Property - Do-it-Yourself

A loft-conversion bedroom. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.
A loft-conversion bedroom. PA Photo/thinkstockphotos.

If you’ve outgrown where you live, adding space is often more cost-effective than moving home, especially in more expensive parts of the country.

While doing building work can be stressful, buying and selling is time-consuming and sure to send your blood pressure through the roof, so can you avoid it?

Two of the best ways to add space (and value) are building an extension, usually to the side or rear, and converting the loft. If you need another bedroom/s and bathroom, the loft is the obvious place to put them, and if you need more living space, extending downstairs is usually the answer.

Big kitchen-diners/family rooms, where the whole family can be together, even if they’re doing different things, are really popular these days, but sometimes the only way to create them, especially in period properties, is to extend on the ground floor.

The good news is that building work such as loft conversions and ground-floor extensions can often be done under your home’s permitted development rights, which means you don’t need planning permission as long as you stick to the rules (governing width, height, materials, etc).

Flats and maisonettes don’t have these rights and some houses have had theirs removed, but most houses have them.

This is really useful, because obtaining planning permission can be a lengthy, expensive and frustrating process – and you’ve no guarantee of success.

If you can get what you want, or close to it, without applying for planning, it often makes sense to go down the permitted development route.

The permitted development rules can be different for different types of house. The rules can also be different on ‘designated land’, which includes conservation areas and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, where, for example, side extensions are not permitted development.

However, the best way to find out which rules and regulations apply to your home and proposed building project is to speak to your local council’s planning department.

You may not realise, for example, that you live on designated land or in a house that has had its permitted development rights removed.

The council enforces the rules, and you risk breaking them at your peril