In 2013, planning permission rules on extensions were relaxed. It was meant to be a temporary measure, introduced by the government to help stimulate home owners into building on to their existing homes. It seems to have worked, with 110,000 people making the most of those temporary rules.

But they are temporary no more. These relaxed rules have just been made permanent. If you’re in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland however, don’t get too excited, this only applies to homes in England unfortunately.

More is more

For the other countries of the UK, the existing rules still apply. That means attached homes can only go up to 3m deep won’t need full planning permission, and for detached homes that is 4m. In England those figures are doubled. So that’s 6m deep for attached homes, 8m for detached homes. These have to be single storey extensions. Anything else will still need planning permission as normal.

We know this as permitted development. Home owners, or companies on behalf of home owners, notify the council of the impending works, who will still notify neighbours, which gives them a chance to oppose the proposed works if they see a need to.

The government likely see the temporary relaxation as a success, and wish to continue and make it permanent. From a fenestration industry point of view, which is now heavily involved in the solid roof market, this is a win. I don’t think it will suddenly spark a rush from home owners to build more extensions, as many already knew of the relaxed rules already. However what it does give the industry is not only a guarantee that the rules won’t be rolled back, but also a marketing opportunity to go to home owners to advertise that they can have their dream extension without having to wait months for an approved decision by their council.

Whilst the fenestration industry on the whole might welcome this news, along with home owners and all other trades involved with this area of construction, there are some which have voiced concern at the move.


Wider impacts

The news to make planning permission rules relaxed on a permanent basis have been welcomed by some, but not all. Take for example an article on the Planning Portal website. This was the response to the news from the Head of Planning at The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE):

We welcome any reasonable measures that lead to the more effective use of previously developed land, and support the increased densification of urban areas. However, this plan is of deep concern. It presents a short-sighted attempt to increase housing numbers, undermines the planning system and ignores a variety of issues and complexities which should be taken into account for such proposals.

A blanket approach for uncontrolled redevelopment of commercial buildings is unlikely to lead to good placemaking. It remains unclear how extending permitted development rights will ensure high-quality, affordable redevelopment – that connects with existing, and contributes to, new infrastructure – without the intervention of a normal planning application.

He wasn’t the only one to weigh in. In an article on the BBC News website, planning spokesman for the Local Government Association Martin Tett said:

We do not believe this right should be made permanent until an independent review is carried out of its impact, both on neighbouring residents and businesses, and also the capacity of local planning departments.

Whilst I agree that due process should always be applied to things like home extensions, I also believe that the old planning process was far too archaic and simply took far too long. What I do get a whiff of here is certain local departments who enjoyed a certain level of power aren’t too happy that their authority has been undermined somewhat by this. I can say personally that if this is the case, I care very little.

I have never been impressed when dealing with the various local council authorities when it comes to extension related queries. For example, I rang my local authority with a question about turning a conservatory into an extension via a solid roof upgrade. I spoke to two different people within the same offices and got two different questions to what I thought was a fairly simple question.

But this is primarily about making it easier for home owners to expand their living spaces. We’re already well short of affordable homes in this country. If by making these relaxed planning permission rules permanent makes even just slightly easier for home owners to add on to their properties, then I’m OK with that.

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