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As of the 1st of September 2020, several new changes to planning regulations will come into play, under the new legislation laid in Parliament in July 2020. These changes are intended to address the UK’s national housing shortage, as well as boosting the construction and development sectors, and facilitating empty high street properties to be converted into homes (amongst other uses). Let’s take a closer look at how these changes will affect housing extensions and creation.

Upwards extensions

Under the recent first phase of the government’s changes to planning law, blocks of flats can already be extended upwards, for the purposes of creating new homes, without the requirement for the planning permission process.

This second phase will make it easier to extend homes or build new homes above existing buildings (residential or commercial). This will benefit property developers and the construction industry, as well as enabling some homeowners with growing families to adapt their properties to meet needs for more space, rather than needing to move house. In addition to this, homeowners who extend upwards will be able to create new homes in the new levels – effectively making it easier for them to boost their income by becoming landlords.

What this means, in practice, is that existing houses will be able to extend their properties upwards, by up to two storeys (depending on the existing number of storeys above ground level on the original property – and not including loft conversions). There will be overall height restrictions for terraced and semi-detached properties, to protect the character of the area and rights of neighbouring tenants.

There will also be a need to fulfil certain requirements in terms of external appearance, use of fire-resistant materials, location of windows (avoiding overlooking), natural light sources, and the need to safeguard or include the creation of access and other servicing areas, within the planned works.

What you need to know

The vertical residential building extensions which are allowed under the new changes will not require planning permission. However, a new “light touch” approvals process will still apply.

Under this new process, local planning authorities will need to be notified of the proposed works, including a report by the developer setting out how they intend to mitigate against disturbance and negative impacts to neighbours, occupiers and surrounding roads.

The planning department will look at the proposals against a checklist of considerations themselves, and they will also give notice of the plans to a list of interested parties, including neighbours, occupiers and a range of public and private bodies, some of whom have the right to effectively veto the proposal.

Structural adaptations of buildings

The structural/engineering strengthening works which will be needed in the majority of cases – where buildings are being made taller than their original design, and associated activities to carry out this work – are also covered within this legislation, but only where they’re being carried out as part of a development which has been approved under the new guidelines.

So for property owners who need to carry out remedial works to strengthen the structure of their property, the new legislation will not cover those works, and they will still need to apply for planning permission in the normal way.

Not all buildings fall within the scope of this new permission; there is a range of building uses, as well as buildings within certain designated areas (such as areas of outstanding natural beauty, and sites of scientific interest) and listed buildings, which are ineligible to take advantage of this amendment. Additionally, small houses in multiple occupations are not included.

In addition to the regulatory changes to support the creation of new homes, in July 2020, the UK Government also announced a range of measures to support the creation of 180,000 affordable new homes, 24,000 new homes on Brownfield Sites, and helping smaller developers to finance home building projects, expected to result in around 7,200 new homes.

Full details of the legislation changes can be found online in the Explanatory Memorandum, at

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