The following information is based on the Government’s Planning Portal.
A building owner can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called “permitted development rights”.
They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings.
In some areas of the country, known generally as ‘designated areas’, permitted development rights are more restricted.
For example, if you live in:
- a Conservation Area
- a National Park
- an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
- a World Heritage Site or
- the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads,
the building owner will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which do not need an application in other areas. There are also different requirements if the property is a listed building.
The general advice is that a building owner should contact their local planning authority and discuss their proposal before any work begins. The local authority will be able to inform them of any reason why the development may not be permitted and if they need to apply for planning permission for all or part of the work.
Examples of permitted development rights include:
- build a single-story extension to a house
- build a loft conversion, put in a swimming pool, lay external paving
- put up an aerial, fix a fence, exterior painting
- add a charging point for electric vehicles
- put up security cameras
- change a shop from one use to a different use, e.g. retail shop to a takeaway
- change a shop or commercial space into residential
Many permitted development rights come with conditions. Permitted development rights do not stop other requirements for building regulations, or impact assessments for rights to light, increased need for power & water, increased noise, etc. Especially in conservation areas, permission will still be needed from the local authority for how it looks from the street.
As always, a leaseholder will need to get the approval of the freeholder for any changes they would like to make. A leaseholder would probably need to buy the loft space from the freeholder to even consider a loft conversion (separate permissions are still needed from the freeholder and then the local authority for any changes to the roof, for example).
If a tenant would like any of these improvements, they need to ask the building owner to do them. The building owner is not required to make any improvements during the tenancy, but they are responsible for repairs.