Getting started on a building project in the Oxfordshire can be a daunting task. Understanding all the rules and regulations you need to follow, on top of hiring an architect and builder, and sourcing the right material can seem like a mammoth task.
But with planning permission and building regulation red tape tying you in knots, the question is – how do you navigate the minefield of home improvements to make sure your dream project gets off on the right footing?
Well, before you contact your local authority and pester them with a million questions, you need to understand that sometimes you may be able to bypass the red tape entirely by using something called Permitted Development Rights.
Not all changes to your home need permission from the local authority’s planning department. Many types of development can be carried out with an implied consent, known as a Permitted Development. And if your project qualifies, then you could save time and, more importantly, a large amount of money.
But how do you know if the work you are planning is considered a Permitted Development? Well, don’t worry because we’ve got your back. In this guide, we will look at what a Permitted Development is, what rules govern it, and how you can assess if your building project falls under its remit. Let’s get started.
What exactly are Permitted Development rights?
Permitted Development Rights have been around for many years but have been subject to new regulations as of the 30th of May 2019.
In short, Permitted Development rights give homeowners permission to undertake specific types of building work without having to apply for planning permission or Building Control Consent (although building regulations still need to be followed).
Permitted development rights are set out in statutory laws including The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015, amongst others. The most recent changes to the rules were published in 2019 and with each change, more powers tend to be given to homeowners.
The government website has a handy section on Permitted Development rights here.
Why do Permitted Development rights exist?
Permitted Development rights allow property owners to make small or minor changes to their property without involving to bother their local planning authority. If planning permission was required for every type of building work regardless of how big or small it was, then planning authorities would soon become swamped. Permitted Developments give homeowners a modicum of rights to change their homes while keeping the local planning departments running smoothly.
Do all types of properties have Permitted Development rights?
Most buildings and houses are granted Permitted Development rights but properties that are subdivided into smaller dwellings like flats and maisonettes are not covered. This is because they are part of a larger building and any changes would impact on other dwellings. As such, planning permission is required before any building work can be undertaken.
For house owners, Permitted Development rights cover many smaller renovations, extensions alterations, and modifications.
How are Permitted Development rights given?
Permitted Development consent is granted by General Development Planning Orders (GDPOs) issued separately in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland by governments and local authorities. Each General Development Planning Order sets out what is and isn’t allowed under Permitted Development rights. There is no need to apply for Permitted Developments like you would for planning permission. If your build is covered by the rules, then you can begin work. Full details of th GDPO legislature can be found on the legislation.gov.uk website.
If you are unsure whether your building project falls under the Permitted Development rights, then it might be best to get confirmation from a qualified surveyor or your local authority’s planning department before beginning. You can find contact details for the Oxford City Council planning department here.
How do I know if I have Permitted Development rights?
Most small building projects fall under Permitted Development rights. We’ll explore the different types of work covered by the rules in more detail later in the article.
As previously mentioned, if your property is a flat, apartment, or maisonette, then Permitted Development rights will not apply.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that houses located in a designated area, such as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, or Conservation Areas may have their Permitted Development rights restricted or removed entirely as set out in something called an Article 4 direction. Listed properties may also be governed by Article 4 directions.
Larger projects like self-builds or replacement dwellings will not be covered by Permitted Development rules and planning permission will more than likely be required.
It’s also worth noting that all Permitted Development requirements apply to the dwelling as it was originally built, or as it was on the 1st of July 1948, and do not take into account any changes that have occurred since (more on this later).
What types of projects fall under the Permitted Development rules?
The checklist of building projects that fall under Permitted Developments is a long one. For a full list of rules in the Oxford area, head over to the Oxford City Council website by clicking this link.
To give you an overview of the areas covered by the Permitted Development rules, let’s have a look at a few in detail:
For a rear extension to fall under the Permitted Development rules it must sit to the rear of the property. The extension must not extend beyond the current rear wall of the property by 3m or more if the house is attached to other buildings or by 4m or more if it is a detached property. The extension must also be less than 4m in height. This is reduced to 3m if the extension falls within 2m of a property boundary.
The materials used in the extension must be in a similar style and quality to those of the existing house and, once work is complete, the extension must take up less than 50% of the land around the original house. By original, we mean how the property was when it was originally built or as it stood on the 1st of July 1948, whichever is later. This means that previous work may already have eaten into some of the 50%. For example. If your property was built in 1975 and had an extension built in 1980 that takes up 30% of the land around the original house, any further extensions will only be allowed to take up another 20% of the land that was available when the building was originally erected.
For a side extension to fall under the Permitted Development rules it must sit to the side of the house and not overlap the front (front extensions are never allowed under Permitted Development rights).
Again, the extension must use similar building materials to those of the existing property and must be less than 4m in height (or 3m if any part of the build is within 2m of the property’s boundary)
Both side and rear extensions must adhere to the 50% rule and must not exceed more than 50% of the free land around the original house when it was originally built (or as it stood on the 1st of July 1948, whichever is later). This means that both rear and side extensions eat into your permitted allotment. On top of this, side extensions must not extend beyond 50% of the width of the original house.
Not many people realise this, but you are permitted to build a two-storey extension on a property using the Permitted Development rights. Again, the extension must be to the rear or side of the current property (not the front) and its footprint must not take up more than 50% of the original land around the house when it was built (or as it stood on the 1st of July 1948), including any other extensions already in place. It must also be less than 50% of the width of the original property (if built on the side of the building) and must be built using similar materials to the existing house.
Extra rules for two-storey extensions include:
- You cannot place windows on the walls/roof slope of the side elevation in any additional storeys.
- Any eaves or ridges must be no taller than the existing property.
- Any terraces must be no more than 3.5m taller than the next tallest terrace on the property.
It’s also worth bearing in mind that current single storey homes cannot have two-story extensions built on them under Permitted Development rules.
Permitted Developments allow you to convert a current internal garage to living accommodation. Here are some of the rules governing garage conversions:
- The garage must be internal. External garages are not covered.
- The conversion must use similar building materials to those used in the existing property.
- The garage conversion must not enlarge the building beyond its current footprint.
For external garages, planning permission is required before converting into living space, for example creating an annexe or bedroom.
The Permitted Development rules allow homeowners to extend their property through a loft conversion. There are many constraints on the process, including:
- The loft conversion must not increase the roof space by more than 50 cubic metres for both detached and semi-detached houses
- The loft conversion must use building materials of a similar style and quality to the existing property.
- The loft conversion must not include a window in any wall or roof slope that forms a side elevation of the property.
- The roof pitch of the loft conversion must be the same as that in the pre-existing property.
- Dormer walls must be included and set back at least 20cm from the existing wall face of the property.
- Windows must be non-opening if less than 1.7m in height when measured from the floor.
- Any side windows must be either obscured or frosted for privacy.
Building a new storey onto your property
Permitted Development rights allow you to add storeys to existing properties. If the house is detached and already multi-storey in nature, you can add up to 2 additional storeys on the topmost floor of the property (existing loft extensions or living spaces do not count as a storey) so long as the extended property is less than 18m high. Other rules you would need to follow, include:
- New storeys must not include a window in any wall or roof slope that forms a side elevation of the property.
- Any terraces must be no more than 3.5m taller than the next tallest terrace on the property.
It’s important to note that the rules for building additional storeys are complex, especially if the original building is used for commercial or mixed usage or is attached to other properties. In these cases, we would always advise that you check with the local Oxford planning authority before beginning work (you can find their contact details here).
What types of building work isn’t covered by Permitted Development rights?
Again, the list of building projects that don’t fall under the Permitted Development Rights is a long one. Realhomes.co.uk list a long list of exemptions here. Here is a brief list of the types of work that are never included:
- The building of balconies or verandas.
- Any extension that exceeds 50% of the original land around the original house (including previous extensions).
- Extensions on the front of properties.
- Extensions that wraparound properties.
- Building projects on listed buildings.
- Proposed work on flats or maisonettes.
Am I unable to move ahead with a building project if I don’t have Permitted Development rights?
If your building project doesn’t fall under the Permitted Development remit, it doesn’t mean it is a non-starter. Permitted developments are just a way to cut red tape and without them, you will need to speak to your local planning authority to get planning permission before you can begin work.
Permitted development rights are a godsend for homeowners looking to extend or improve their properties and cut out much of the bureaucracy that deters people from home improvements in the first place.
I hope you’ve found our guide informative. For more insight on the building, home improvement, and property development scene in the Oxford region, take a look around our website.