What does the relaxation of planning laws mean for the home renovations and architectural industries?


As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, home improvement and architectural projects can require planning permission, and it’s important that you adhere to the regulations to ensure you do not face action.

Advice can be sought from architects, but, depending on complexity, a dedicated planning expert be best in certain situations. Most, if not all, architects and interior designers should have contact with, or access to, planning consultants.

Whilst planning permission is important, government intervention to cut red tape and relax planning regulations can help get your home renovation project off the ground.

Recent Relaxations of UK Planning Regulations

Over recent years the government has removed the requirement for planning permission on some projects, such as extending a terraced house by 6m, increasing this from 3m as it was previously.

In order to extend by up to 6m there are only a few parameters, but these are not difficult to meet.

This has meant that projects are afforded a lot more flexibility, and based on my experience of working in East London, around three quarters of the projects I have worked on across Leytonstone, Leyton and Wanstead have been as a result of the relaxation of the planning laws.

Future Relaxations

The government has hinted in its recent housing white paper that it will reduce the time developers have to build after getting planning permission.

Developers are currently allowed to wait up to three years to develop a site, and the new proposals would reduce this to two years.

Whilst this won’t directly affect the home renovation market, it will have an impact on the housing stock.

By ensuring land with planning permission is actually built on this should increase the housing stock and allow more first time buyers to get onto the ladder.

Right-To-Light Issues

Whilst the relaxation of planning laws has helped stimulate the housing sector, the increase in home sizes has gained negative press coverage too.

As I mentioned earlier, many properties are now allowed to be extended by up to 6m without planning permission. Detached homes up to 8m.

In some cases such extensions have hindered a neighbour’s ‘right-to-light’. Overlooking would be another consideration for first floor extensions.

While the extra-long extensions are now acceptable they must be completed by May 2019. However, I believe the Government will once again extend the regulation as they have done in the past.

Is there A Potential Lesson From The United States?

Planning in the United States is organised a lot differently to what we are used to in the UK, but there could be some things to learn from the USA.

The USA system most often works on the percentage of the site that is covered.

This essentially limits the amount of the site you can cover. As long as you’re under that limit it doesn’t matter about the shape and size of the property.

However, the issue of ‘right to light’ is not such a big issue in the USA. Nor is design aesthetics. These are both much bigger issues in the UK. Much thought is given to the need for local properties to be in keeping with local designs.

With terraced housing the ‘right to light’ and ‘overlooking’ are common issues for planning, but with high-rise developments it’s not as large a problem.

So how could the USA model fit into the UK?

The USA rule means that if you have a larger plot of land than someone else you are able to extend more than them, which may benefit properties in the UK.

It’s clear that the relaxation of planning laws over recent years has helped stimulate the home renovations and architectural industries, as well as the housing market, but to ensure the markets stay active other policies are needed. (insert link to article about the UK meeting its housing requirements).

For those who are already on the ladder, or are in the process of buying, improving the look and feel of your home can be a stressful process. You may want to seek advice from a professional on what possibilities there are to extend your home sometime in the future.

After 35 years of working in the architecture and interior design industry I have created a free report outlining my top tips before you make any home renovations.

You can download it now for free here.

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