What the new planning changes mean for homeowners

What the new planning changes mean for homeowners

This month the Government has announced a raft of new housing measures which it says are aimed at helping housing and job markets and boosting the economy.

Included in the package are plans to relax the planning rules for homes and businesses and cut “red tape across the planning system”.

For home owners, this means planned changes to the rules for extensions, loft conversions/extensions and conservatories and what can be built without needing to obtain planning permission.

Depending on the type of home you live in and where it is, there are rules and limits on what is considered a “permitted development” and can therefore be built without the need for planning permission – it’s these rules that the Government is looking to relax.

Whilst there’s been a lot of talk about the planned changes, it’s worth noting that most rules are staying unchanged.  Furthermore, changes are only happening in non-protected areas, so if you live within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation area, national park or World Heritage Site, you won’t see any changes.

Current permitted development restrictions

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the current limits before a build needs planning permission as well as what’s changing as part of the Government’s new plans.

Loft conversions/extensions

Any additional rood space created must not exceed 40 cubic metres for terraced houses or 50 cubic metres for detached and semi-detached houses.  Also, you can’t build any higher than the level of the existing roof.


An extension must be no more than half the area of land around the "original house".

A single-storey extension must not extend by more than three metres for terraced or semi-detached houses or by four metres for detached houses.


A conservatory is treated exactly the same as any other extension under planning regulations.

What’s changing

For homeowners, the rule that’s changing is the maximum distance that you can extend beyond the original house – the limits are doubling to 6 metres for terraced or semi-detached houses and eight metres for detached houses.  Other rules and restrictions remain unchanged.


The Government announced a one month consultation period with a view to bringing in the changes by the end of 2012 – the changes are then due to be in force for three years.


The changes to planning rules are only one part of the new package so they’re not designed to fix the economy on their own.  And while making it easier to extend your home may well help some homeowners who choose that route over moving home but for a lot of people, it’s finances that are holding many people back, not planning laws.

Depending on where you live and the work you have done, home improvements can be a cost-effective alternative to moving but they’re not cheap; Nationwide Building Society said this week that the price for building an extension can cost, on average, around £1,000 per m2 or £23,000 for a single storey and £76,000 for a double storey.

Most people will likely need to extend their current mortgage or get a new one before they can afford to extend their home.  If you’re considering it, you can apply for a further advance or home improvement loan with your existing lender – some will have specific further advance rates while others can offer standard mortgage rates and there will typically be an arrangement fee to pay.

An alternative is remortgaging (moving your existing mortgage to a new lender) and increasing your loan at the same time – that will allow you to have the whole mortgage on a new deal which may work out cheaper, depending on the rate you’re currently paying.

Both these scenarios will require you to have enough equity in your home to cover the additional borrowing – based on the property now, not after any work is done.

If you can finance the work, then a well-done extension could recoup its cost – and even add to the equity in your home.  Nationwide estimates that increasing floor space by 10% can add 5% to the average property value, based on a typical three-bedroom house.  Building an extension or loft-conversion to create a double bedroom and en-suite bathroom could add 23% to the value.

Useful links: The Government's Planning Portal website: http://www.planningportal.gov.uk

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