Two-Storey Roof Extensions to be Exempt from Planning Permission? Don’t Get Your Hopes Up

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Will two-storey roof extensions become permitted developments?

You may have been excited to hear the news that you will be able to extend your property two storeys upwards without having to apply for planning permission. Unfortunately, once you read past the headlines, the details reveal little to be excited about.

This change in planning policy, announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, would consider roof extensions up to two storeys as permitted developments, as long as the property is detached.

While I welcome any proactive approach by the government to attempt to simplify and unlock the congested planning process, these proposals would quickly fall apart in a real world context and may even expose homeowners to more risk than the current system.

Problem one: Right to Light law could still halt your development

Right to Light in an ancient law that precedes and is separate from the planning process. It entitles a property owner to forbid any development which would block daylight from reaching any window which has received daylight for 20 years or more.

This law has resulted in many oddly-shaped structures across the country – such as the BBC’s Broadcasting House – as they had to be designed around the Right to Light of neighbouring buildings.

Most planning departments integrate Right to Light into their policies, but it’s not unheard of for planning permission to be granted to a development only for it to be objected to at a later date. A successful Right to Light challenge can stop a project in its tracks, resulting in costly redesigns, lost time and wasted materials and labour.

This situation would be even worse if two storey roof extensions were classified as permitted developments, as homeowners wouldn’t have to go through the planning process to begin with, putting them at even greater risk of having their development halted by a Right to Light objection.

The risk is especially high in this example as roof extensions are precisely the type of development that is most likely to block the light from neighbouring properties as they will quite literally overshadow them.

It is worth reiterating: Right to Light exists outside of planning legislation. It does not matter what changes the government proposes, unless Right to Light is scrapped (which I can confidently say will not happen), homeowners will still find themselves restricted in what they can achieve with roof extensions.

We currently work around Right to Light with help from consultants such as Ian McKenna. Click here to learn about how he can help you maximise the potential of your property.

Problem two: volume restrictions in countryside developments

While Right to Light limits the possibilities of the government’s proposals in urban settings where overshadowing is likely, you may think there is hope for rural buildings where neighbour proximity is not a concern.

In the countryside, planning departments do not permit works that would make the existing building (or replacement building) “materially larger”. Whether or not a proposal counts as materially larger is calculated by its volume versus the existing, with the increase limited between 10% and 20% depending on the area.

Now, if you were to add another two storeys to a two storey house, you’ll have increased the volume by 100% – a complete impossibility.

Perhaps these proposals suggest that such volume restrictions on developments will be scrapped, but that would be far bigger news than the proposals themselves. It would cause a surge of construction works across the countryside as every eligible homeowner would be eager to expand their home.

The protections we have in place to preserve the rural character of our countryside guarantees that this will not happen, so homeowners outside of cities and towns wouldn’t benefit from these proposals either.

What remains of Robert Jenrick’s proposals?

So, what is left of Robert Jenrick’s proposals once these limitations are taken into account?

Two storey extensions are to be classed as permitted developments (as long as your house is detached, isn’t in the countryside and won’t overshadow your neighbours).

Not quite as good of a headline, is it?

I suspect these proposals will either quietly disappear or, if they do enter planning legislation, will be significantly stripped back from what was announced.

While I sincerely hope for sensible planning reforms in the near future to help homeowners improve the amenity and value of their properties, I’m afraid this proposal isn’t one of them.

Right now, your best hope of unlocking the planning process is to work with an architect with a proven track record for ambitious planning victories, as I am proud to say we have at DGA.

To learn more, get in touch now at 020 8023 7511 or [email protected]

John Dyer-Grimes