What home improvements need planning permission?

making a list of things to do

In the UK, and many other countries, there exists a set of enforceable rules and regulations that govern the built environment, which aim to ensure that buildings are constructed, altered or improved in a sympathetic and safe manner.

There are various common home improvements, usually the more “major” types, that require permission from your local council for the work to go ahead, but you may be surprised to learn that some home improvements do not need any permits or permission at all.

In the UK, there are two main statutory instruments that govern buildings and improvements and they are the Town and country planning Acts and the Building regulations (BS). These are considered alongside other laws and acts that encompass building activity, such as the Working at Heights directive (2005), the Health and Safety at work Act (1974) and so on.

These laws are important, not only for the safety of the occupants of your house and not just the safety of the builders doing the work either, but also from a wider perspective, the safety and well being of your neighbours and also the general public.

You would be well advised to take into consideration matters of planning when considering home improvements….

If done right, you will keep within the law and have no issues. If done wrong, or ignored altogether, the full force of the law will come down on you, so be warned!

Does my home improvement project need planning permission?

In general, some types of building works and home extensions do NOT need permission and they are known as Permitted Development.

The legislation that specified which building work is permitted and which is subject to building control, is contained in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995.


Park manor before refurbishment with rendering and wall coatings

The following text explains in brief, which home improvements would need permission from your local council and which do not. My own local authority (Plymouth) gives the following easy to understand advice

“You will need to obtain planning permission for most building works or changes of use of land or buildings.” Source: Plymouth.gov.uk

You will find that most councils adopt the same strategy when considering planning applications.

This advice relates to England and Wales only, so if you reside elsewhere, even in Scotland or Ireland, it is best to seek professional advice.

Typical projects or alterations requiring permission.


  • New builds, domestic or commercial need full permission.
  • Demolition of a building or a major part of a building
  • Alterations and improvements to listed and historic buildings
  • Change of use, for example, a private home converted into a Bed and Breakfast.
  • Dividing your single home into separate dwellings, for example converting a cellar into a basement flat for rental or sale.
  • Works that may obscure the view for road users or cause a potential hazard to pedestrians.
  • Works subject to covenant on the area, for example if all homes in the area are made of unpainted brick outside, you may not be allowed to paint your home as it would spoil the look for others in the street.
  • Creating a work area in or outside your home IN WHICH YOU EXPECT TO HAVE EMPLOYEES working there,
  • Work that involves creating a new or altered access to a public road or path.

Home improvements which do NOT need planning approval.


(It is worth noting that it is still good practice to speak to your council about any work you are having done, just in case, as laws do change over time)

  • Converting your garage to internal living space
  • Re-rendering the exterior walls
  • A porch at the front
  • Having solar panels fitted.
  • Gates or fences (Although size restrictions do apply)
  • Erecting a SHED in your garden. PS: Don’t take the “whatnot” with this. A garden shed is a garden shed, so don’t erect a massive agricultural building and call it a small shed for your tools.
  • Painting the exterior walls or woodwork on your home
  • Decking, however please note that a raised platform (a platform with a height greater than 300mm) DOES require planning permission!
  • Having new UPVC windows fitted
  • Having a swimming pool built. Yep, seriously, however if it takes up more than 50% of your garden, you WILL need permission, although why build one at all?
  • Creating a work area in which YOU WILL NOT HAVE EMPLOYEES WORKING THERE, just you and/or your spouse.
  • Having a new roof on your house
  • Having a loft conversion. Yes, this surprised us too, but as long as the loft is less than 40m3 and any velux windows or dormer windows do not stand higher than the roofline, it should be fine.
  • Creating a single story extension at the side or rear of your home. NOTE: Changes in the permitted size of such an extension was raised in 2013 under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013.
  • A conservatory, providing it is not at the front of the building. NOTE: Size and material restrictions apply.

What happens if I ignore planning regulations?

If, despite the above advice, you do not consider the planning element of a home improvement, especially a major one like massively increasing the size of your home, the law could come down on you like a ton of bricks.

This is known as a “planning breach” and although it is not always enforced as some council’s, if they have no issue with the development or the work may issue retrospective approval. If they DO have an issue, or if someone or some people start to complain, they can issue an enforcement notice, which would mean that you either have to change the works that you did, or in some cases, knock down whatever it is you built or changed.

This can mean seeing your money, and your dream home, going down the drain.

So as you can see, there are some fairly major improvements you can have done to your house that do NOT need planning permission, but our advice should be if you are considering having work done is to speak to your local council, just to be on the safe side. It’s also worth noting that all the services available on THIS website do NOT generally need planning permission. Thanks for reading.


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