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Permitted Development

Proposed Extensions and Garage/Flat – Western Elevation

Replacement dwellings or new builds are not the only solutions for those short of space; many properties can be extended either with or without the need for planning permission through permitted development rights.  

However a word of warning in that not all sites are the same and indeed we would need to establish the planning history of your site to identify whether it included the withdrawal of permitted development rights as a consequence of a previous application of which you may or may not be aware.

Why Permitted Development Rights should be reconsidered.

For the uninitiated, Permitted Development can be perceived as complex and ambiguous. However, there is plenty of scope to maximise and improve your home, and there are some very useful issues and criteria to be aware of for any prospective renovator seeking to improve and enlarge their home.

This article provides an overview of the recent changes, ongoing issues and some further thoughts …….

What is Permitted Development?

Firstly, it is important to understand that most existing houses with the exception of flats will have Permitted Development rights. This is what I refer to as the traditional householder Permitted Development.

These ‘Rights’ enable householders to undertake certain forms of development that do not require formal planning permission. The most commonly known and understood version of permitted development relates to an extension to an existing home, and other developments e.g. outbuildings without needing planning permission.

In recent years however there have been wide ranging changes to the existing permitted development rights regime with new legislation introduced in order to create new development opportunities outside of normal planning controls in additional to the traditional form of Permitted Development.

Prior Notification

In May 2013 Permitted Development rights via a Prior Approval process were introduced for a temporary period up until May 2016 for larger single storey rear household extensions e.g. up to 6m for a qualifying semi-detached/terraced dwelling or for qualifying detached dwellings up to 8m.

It was anticipated that after the expiration of the temporary period that such rights would be made permanent, however, this year the scheme has been extended for a further three years until 2019 lending it the feeling that the jury are still out!

As you would expect and as the Government no doubt would wish the numbers of submissions are slowly rising, however confusingly more than half are refused which suggests that contrary to the Government’s wishes for simplicity the process is not as straightforward as suggested when launched.

In our experience of such issues it is clear that the element which causes most problems is neighbour consultation which requires the Council to consider the potential impact in much the same way as per a planning application. Once this point is triggered then the opportunity for delay and the decision making process to grind is created and the inevitable will happen. However, on balance if you are the neighbouring householder and a large extension of 8 metres is proposed, you too may have something to say about it. It demonstrates that to cut the red tape and simplify the process, is not easy and something has to give.

Conversion of non-domestic properties into residential dwellings.

The most interesting aspect of changes to permitted development is in relation to converting existing buildings into homes.

• Barn Conversions

A new system was introduced in March 2013 to allow the conversion of agricultural buildings such as barns into dwellings.

This exciting and interesting policy was warmly welcomed by land owners and the farming community at its announcement. Permission would still be required via the prior approvals process but at least a door was opened which many wished to step through.

However and some may say inevitably, problems have developed. More than 50% of Prior Approval applications for conversions have been refused.

As a response additional technical clarity was then sought and provided through new guidance in March 2015 which was designed to restrict the potential reasons for refusal and deliver what was originally envisaged as a route to more homes.

Whilst it is too early to understand whether the new guidance has increased the approval rate across the country what is clear is that several Councils are not taking heed of the changes. We at Foxley Tagg Planning are aware of several cases where Councils have refused schemes as if the new guidance was not there. This of course is one of the fundamental problems with any guidance, it is just a guide!

Some may hold the view that the approach taken by some Councils is simply to make a stand against the new “planning lite” approach that the prior notification process introduces. There has long been a view held by many rural planning authorities that barn conversions need to be carefully considered to ensure that the process of conversion is managed and carefully controlled, the question really is whether this new process allows for that.

We think it does however, we are increasingly finding that the only cause of action available following a refusal in such cases is to challenge the decision through the Appeal route which is costly and time consuming for the client and the Council.

Far from simplifying the system the realities are, in many cases, that it becomes crucial that any Prior Approval submission is as detailed and robust as possible which requires an investment in a planning consultant and in consequence additional time and expenditure.

• Former Office accommodation

In an attempt to release inner city land for housing the next change in permitted development concerned the potential for converting former office space into dwellings.

On the 30th of May 2013 the Government made what was then considered controversial amendments to Permitted Development Rights which allowed offices to be converted to residential. Following a recent announcement these same rights are now to be made permanent.

Once again, positive intent has caught traction with many Councils exempting key areas of employment from the imposition of the rights.

As a caveat the announcement will also enable the change of use of light industrial buildings and launderettes to new homes as well as allowing office buildings to be demolished and then replaced with a development of new dwellings.


The new measures will clearly increase both the scope and the ability to create new homes on varying scales. The guidance opens up other possibilities with regard to finding that all important development plot.

We await to see the detail of the amended rights, however I believe that there are many small office or light industrial units which would make ideal development opportunities for the creation of potentially unusual and unique new homes.

If you would like helping understanding what is possible with regards to your home or potential home then please contact us on 01242 222107 or by email to for our professional advice.