In her last column, “Thinking of Extending Your Property?”, Laura Finnigan explained that planning permission is not always required for certain building work such as single-storey extensions, the addition of a conservatory, and a garage or loft conversion for example. This type of work is mostly considered to be permitted development providing certain limits and conditions are met, although you should always check what permissions are needed in relation to any work that you have planned.

It is important to note that even permitted development, not requiring planning consent, may well require Building Regulations Approval.  Building Regulation requirements are entirely separate from Planning requirements, and again the need for such approval should always be checked with your local authority’s Building Control department before works commence.

Building Regulations contain the rules for building work in new and altered buildings to ensure they are safe and accessible.  Contractors carrying out building work on your property must usually arrange for their work to be checked by an independent third party to ensure it meets the required standards.  In some cases the contractor or installer can self-certify.

Most property extensions will require approval under Building Regulations; elements of an extension that must satisfy the Regulations include flooring, foundations, walls below ground level, ventilation, energy efficiency and structural opening.  Other elements requiring approval include doors and windows, drainage, electrics, external walls, kitchens and bathrooms, internal walls and roofs.

Conservatories are normally exempt from Building Regulations if:

  • They are built at ground level and are less than 30 square metres in floor area.
  • They are separated from the house by external quality walls, doors or windows.
  • They have an independent heating system with separate temperature and on/off controls.
  • Glazing and any fixed electrical installations comply with the applicable Building Regulations requirements.

However, any new structural opening between the conservatory and the existing house will require Building Regulations approval, even if the conservatory itself is an exempt structure.

Building Regulations approval is required to convert a loft or attic into a liveable space.  When making alterations to the loft space of an existing house which is no more than two storeys high, the Regulations will be applied to ensure, for example, that the structural strength of the new floor is sufficient, that the stability of the structure (including the existing roof) is not endangered, that there exists a safe means of escape from fire, that there are safely designed stairs to the new floor and that there exists reasonable sound insulation between the conversion and the rooms below.

Simplified Building Regulations guidance can be accessed here. Remember, even if planning permission is not required for the work you have planned, it is likely that you will need to ensure that your work complies with Building Regulations.