John’s Advice: It’s Finally Becoming Easier to Extend Your Home Upwards

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Upward extensions London

Image courtesy of Architects’ Journal

Since 2015, there’s been a push for roof extensions to gain permitted development status, as long as they do not exceed the height of an adjoining building. This would mean that eligible developments would not require planning permission if there are no neighbour objections.

Developers and home owners would be able to make better use of available land and reduce the need to build outwards – which often isn’t an option in tightly-packed London streets. It would vastly simplify the planning process for many of our clients, some of whom we have had to fight tooth and nail for to have rooftop extensions approved.

Unfortunately, upward extensions aren’t yet considered a permitted development. But there is very good news: the latest edition of the National Planning Policy Framework includes, for the first time, explicit support for rooftop extensions and developments.

The NPPF states that planning policies and decisions should:

“…support opportunities to use the airspace above existing residential and commercial premises for new homes. In particular, they should allow upward extensions where the development would be consistent with the prevailing height and form of neighbouring properties and the overall street scene, is well-designed (including complying with any local design policies and standards), and can maintain safe access and egress for occupiers.” 

This doesn’t mean that you are guaranteed approval for roof extensions as local authorities will continue to have final say on whether you will be able to extend your home upwards. However, this small paragraph of national policy will provide vital ammunition when arguing your case during planning applications.

Before this policy was written out in black and white, approval for roof extensions was entirely at the whim of planning departments. Now, the default stance of policy is that eligible extensions should be permitted, and it’s up to planning departments to argue otherwise.

Bear in mind that if your home is in a Conservation Area there will very likely be local restrictions which supersede the NPPF but, for everyone else, this is a fantastic opportunity to build some extra space and increase the value of your home.

What’s the latest news on upwards extensions becoming permitted developments?

Proposals for upwards extensions becoming permitted developments are still in the consultation phase. The current roadblock seems to be concern from local authorities on the impact such a change would have on the street scene, though the proposals maintain existing protections in conservation areas.

There’s good reason to be hopeful, as Housing Secretary James Brokenshire is still pushing strongly for a relaxation on upward developments within London. The likely scenario seems to be that rooftop permitted developments may be included in a revision of the London Plan, though perhaps limited to areas in need of development.

I’m strongly in favour in such a revision to permitted developments and hope that we will be able to share good news with you soon.