How much can you build in the Green Belt?

Green Belt Main

Many people are fortunate enough to live in the Green Belt or other parts of the countryside, but when it comes to extending their homes they soon find out that it is not all roses! Stuart Tym, Senior Associate at The Wilkes Partnership’s Planning Department discusses the issues.

Most Local Planning Authorities have restrictive policies which limit the size of enlargements of residential properties to no greater than around 25% to 30% of the original volume (or the size of the house at a particular date). For people with growing families or other requirements for more space this can create a real difficulty, when they find that applications for planning permission to create larger extensions are refused.

One way that owners have tried to get around a refusal is by taking advantage of the permitted development rights (“p.d. rights”) granted by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (“GPDO”). Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO grants p.d. rights for various works including: under Class A, home extensions and other alterations to the dwelling itself; and under Class E, the construction of buildings or enclosures within the curtilage of the dwelling for purposes incidental to its enjoyment. Class E might include greenhouses and sheds or swimming pools, but in principle any sort of building can be included provided that it is for an purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling.

Both Classes A and E are subject to precise limitations and conditions, each one of which must be complied with in order for p.d. rights to be exercised.

Especially with the increase in rights to extend a house granted by the current Government, it is possible with care, and depending on the location of the house, to achieve an increase well in excess of the limits imposed by planning policies. However there are traps for the unwary.

In some cases home owners have not been able to obtain sufficient additional space by relying just on p.d. rights under Class A, so they have resorted to using Class E to erect buildings in the garden, but close to or even adjoining the dwelling house, to provide more space. In one case the owner built approximately 11 times the floor space of his existing house, some metres back from the house, including buildings described as workshops, a gymnasium and a swimming pool enclosure. They had cavity walls and underfloor heating. Although he had complied with all the conditions of Class E, the Council served an enforcement notice requiring him to demolish the buildings. An Inspector appointed to hear his appeal upheld the enforcement notice on the grounds that what he had built was not incidental to the enjoyment of the existing dwelling but in reality a new dwelling. In another case where the owner had converted a large double garage in his garden to a kitchen/diner with bedroom above, the Inspector dismissed his appeal against an enforcement notice requiring him to convert it back on the ground that living accommodation was not an incidental use.

The moral for owners is to ensure that they are not going to fall foul of the local planning authority before incurring this expenditure. At the least an informal Planning Officer opinion should be obtained (but, be warned, this is not binding on the Council), but for certainty, or if the Officer says that planning permission will be required, the owner should apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness in relation to the proposed development (or change of use). The owner has a right of appeal if the Council refuse the application. He may not be happy about the additional expense and delay, but that is far preferable to the expense of having to appeal against an enforcement notice and the risk of losing the appeal.

This is in fact the best advice to anyone thinking of spending a significant sum on extensions with the benefit of p.d. rights.

We have dealt with many enquiries regarding the application of p.d. rights and would be happy to help anyone in this situation.  We can also advise on the notification procedure which applies to the proposed exercise of the enhanced p.d. rights for householders granted by the Coalition Government, applicable for the period 2013-2016.

If you would like to discuss these issues in further detail, please contact Stuart Tym on 0121 710 5891 or via email on stym@wilkes.co.uk