Planning for the crunch

PUBLISHED: 16:30 11 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:05 20 February 2013

Working from home

Working from home

New rules governing what you can and cannot do to your home without planning permission may help you generate some extra cash in lean times

I am sure that many of you reading this will share my despondency at the general doom and gloom generated by a relentlessly depressing economic situation For those who cannot afford to move or whose incomes have fallen dramatically, thoughts may turn to home improvements or, perhaps, working from home or even generating some extra cash from lodgers or from bed and breakfast. Do the planning regulations encourage such innovative thoughts, or kill them at birth?

I am pleased to tell you that since 1 October 2008, there are new rules governing what you can and cannot do without planning permission and the extent of householder projects that will be "permitted development" has been widened. Examples include:

Extensions and conservatories will not require permission, provided that a number of limits and conditions are met, including that no more than half of the land around the "original house" (ie as it was when first built or as it stood in 1948 if older) will be covered by the addition; that the extension will not be forward of the principal elevation of the house fronting a highway and that the height and depth of the extension are within certain parameters.

Outbuildings (including sheds, greenhouses and garages, as well as swimming pools, ponds, saunas and tennis courts) will also not require permission, subject to the same 'coverage' restriction by reference to the original house (as above) and provided they are single storey with a maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres.

Garages can generally be converted to living accommodation, provided that the work is internal and does not involve enlarging the building, and the same goes for your loft provided, inter alia, the volume does not exceed 40 cubic metres for terraced houses and 50 cubic metres for detached.

Working from home will not necessarily require planning permission, as long as the overall character of your home won't change as a result of the business carried on there. If your home will no longer be used primarily as a private residence or the change will lead to a significant increase in traffic or people calling at the home, or if your business activities are likely to disturb your neighbours or cause a nuisance, then you are likely to require permission.

However, if you are taking in lodgers, providing a childminding service, offering B&B accommodation or using your house as an office and it is still primarily your home, then permission will not be required.

If in doubt, you can apply to your local authority for a certificate of lawful use for the proposed activity to confirm that it is not a change of use and is still the lawful use.

If you live in a Conservation Area or an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National P or listed building, then you will almost certainly require permission for most of the activities outlined here and, in the case of the listed building, listed building consent in addition to planning permission.

For further information, visit the government's planning website (click on 'links').

Robert Coombe is head of commercial property at Whitehead Monckton, which he joined in 1987 and became a partner the following year. He is a trustee of Maidstone Leisure Trust and the Pestalozzi International Village Trust.

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