Permitted Developments are projects afforded rights which do not require their acquiring specific Planning Permission in order to proceed and progress. Typically, major and ‘heavy’ works and refurbishments need to be granted specific permission from the Local Planning Authority (LPA) after making the necessary applications. Contained in the Town and Planning Act, 1948, planning permission is a crucial element for any project that requires it.

Whilst Planning Permission is assessed and granted by the LPA that covers the property in question’s areas, Permitted Development Rights are derived directly from UK Parliament and cover specific property types and types of work. It is also important to consider that there are parts of the UK and certain areas and types of land and property to which Permitted Development Rights do not always apply and this is for a range of different reasons.

Moreover, properties whose use or nature are altered through work undertaken have traditionally almost always required special permissions in order to be legally allowed to proceed. Many developers and property owners have in previous times found this restrictive and constraining as time frames are increased as a result of having to put applications and their necessary documentation together before any works can commence.

Recently however, there has been an amendment to the laws around Permitted Developments whereby light industrial units and related premises now, in many cases fall into this scope. This means that for qualifying properties who would previously have required specific permission, the process is quicker with Planning Permission not needing to be applied for as previously, making for a more efficient project overall.

What do Permitted Developments Include?

Permitted Developments apply to a number of types of property and projects. It is important to know whether or not the property in question falls into this remit as those that do can be undertaken without applications for Planning Permission needing to be submitted. Furthermore, those that do not fall into this ‘permitted’ scope require permission to avoid penalties or subsequent demolition or reversal of the works as retrospective permission may not necessarily be granted.

Property Extensions – This includes the extension of a property’s original rear walls by up to 8 metres as a single storey or by up to 6 metres for semi-detached and terraced properties. The original wall tends to be that which is deemed to be the rear wall as of the time of the Town and Planning act; 1948. There are some limitations with extensions however:

  • If the extension is within 2 metres of the property boundary, the extension’s height may not exceed 3 metres
  • Even outside of the 2-metre radius [of the boundary], the extension may not be higher than 4 metres
  • Building Regulations still need to be fully adhered to at all times

2-Storey Extensions – These are only deemed ‘permitted’ up to the height of the house [property] in question. With regards to height, if the extension is 7 or more metres away from the original wall, it may not exceed 3 metres out from the original rear wall. This means that the extension cannot protrude out from the rear wall by more than this distance. This is to preserve the ‘rights to light’ of neighbours and adjacent properties.

To be deemed ‘permitted,’ extensions may not cover more than 50% of the land around the property. this includes outbuildings. Therefore, a property that undergoes a number of extensions may not do so if more than 50% of its land is ‘covered by extensions.’


Lofts Extensions and Conversions

Loft conversions and extensions are very commonly undertaken in the UK and most fall within the scope of Permitted Development Rights. However, as with all other work under Permitted Development Rights, there are criteria to be met in order to satisfy these laws and regulations including:

  • The total size of the extension cannot exceed 50m² for detached and semi-detached properties or 40m² for terraced properties
  • Loft extensions under Permitted Developments may not be beyond the plan of the existing roof (as in the case of mansard conversions that need Planning Permission)
  • The extension must be deemed to look similar in appearance to the existing property

With regards to internal works within the above criteria and refurbishment works (such as light refurbishments), no additional permissions are likely to be needed, with the work in question usually falling under Permitted Development Rights.

How do Permitted Development Rights Work?

Permitted Development Rights are granted in the form of General Development Planning Orders (GDPOs) and allow for work up to particular extents and development to be undertaken. It is always advisable to instruct a solicitor or property expert to assess the work to be undertaken and at various points throughout its progression to ensure it doesn’t fall foul of UK Planning Laws or outside of the rights afforded by the Town and Planning Act 1948 [Permitted Development Rights.]

The LPA should also be consulted on these projects, with some local authorities able to provide the necessary consultations and the subsequent paperwork required for a fee. The benefit of confirming these permissions with the LPA directly is that you will receive written confirmation which can be useful when selling the property if this is done not long after the works. It is therefore important to check with your Local Authority whether or not Permitted Development Rights are applicable (check here.)

Permitted Development for Light Industrial Units

Since April 2016, the UK government has introduced updates and amendments to the laws surrounding Permitted Development Rights to make it easier for work on properties of specific types to take place. In practical terms this means that for light industrial units and developments, a change in use; making the property one of residential use is much easier to secure without specific Planning Permission needing to be sought.

One of the major benefits to these changes is that otherwise empty properties and those with good scope for residential development are able to be transformed into housing developments and residential premises. These updates to the law extend the permissions afforded under Permitted Development Rights to light industrial premises with up to 500m² of gross floorspace. Additionally, in general, in order to qualify, the building in question must have been in use for solely light industrial purposes as of 19th March 2014.

Although this makes it much easier to progress with projects in which the purposes of the building are changed, there are still exceptions and those that still require planning and other permissions and these include:

  • Converting a house into a House of Multiple Occupancy (HMO)
  • Changing the use of industrial premises with more than 500m² of gross floorspace
  • New developments, including the acquisition and development of unused land
  • The newly-residential property will still require testing including ventilation testing and commissioning and air tightness testing

What is a Light Industrial Unit?

Light industrial units include industrial premises that make and manufacture ‘end user’ products and goods. This refers to products which once manufactured, go straight to the consumer market, unlike components which may then be used to manufacture larger products before going on the mass market. Common examples of products manufactured by light industrial premises include:

  • Shoes and footwear
  • Tobacco products
  • Clothing
  • Food and drink


Additional Considerations

Although Permitted Development Rights allow properties and premises to undergo potentially significant works, transforming their use, the LPA remains important. Local Authorities will still assess cases where Permitted Development Rights have been utilised to ensure that no specific prior permissions should have been applied for and acquired before undertaking the works in question. LPAs will typically assess whether or not prior approval was needed based on various factors:

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