses don't always apply to blocks of flats or maisonettes. Commercial buildings and offices also have different permitted development rights to regular domestic homes.

Permitted development rights are restricted throughout some areas of the country, and Conservation Areas are particularly protected. Other areas include:

  • National Parks

  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty

  • World Heritage Sites - or the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads

There are specific home renovation projects that do require you to obtain planning permission before you can go ahead. But there are different permissions and requirements if you want to change a listed building. The best advice that we can give you is that you should always contact your local authority before you do anything. 

The worst thing that could happen is you plough money and time into a massive project only to have to undo it. And this is something that can be court ordered if you don't get the permission where you should. They are the people that can inform you whether you need to go through the planning approval process, or you have permitted development rights already.

The government has granted consent for many different projects, as long as they meet certain conditions. It's complicated, as there are detailed rules to consider. And it's for this reason, it's always best to get it in writing as to whether you need the permission or not.

Solar panels on small roof with roof lightsSolar panels on small roof with roof lightsSolar panels on small roof with roof lightsSolar panels on small roof with roof lights

Cut your energy costs with solar panels, but check the rules first!

Why A Home Renovation Project Is A Good Idea

Renovations aren't always cheap, but they are significantly less expensive than moving to an entire property

When the worry of planning permission vs permitted development rights is through, you get to think about the reasons you should go ahead with your project. Some of the best reasons are those that you may not have thought of, so let's take a look at some of them.

Update Your Home

You may have bought an older home, or you may have fallen in love with a new style. Either way, updating the way that your home looks are the first and best reason to consider a home renovation project. The way we live in our homes is changing, and so updates are necessary to be more sociable, with larger kitchens and open living spaces.

Gain More Space

Extensions to the house can enable you to have better family time and increase the living space. You can change your loft to accommodate growing children needing independence, or even make a suite for ageing relatives to have somewhere to stay. There is a lot you can do with space for your family, and it means you don't have to move house.

Keeping Your Neighbours

When you become a part of the community, it makes it tougher to leave. Home renovations enable you to stay in the area that you love, with the scenery you love and the schools you want your children to remain at. Improving without moving is one of the best decisions that you can come up without having to leave the area.

What You Want

When you move into a new house, you don't get to choose the way it looks. It's already been built, and you can furnish and decorate, but you can't make the significant changes that matter. By starting and planning a home renovation project, you can make it exactly the way that you want it to look, and you can do it well.

Cheaper Than Moving

It is a pain to pack up and move house, and it can be far too much of a cost. You have to factor in more than just a deposit; there are estate agents and conveyancing, solicitors and surveyors, removals and stamp duty.

The cost of moving can often be as much as a deposit on a house. Renovations aren't always cheap, but they are significantly less expensive than moving to an entire property.

Get Creative

The chance to get creative and optimise the space that you live in should always be a priority, and you can change the giant empty loft space into a new bedroom suite. Or you can turn the large cupboard under the stairs into a small WC. There are options for you to get creative with your open spaces, and it's now that you should consider where to start.

Extra Income

With a converted garage  converted loft and even an extension on the upper floor of your house, you can make money. Taking in a lodger or renting out space on Airbnb means that you can add a significant income to your house every month.

All you need is to consider your plans and consult with your local authority as to whether you are allowed to go ahead!

An open velux roof lightAn open velux roof lightAn open velux roof lightAn open velux roof light

Would roof lights shed new light on a loft conversion?

Home Renovation Project Ideas

While you won't need permission to add bigger windows to the house, you will need to follow the Building Regulations to remain compliant

So, now that you know all that there is to know about planning permission and permitted development rights. We need to talk you through the very many ways that you can change your home without having to ask for any permission.

A Single-Storey Extension

Most people don't realise that they can put an extension on their home with permitted development rights rather than planning permission. There are limits, and the general gist is the following:

  • You can extend 4m out if the house is detached

  • You can extend 3m out for every other house type

  • If you want to expand out of the side of your house. It can be up to half of the width of the building. 

  • The height of the extension ridge is restricted to 4m.

  • You can only cover half of the garden space. 

  • Materials for the extension have to match the house as closely as possible.

  • Your new extension cannot be too far forward of the existing elevation of the property. 

  • Within 2m of a boundary, your extension roof has a height limit of 3m. 

  • Houses in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty are not permitted to have side extensions at all.

A Multi-Storey Extension

Another misconception about a home extension is that you need planning permission for multiple storeys. You can confirm permitted development rights for a two-storey extension plan as long as the extension doesn't go back further than 3m. The only way you can have two storeys is if it's at the rear of the property.

A Garden Room

Not so much a working shed, but a room built as a studio or summerhouse would be perfect in the garden. It's very likely that a room such as this will be allowed under your permitted development rights. The only time it would not be allowed is if your home was built in a conservation area.

If your plans were to build in the front garden, you'd need planning permission for it. So it's best to cut out the nonsense and relocate your garden room to the back of the house. While there is no planning permission required, there are still rules that need to be followed so that you can meet the criteria for permitted development rights:

  • If you build a garden room, it has to have one storey no higher than 2.5m for the eaves. 

  • The maximum height has to be 4m for a pitched roof and 3m for other roof types.

  • You may not plan for a balcony or raised platform. 

  • Maximum 30 sq metres floor space.

  • Cannot take over more than 50% of the garden area. 

  • Are you planning to use it for accommodation? You'll need to ask permission for that.

Interior Redesign

Renovations for the home extend to more than just adding rooms to the house and raising buildings outside. The interior of the property can benefit from home renovation, too, and it's a great way to update the house without having to add much. Internal changes that you won't need permission for can include:

  • Adjusting the height of the floor

  • Knocking through the walls

  • Ripping out and redoing the kitchen

  • Renovating the bathroom

These rules do not apply to a new-build home, as the approved plans have to be followed. Those living in a house with listed status will need listed consent. The general gist is that if you don't need to add to the footprint of the house, you can carry out your interior plans.

Window Replacement

If your home was one with single-glazing when you bought it, you might decide later on to look into double-glazing. This can be installed without planning permission for most houses; it's just listed buildings that will need the appropriate permissions. 

While you won't need permission to add bigger windows to the house, you will need to follow the Building Regulations to remain compliant. Here are some of those that you need to follow:

  • Side-facing windows have to have obscured glass

  • Side-facing windows must not open unless 1.7m above the ground

  • Bay windows are classed as extensions not as "new windows"

  • Conservation area locations will need consent

Redoing The Roof

Sometimes, the roof of the home just gets knackered out. The constant exposure to the elements wears the roof down over time, and roofing jobs that require you to repair sections of the roof don't need any formal permission. This is just as long as they don't come forward more than 150mm from the existing roof plane.

Installing Rooflights

One of the best - and most popular - roofing projects around is installing roof lights. You need to ensure that they won't change the weight of the roof too much, as otherwise, you could be risking collapse. The structural integrity of the building is vital, and your plans should take that into consideration.

Full Loft Conversion

From adding a flight of stairs to the loft to the conversion of the space itself, a loft conversion is an exciting project to embark upon. If your loft remains under 40 cubic metres, you may not need planning permission. If you've been drooling over dormer windows. You're in luck, as your permitted development rights for your property allow for the construction of these, especially as they'll give you more headroom in the loft. 

Again, dormer windows cannot sit too high. So keep your plans specific with measurements and don't plan for them to sit higher than the existing roof. Your loft has the potential to be so many things, as we explained earlier. All of these changes rely on you to do as much internal work as possible, which is why planning permission isn't required. 

Some local authorities have planning restrictions on loft conversions. But as you're going to check whether you need permission with your local authority before work commences, you can ask them their rules.

Insulation Upgrades

Living in an older property can mean that the insulation becomes ineffective over time and fitting new insulation won't require any planning permission. The only time you'll need to seek planning permission for the upgrading of the home insulation. Is if a layer of it is added to the outside of the house and it changes its appearance.

Installing Solar Panelling

There are strict size limits on solar panels that are added to the garden or on any shed roofs. But for the solar panels on your roof, you will find that these can be installed under permitted development rights. Of course, they can't jut out more than 200mm beyond the pane of the roof, but the government is very concerned with reducing our carbon footprint. 

This is why solar panels are more popular than ever! If your home is sitting in a World Heritage Site or Conservation Area, please check with your local authority before you invest in solar panels.

Creating A Basement

Did you know that adding a basement to your home is considered to be an extension in the same way a single-storey extension is? The only difference is that instead of extending out of the back of the house, you're going underground. It's a fantastic way to create extra space without altering the exterior of the building, but you should check with your local authority. 

There are some urban areas that have removed the permitted development rights of residents because of the danger of collapse. It's a great solution if you don't have the space to extend the house in the typical way. And it also doesn't change the size of your garden - bonus! You'll need permission if you plan to use it as accommodation, and you should be prepared for major works ahead. Excavation to create a basement is not a small job.

Converting The Garage

The garage is often used to house cars to keep them off the road. However, when you need extra space, the garage conversion is the perfect option. Permitted development rights give you the chance to alter the interior space. Mainly because it doesn't mean you're going to be increasing the overall footprint of the house. 

The snag? If your plans in any way involve enlarging the height of the building or the width of it, you may need planning permission. Changes need to be internal for the garage, and if you're using it as additional accommodation you shouldn't need permission then, either. The best thing that you could do is check with your local council first.

Porch Additions

There's nothing sweeter than having a porch around the front of the house, but in the UK, you can add only a small porch. It can be up to 3m high and the floor area mustn't exceed 3m2. For the most part, you can't change the front of your house without planning permission. For a porch, though, as long as it's not:

  • Higher than 3m

  • Within a motorway by 2m

  • Over 3msq

You can go ahead and add somewhere for your rocking chair to go!

Extra Outbuildings

There are some homeowners who love the idea of a summer house. A garage for their car and even a shed. All of these things are able to be built under permitted development rights. And it has to be at the back of the property. There are height limits for these outbuildings, but they vary by individual building. 

If you are in a listed building, you don't have permitted development rights to build an outbuilding on the property. However, those living in a Conservation Area or a National Park can have an outbuilding no larger than 10m2.

Putting Two Together

Sometimes, it's easier to put two buildings together than move house due to lack of space. The conversion of two houses into one can be one without any planning permission, but this is not the same rule in reverse. Check with your local council before works commence so that you're not making a costly mistake.

Adding Gates, Fences & Walls

Fences are another home element that takes some pressure from the wind and rain. You are allowed to put up new fences, maintain your gates and add a wall as long as it doesn't stand over 1m tall. Listed building owners need to apply for permission. You can add new boundary treatments, too, as long as they are the right height.

Just Keep Swimming

Not every homeowner considers a swimming pool for their property, but it sure is a popular decision for a family. You are allowed to build an outdoor pool for your home within your garden as long as you don't take up more than half of it. You can still have an indoor pool (and with UK weather, it's desirable) but you will need to check out the information above on outbuildings. 

Not everyone loves the idea of a pool in their garden due to the upkeep and maintenance. So it's worth considering that before you add one in for your home, especially if you intend to sell up at some point.

Cladding Ideas

External cladding does not require planning permission when it is made of timber, stone or renders. Your home mustn't be in a Conservation Area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Don't forget to talk to the building control department if you require insulation, too.

Installing Patios or Driveways

Laying or replacing the paving across the grounds of your property comes under the umbrella of permitted development rights. If you plan to update more than 5m2 of your front yard, certain materials are a must. Permeable block paving or gravel, and you should ensure natural drainage to the flowerbeds - this avoids flooding.

When it comes to adding the driveway, you have the same rules about permeable material used. And you need to ensure that you get planning permission for the drop kerb you may need. You cannot get onto your driveway without one, and it's worth talking to your local authority about this before you start planning.

Adding A Deck

There's nothing quite like relaxing on your deck in the sunshine, and you're in luck if it's what you want to do. Your permitted development rights have you covered with a deck as long as the height remains less than 30cm above ground level. It shouldn't take up more than 50% of the garden, either, but at least you'll still get that chillout space you crave.

Commercial To Domestic Use

Did you know that you could change the use of your commercial space to domestic? Offices, shops and larger storage units can be residential spaces with permitted development rights. If you're on farmland, you can change the use of three buildings on the land, but the rules are complicated and not everything comes under permitted development rights. 

Speaking to the overseeing council is the best thing that you can do here, as the rules are complex enough to need clarity on whether you need planning permission.

The ideas here aren't exhaustive, and there are probably a lot more out there. These should give you a solid understanding of what's out there and able to be changed under your permitted development rights as a homeowner. Ideally, we've given you some options that you may not have considered before!

Timber decking with luxury garden furnitureTimber decking with luxury garden furnitureTimber decking with luxury garden furnitureTimber decking with luxury garden furniture

A new timber deck could be just the trick for your garden

Building Regulations: Things To Know Before You Go Ahead

The Building Regulations are designed to control health and hygiene, welfare, safety, sustainability and energy-efficiency

All of the UK-wide Building Regulations are the minimum standards that need to be adhered to for all new building work. This isn't just limited to more modern houses on the market, but the latest building work, too. 

Alterations to an existing house still have to meet Building Regulations. And it's essential to be aware of how these will affect you in your planning and designing of a new addition to the house you own.

In England and Wales, the Building Regulations are shared, and the Northern Ireland Regulations are very similar. Scotland and Ireland have its own legislation, so it's worth checking with your planning department at your council as to what your Building Regulations are.

If you are in the middle of planning a brand new extension or addition to your house, you need to know about Building Regulations and how they affect you. So, let's take a look at some questions about those!

What Do They Cover?

The Building Regulations are designed to control health and hygiene, welfare, safety, sustainability and energy-efficiency. Your new addition to your house or your changes to the interior have to meet the standards in the defined Approved Documents. And these cover all the Building Regulations so that you know if you have it right.

Do Building Regulations Affect My Home Renovation Project?

As the Building Regulations are designed to cover construction, but they also include:

  • Foundations

  • Stability of the building

  • Underpinning

  • Damp-proofing

  • Insulation

  • Heating

  • Fire protection

  • Ventilation

  • Escape routes in an emergency

Without Building Regulations approval, your extension will not be truly complete. The repairs needed to your house won't be covered in the Building Regulations, but usually, restorations tend to be minor anyway. 

If you are planning extensive repairs that will change the whole structure of the house, such as:

  • Removing load-bearing walls

  • Rewiring

  • Improving the drainage system

  • Altering the heating system

  • Replacing the windows

  • Repairs to heating elements

  • Removal of more than half of the roof

The Building Regulations will apply to all of these.

How Do I Apply For Building Regulations?

When you are looking to apply for work, you have two options:

  • A Building Notice Application

  • A Full Plans Application

Both of these have to be submitted to the correct person before work begins. There will be a fee that you have to pay, which varies from the local authority to local authority. The Building Notice procedure is something that you need to submit for minor works.

When Can I Get On With My Project?

Did you know that as long as you've submitted your Building Regulations application, you can get started on the work? You don't have to wait around for an approval; as long as two days have passed, you can get going. 

The one thing to remember, though, is that a Full Plans application may not have been reviewed. So you'd have no advice on potential issues that may come up.

As long as you're okay with that, you can go ahead. Most choose to wait - just in case. Most of the time, a response will come back to you within two weeks of submission.

What Do Building Regulations Cost?

The fees range from £80 up to a few thousand pounds depending on the project. Multiple works can encourage discounts, and the fees can be negotiated. Don't forget that you need to factor in VAT with your costs before you get started. 

The last thing you need is the VAT amount to push the price beyond your budget.

Why Are Building Regulations So Important?

If you don't meet Building Regulations within your project, you're going to be breaking the law. It's a legal obligation that is put onto both professional building companies and self-builders alike to ensure safety during building work. If you don't meet the regulations, it's a criminal offence. 

You could be prosecuted for skipping a step, and it's not a step that is worth skipping. Not only that, you could end up being unable to sell your house on when you have completed work that wasn't approved in the first place.

Did You Skip A Step Already?

If you've already started work on your property and you haven't got the right approval in place. You can apply for and arrange an inspection by paying the fee. This applies to all work that has been completed since 1985.