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Top tips for home renovations

Dreaming of a property renovation? Better check the planning regs first - and try not to upset the neighbours. Here’s all you need to know.

Property blueprint plans

Muddy loves a good property project – almost as much as we love sofa-viewing multi-million-pound Hampshire popstar pads. With a bit of vision and a good architect, a tired old bungalow or quirky corner plot can be transformed into a dream pad that works for all the family quirks.

Big or small, going up, over or outwards can make a world of difference. After spending an extraordinary amount of time at home lately, a modest She Shed sounds pretty appealing right now. But before you start putting up or knocking down walls you need a clear vision, an appropriately stylish clipboard, and a good solicitor to walk you through the permissions.

Legal advice for your home renovation

Jane Rarok Paris Smith property renovation legal expert

Muddy called on Jane Rarok, Principal Planning Consultant at Hampshire-based legal firm Paris Smith (above) and Lucy Taggart, Solicitor in their Property Litigation Team, to fill us in on the need-to-knows. Jane, it’s over to you…

Permitted developments

Many houses benefit from permitted development rights – the right to develop, extend or add to the property without planning permission, subject to specific criteria. Different rules apply to listed buildings, flats and properties within certain protected areas for example conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty or national parks.

Some permitted development rights, like larger extensions, or additional storeys, will require prior approval from the local planning authority. This can’t be sought retrospectively, so it’s important work doesn’t begin without written approval. Again, permitted development rights don’t apply to listed buildings or in certain protected areas.

If you’re thinking about converting an existing garage to a home office, playroom or extra bedroom, typically this won’t require planning permission, unless there is a restrictive planning condition on the use of the garage or you live in a listed building.

Home office renovation planning permission
Adding a dream home office doesn’t always require planning permission

Restrictive planning conditions

Permitted development rights can be removed by a local planning authority. This is usually when there’s a restrictive planning condition on the original planning consent for a dwelling which removes future permitted development rights, or prevents a garage from being used for anything other than a vehicle and domestic storage.

The authority may also remove permitted development rights through an Article 4 Direction, this typically occurs in conservation areas but can also include fencing around front gardens.

Applying for planning permission

Anything not classed as permitted development will require planning permission. The application needs to describe the proposal and include plans and drawings. It may also need to provide specialist reports on the impact of the proposal on trees, ecology, parking and highway safety.

If planning consent is required for an extension, you’ll need to consider the design, scale and visual impact to the character of your home and the wider area. You also need to consider the impact to neighbours. Depending on the nature of your proposal and your specific property, other planning considerations could include impact to trees, ecology, protected species and parking requirements.

Home office conversions

Depending on your property and its location, building a home office for yourself within your garden may not require planning permission. If you’re running a business from home, planning consent may be required for a change of use. This would depend on the nature of that business and the activities associated with it. Where planning consent is required, you’ll need to consider similar issues to that of an extension, for example the scale, design and impact on neighbours typically from visitors and parking.

Adding an annexe

Planning permission will be required to build an annex providing separate living accommodation in a garden. Generally, annexes should be appropriate in scale to the existing house and should share some facilities with the main house. There is complex case law around ancillary accommodation verses independent dwelling. When considering your options, obtaining early planning advice will help identify which aspects of your project could be undertaken using permitted development rights and which will require planning permission.

What to consider when submitting a renovation application

Home renovation woman planning computer plans

As well as national planning policy, your local planning authority will have specific planning policies for householder development, such as extensions or outbuildings. The plans and details you submit will be assessed against these policies as part of the application process. Obtaining advice early can help you consider the best options for the additional space you need, whether that’s through exercising your permitted development rights or with a planning application.

Help from a planning consultant

If you’re worried about navigating the process it could be worth hiring a planning consultant. They will carry out the planning history research to identify any restrictive planning conditions on your property, or in your area, and identify any local constraints.

They will also prepare and submit your application and liaise and negotiate with the local planning authority on your behalf. Planning consultants can also provide advice regarding lawful development certificates, for example to confirm that your proposal is permitted development, as well as providing advice on planning conditions and legal agreements.

Avoiding neighbour conflicts

Lucy Taggart (above) is a solicitor in the Property Litigation Team at Paris Smith. She advises homeowners on potential problems and disputes arising from home renovation and improvement projects and says many of the disputes she deals with could have been avoided. So what do we need to know to keep neighbourly relations sweet? Lucy, it’s over to you…

To avoid disputes or souring relations with the neighbours, consider the following:

  1. Are your works close to your neighbour’s land or buildings? Do you need to be mindful of the Party Wall Act 1996 and enlist the services of a Party Wall Surveyor?
  2. Flag to your architect any known common services that may provide drainage and other utilities to your neighbour to ensure they not interfered with by your plans.
  3. Will your project be interfering with any of your neighbours’ rights of light? If in doubt, engage a solicitor or surveyor to advise.
  4. Does the title to the land which you are hoping to develop or improve on contain any restrictive covenants that might restrict your plans? Seek advice from your solicitor or look at the Report on Title from your conveyancer when you purchased the property.
  5. Check that your plans don’t encroach on any of your neighbour’s land and get familiar with the precise nature of the boundary lines around your intended development.
  6. Above all, approach any neighbours that might be impacted by your intended works or improvement plans in the design phase. Work with them to resolve any issues before they arise. Falling out with your neighbours, at a time when we are all locked in, is not an option.

Other potential pitfalls to avoid

If you’re planning a large-scale project, ensure you enter into an appropriate construction contract. This will protect you from bad workmanship. Ask for warranties to give protection on the works completed. 

Approach with caution any works to parts of your home that might already be the subject of warranties, to ensure they are not voided. Check the warranty terms and, if appropriate, seek approval from the provider of the warranty. Engage a solicitor with construction expertise for advice.

For advice about property projects or planning consents, contact Jane Rarok, or a member of the Paris Smith Planning Services Team.

For advice on avoiding neighbour disputes, contact Lucy Taggart or a member of the Paris Smith Disputes team

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