Home extensions deadline looms

Relaxed planning rules for home extensions are due to expire soon so now is the time to get building. Sharon Dale reports

When the government announced a temporary relaxation of planning rules giving generous permitted development rights to homeowners, it was met with enthusiasm.

The Larger Home Extension Scheme, which came into force in 2013, freed many from the bureaucracy, uncertainty and expense that comes with applying for full planning permission. It granted PD rights for single-storey rear extensions of up to eight metres for detached houses and six metres for other property types. The previous limit for permitted development was four and three metres.

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The change was aimed at helping the construction industry recover from a crippling recession and it worked. Architects and builders reported an increase in demand for extensions.

Now, the scheme is due to come to an end. May 30, 2019, is the deadline and all projects built using the relaxed rules must be completed by this date.

With just seven months to run, time is of the essence for anyone who wants to take advantage of the Larger Home Extension Scheme. Finding a good builder who can meet this deadline is a big consideration and the weather is another.

Neighbours must also be consulted, via the local authority planning department, if your rear extension is between four and eight metres for detached houses and between three and six metres for all other houses. This can take up to 42 days. The council will notify any adjoining owners or occupiers of your proposed development and invite them to raise any objections within a 21 day period.

If none are received and the development complies with permitted development rights, you'll be notified by the council and can start building. Conditions may be imposed and an application can be refused, though this is rare and you can appeal.

Here is some other information on permitted development rights:

*The development must comply with other conditions that apply to all rear extensions allowed under permitted development. So no more than half the area of land around the original house (as it stood on July 1, 1948, if it was built before that date) should be covered by buildings. The maximum height of the extension should be four metres, as measured from the highest point of natural surface ground. The maximum height reduces to three metres if the extension is within two metres of a boundary.

*Construction materials must be similar in appearance to those used for the existing house. This condition does not apply when the extension is a conservatory.

*Side extensions have to be single storey with a maximum height of four metres. Width of side extension must not be greater than half the width of the original house.

*No extensions can be made to the front of the house, or to any wall parallel to the highway.

*You can also build two-storey extensions via PD rights but these must not project more than three metres from the main house and must not be closer than seven metres to the boundary facing the extension.

*Permitted development rights do not apply to listed buildings, flats, maisonettes and properties in conservation areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and World Heritage Sites. Make absolutely sure by checking your proposed extension with the local authority.

*If you build under PD rights you'll still need to comply with building regulations, which are administered by the local authority. The work will need to be inspected and passed. When the development is complete you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. You will need this if you sell the property as conveyancers will ask for it.

You should get at least three quotes from builders. Finding a builder is not easy and often the best way can be via word of mouth. You can also visit the Federation of Master Builders website, www.fmb.org. You will probably have to wait for the best and they may not be the cheapest. If someone tells you they can start right away then alarm bells should ring

If you want to build a large extension and can't meet the enhanced PD rights deadline, you'll have to apply for planning permission. It pays to get an architect to draw formal plans. He or she will also offer advice on the best way to approach the planning authority. If there is any doubt about the success of an application, invest in a planning consultant. This could cost £1,000-plus but a good operator will enhance your chances of gaining approval. Most planning authorities make a decision within eight to 12 weeks but it can be longer.

*If you are looking for inspiration Grand Designs Live is at Birmingham's NEC from October 10 to 14. Based around the concept of the Channel 4 TV series, and presented by Kevin McCloud, the event will feature 400 exhibitors and an “Ask An Expert” service

*Visit the government site planningportal.co.uk