Note of caution against extensions free-for-all

Richard Hatch, partner and head of residential at Carter Jonas, advises householders the recent proposals by the Government to relax planning rules to permit extensions may not be all they seem

Richard Hatch of Carter Jonas

Since the Government’s announcement last month (September) of proposals to relax planning restrictions to permit single-storey extensions of no more than eight metres to properties, some local authorities have indicated, in no uncertain terms, that they will oppose any relaxation.

Regardless of any sanction that the Secretary of State for Local Government and Communities might take against these ‘extension rebels’ and setting aide the objections of planning authorities themselves, many in the property industry have been sceptical too.

It would be ill-advised for any householder to rush to extend until the planning policy has played out locally. Also, in extending any property, there are other matters of legislation and common practice that need to be considered.

There is an additional layer of permissions over and above standard planning permission which is required if a property is a Listed building.

A Listed designation is a status which protects the interior and exterior aspects of all grades.  In addition, objects or structures fixed to the building and also structures within the curtilage of the building present before 01 July 1948 benefit from the Listing status – and that is likely to include any garden or surrounding on which an extension may be built.

Then there is the setting to consider. Is the property in a conservation area?

While there is a distinction between a Listed property and a property in a conservation area, those in these areas do tend to be houses with character and period property features which could be affected, detrimentally, by an ill-conceived extension when it comes to selling-on.

Conservation area status for a neighbourhood means a further tier of protection through the planning system which is focused on securing the look and feel of an area, beyond a single property.  Building is, of course, possible in a conservation area within local planning frameworks but there will be local variants.

There may well be a covenant on the property or the land which, again, may be a barrier to building an extension. Restrictive covenants and covenant release are specific and technical areas of property law.

Walls shared with neighbours include garden walls and are likely to be covered by the 1996 Party Wall Act. Shared ‘garden’ walls could mean fences of any material, not just brick or stone structures.

Householders also need to bear in mind that, if carried through, the proposal to relax the planning rules to permit extensions is for a limited period only.

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