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Planning Permission for Home Improvements in 2023

planning permission approved document and stamp

If you’re considering renovations, additions or other major construction projects on your UK residential property, obtaining planning permission from your local council is likely an essential step. Planning permission refers to formal approval granted by the local planning authority allowing building work or land changes to proceed.

For homeowners, planning permission is usually required for substantial home extensions, loft conversions, structural changes to roofs, converting garages or outbuildings into living spaces, significant exterior alterations through cladding/rendering and more.

Planning permission ensures residential projects adhere to local and national policies around permitted development, design, environmental impacts, preservation orders and other regulations. The permission process allows councils to review home improvement plans, validate they meet requirements, and authorize the works to begin.

Starting construction without needed approvals can potentially lead to legal enforcement action, so it’s critical for homeowners to determine if their projects require planning permission and follow proper procedures from the outset. This article provides an overview of residential planning permission – when you need it, how to apply, timescales, costs and more.

What do you need planning permission for:

When considering home improvements, it’s important for homeowners to be aware of projects that require obtaining planning permission from local councils before starting construction. Making substantial changes or additions to your property without the proper approvals can potentially lead to enforcement action and delays down the road. While minor renovations inside your existing home typically don’t need permission, many exterior projects and more significant structural work will need council authorization. Examples of residential projects that typically need planning permission include:

  • Home extensions – Adding extra rooms, building out kitchens, creating annexes
  • Loft conversions – Attic renovations adding bedrooms, bathrooms etc
  • Altering the roof – Adding dormer windows, skylights, changing roof shape
  • Garages and outbuildings – New detached buildings or converting existing ones
  • Exterior alterations – Cladding, rendering, installing new windows/doors
  • Demolition – Knocking down all or parts of your home to rebuild
  • Change of use – Converting rooms/spaces into new uses like garage into bedroom
  • Swimming pools – Building outdoor pools and hot tubs
  • Walls, fences, gates – Over a certain height, fronting a highway etc.
  • Access – Adding or changing driveway entrances and access roads

More minor works like small porches, internal renovations or new sheds below size limits normally don’t require planning permission. But it’s always best to check with your council when in doubt.

Detached house with external property insulation

Do I need planning permission:

If you’re not sure whether your specific home improvement project requires permission, there are a few recommended steps to take:

  • Check your local council’s planning website – Many have guides on typical residential projects clearly outlining when permission is and isn’t needed.
  • Contact your council’s planning department – Describe your proposed plans and they can provide definitive advice on permission requirements. Have details like dimensions, drawings, and materials ready.
  • Consult a qualified planning consultant – For large projects or uncertainty, you can pay a planning advisor to assess your plans and requirements.
  • Review permitted development rights – Some minor residential works are allowed without permission under permitted development. Review guidelines to see if your project may qualify.
  • Apply for a Lawful Development Certificate – This involves applying for certification that your plans are permissible without needing a full planning application.

Even if you feel your project is minor, it’s always best to check with your council when in any doubt. Beginning construction without required permission can lead to legal action from the council, delays, and potentially having to reverse unapproved works. Paying a small planning application fee is a worthwhile investment to avoid issues.

Where do you get planning permission:

Planning permission must be obtained from the local planning authority responsible for the area where your home is located. In England, this is your city, borough, district or county council. Different procedures apply in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The main steps for obtaining permission are:

  • Get application forms – Download from your council’s website or visit the planning office in-person to pick up.
  • Submit the application – Return completed forms along with required supporting documents like architectural drawings, evidence of ownership, photos, design statement and the fee.
  • Validation – The council will first validate all required information is provided before formally registering the application.
  • Public consultation – Your application may be published publicly for a period allowing community input.
  • Review – A planning officer will assess your application against relevant policies, designates, laws and impacts.
  • Decision – You’ll receive a decision notice approving or denying your application typically within 8-13 weeks.
  • Appeal – If permission is denied, you can potentially appeal to the Planning Inspectorate within 12 weeks.

Submitting an accurate, detailed application with all supporting documents can help speed the process and avoid rejections or delays. Professional help from architects and planning consultants is advisable for large projects.

How long does planning permission last:

Once planning permission is obtained for a home improvement project, there will be a time limit on how long the approval remains valid. This is important to be aware of when estimating your project timeline.

  • Standard permission duration – For residential projects, planning permission typically lasts for 3 years from the date it is granted by the council.
  • Starting construction – This means full completion of the approved works must occur within the 3 year window. Simply beginning construction does not constitute completion.
  • Expiration – If the approved development has not been finished within 3 years, the planning permission expires and a new application is normally required.
  • Extensions – It is possible to apply for an extension to the permission period by submitting a request to your council before expiration. Extensions allow 1-2 extra years typically.
  • Phase projects – For large phased developments, each separate phase may have its own permission validity period rather than the full project.
  • Changes – Any significant changes to plans will also require reapplying and new permission.

Being aware of permission validity durations from the outset can help inform realistic project timelines and schedules. Failure to complete on time means having to reapply and pay fees again.

How long does planning permission take:

The time it takes to get a planning permission decision on a residential application can vary depending on several factors:

  • Application complexity – Larger projects with greater impacts will take longer to assess than simple extensions.
  • Consultations – If external consultations are needed the process takes longer.
  • Revisions – Applications that require going back and forth with revisions will add time.
  • Committee review – Applications referred to the local planning committee can increase timeframes.
  • Objections – Dealing with public objections adds time to the process.
  • Backlogs – Councils with significant backlogs and delays will be slower.
  • Typical timeframes – Most straightforward home extensions and renovations take 8-13 weeks for a decision.
  • Major projects – Large new homes or developments may take 13-16 weeks on average.
  • Appeals – If permission is denied and you appeal, expect an additional 8-12 weeks through the Planning Inspectorate.

Submitting complete, compliant applications along with engaging constructively with planning officers can help avoid delays and minimize timeframes as much as possible.

How much does planning permission cost:

Applying for planning permission involves paying a fee to your local council. The fees vary based on the type and size of the residential project:

  • Fees set nationally – Planning fees are defined by national guidelines for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
  • Smaller projects – Simpler home extensions, outbuildings or renovations typically cost between £200-£500 in fees.
  • Larger projects – More significant projects like new houses can cost from £500 to a few thousand pounds.
  • Commercial rates – Much higher fees apply for commercial developments and constructions.
  • Complex plans – Large or complex plans may incur additional fees for the extra time needed for assessments.
  • Amendments – Changing or amending an approved application requires paying an additional fee.

Here is an overview of typical planning permission fees for common residential projects:

Project TypeTypical Fee Range
Household extensions£200 – £500
Loft conversions£200 – £500
Garages & outbuildings£200 – £500
New housing development£500 – £5,000+
Average planning permission costs

Being aware of the likely planning fees involved can help homeowners budget for the overall project cost. While fees may seem high, avoiding potential enforcement action down the line makes getting permission worthwhile.

Do you need planning permission for a loft conversion:

Loft conversions are one of the most popular home improvement projects for UK homeowners seeking to add living space. Converting unused attic space into an extra bedroom, office, or other rooms can add significant value and liveability to your home. However, most loft conversion projects require obtaining planning permission from your local council before any building work can legally begin. This is because loft conversions typically involve major structural changes to the existing roof, including adding dormers, skylights, altering roof shape and pitch, raising heights, and more. These types of significant alterations usually need approval through the planning permission process.

  • Permission required – In most cases, loft conversions will require obtaining planning permission before any work begins. This is because they involve significant structural alterations.
  • Roof changes – Any changes to the shape of the roof, including adding dormer windows, skylights, raising the ridge height, or altering the roof pitch typically need permission.
  • Permitted development – However, some loft conversions may be completed without permission under permitted development rights if they meet requirements like not exceeding volume allowances.
  • Building regulations – Regardless of planning permission, building regulations approval will also be needed for the structural work.
  • Two-stage conversion – A two-stage conversion with an initial structural frame followed by fitting out may avoid immediate planning permission.
  • Uncertainty – If in any doubt, contact your council’s planning department to discuss your specific loft plan and requirements.

While loft conversions add useful living space, homeowners should carefully confirm if permission is required for a smooth process. Unauthorized loft works can risk enforcement action.

Do you need planning permission for a conservatory:

Adding a conservatory can provide homeowners with an inviting new living space filled with natural light.

However, planning permission requirements need careful review. In most cases, building a new conservatory will require obtaining planning permission from your local council beforehand. This is because conservatories are legally classified as home extensions, essentially adding a new room onto the existing house footprint.

As such, the default position is that planning permission will be needed, unlike for some interior renovations. There are exceptions if the proposed conservatory falls within permitted development limits relating to size and placement, but it’s always advisable to check with the council to confirm.

  • Default position – Planning permission required as conservatories count as home extensions
  • Permitted development – Exceptions if conservatory meets permitted development size and position limits
  • Size limits – Maximum size limits apply for permission exemption (e.g. 30 sq/m floor area for detached homes)
  • Position – Must be single storey and not extend beyond rear wall of original house
  • Materials – Certain materials required such as glass roof and majority glass walls
  • Impact – Size and placement must not significantly impact neighbours
  • Listed buildings – Special rules apply in listed buildings or conservation areas
  • When in doubt, check – Always consult your council to confirm if permission is required
  • Building regulations – Separate to planning, building regulation approvals will also be needed

Carefully checking if a conservatory requires permission can avoid headaches down the road if unauthorized work requires reversal. For planning permission information on conservatory roofs go here.

conservatory with solid roof after planning permission


Planning permission is a key part of the process when undertaking significant home improvements and construction projects. By taking the time to determine if your proposed works require planning approval and obtaining permission where needed, homeowners can avoid potential enforcement action and delays.

Always check with your local council in the early stages of a project to confirm if permission is required. The application process also enables the council to ensure your plans meet important regulations related to design, size, placement, environmental impacts, preservation orders and more. While permission takes time and modest fees, having the proper approvals can prevent headaches and ensure your project proceeds smoothly.

Hiring architectural and planning consultants can also provide valuable expertise when navigating the system. With the proper permissions secured ahead of time, you can undertake renovations, extensions, loft conversions and other major home projects with confidence

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