How to get planning permission for a house

How to get planning permission for a house: Do I Have a Chance?


Thinking of taking a punt on a plot but not sure of the planning angle? Architect Garry Thomas looks at a variety of different planning issues and assesses whether it’s worth pursuing — or if you should just walk away.

Why not arrange a FREE 15-minute call with one of our architects to see if your project has planning potential. Contact the office here.


Getting Planning Permission in Green Belt and the Open Countryside


“I want to make an offer on someone’s garden with a view to building on it. Thing is, they’re outside the village development boundary. Will I get planning permission?”

The construction of a new building outside a settlement boundary is usually not permitted. However, as an exception, there are some opportunities to develop outside the boundary if it involves the replacement of an existing dwelling, a barn conversion, is an exceptionally innovative design, or there is a local need. Here are the 8 ways to get planning permission on sites in these types of location.

“I want to become a farmer and build a farmhouse in the countryside”

Under the Paragraph 55 of the NPPF the development of a new dwelling in the open countryside will be permitted under special circumstances where an agricultural or forestry worker needs to live on the site of their enterprise. You would, however, need to demonstrate an essential need based on a proven rural business use — for example, a need to live on site to tend to livestock around the clock. The wording of the Paragraph is vague and you can expect to provide business justification statements; or, at the very least enter into a period of monitoring to see if the rural business is viable.

“I want to buy a house in the countryside and replace it with something much bigger”

Permission to rebuild an existing house is usually acceptable; however, the size allowed depends on numerous factors such as the local policies in the area, the size of the site and the impact on the surrounding area. Generally an increase in size by 30% is considered reasonable, but check with the local planning authority first. One key thing to remember is that Permitted Development (PD) rights have now changed so large extensions in the majority of cases are now possible without planning permission. Also expect to have to place the new build footings touching the footprint of the original building.

“I want to build a house on a virgin site in the middle of open countryside”

These are the ‘hens teeth’ of the building world. They have to be innovative and exceptional homes in respect of design, scale and architecture. Even so, not every bespoke design or concept is suitable. The process is costly, with no guarantee of success, and requires third party design review of the proposals. This requires deep pockets and a team able to provide a robust process with a proven track record.

Building a Sustainable Home

“I want to generate all my own electricity from on-site renewables”

There is scope to generate your own electricity within the curtilage of your property under the recent amendment to the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) (England only) on the installation of domestic microgeneration equipment. This allows you to put up certain electricity generating equipment such as solar panels and heat power systems; however, they would be restricted by criteria such as size, height, distance from the boundary of the property and conservation status.

So, whilst there is potential to generate your electricity needs through sustainable methods, this will depend on the size of your house and plot, and therefore the size and type of equipment used. Wind turbines are not currently included within the recent GDPO amendments and require an application.

Changes to Existing Buildings and Homes


“I own an ordinary terraced home but want to build a modern glass extension”

Following the recent changes to Permitted Development (PD) rights; there is now greater scope to do a lot more in terms of extensions. The parameters set down (BELOW) generally focus on the size and location of an extension; however, materials must be in keeping with those used on the existing property. Subject to a planning application, a glass extension may be considered acceptable.

Changes to Permitted Development (PD)Rights

You are allowed to extend or add to your home without the need for planning permission, providing that you meet set criteria. The criteria relates to limits on size and height of the proposal, its position and its proximity to the boundaries of your plot. For example:

  • No extension should be higher than the highest part of the roof.
  • Max. depth of a single storey rear extension on an attached house to be 6m and 8m on a detached house.
  • Max. height of a single storey rear extension of 4m.
  • Max. eaves height of an extension of 3m, within 2m of the boundary.
  • Two storey extensions no closer than 7m to rear boundary.
  • Side extensions to be single storey, no more than half the width of the original house and max. height of 4m.


Restrictions on designated land apply. Be aware you will, however, need planning permission if you want to build closer to a highway, or if more than half of your plot would be covered by additions. Other restrictions are that previous planning permissions issued for your property may have extinguished your permitted development rights; or, they may have been removed in your area by the Local Authority.

“I want to knock down my semi-detached home for access to the garden, and build a detached home on the land”

Demolition of a dwelling does not generally require planning permission unless it is within a protected area such as a Conservation Area or if the building is listed. Whilst the demolition of half of a semi-detached dwelling is not unheard of, various rules in respect of Building Regulations and the Party Wall Act 1996 will need to be adhered to.

In terms of the creation of a new detached dwelling and access, this is again possible subject to certain criteria. These will include site-specific considerations such as the impact on the built form of the area, the street scene, noise and neighbouring properties.

“I have an old barn on my land. I want to convert it into a dwelling”

Yes, you’ve got a good chance. At present, most local authorities will permit a barn conversion so long as it is in accordance with specific criteria (BELOW). The criteria will relate to issues such as the stability and soundness of the existing structure, impact on the highway, the character of the surroundings and the sustainability of the location. Many authorities seek to promote business/commercial uses before residential uses, so you need to prove that the site is unviable for such a use.

Barn Conversions

General criteria for the reuse and adaptation of rural buildings (barn conversions) for residential purposes include the following:

    • Reasonable attempts to secure suitable employment or community reuse of the building must have been tried.
    • The building must be permanent, substantial and structurally sound.
    • The design must be in keeping with the area.
    • Traffic generated must be safely accommodated by the site access and local road network. Not impacting on the area’s character.
    • Appropriate parking must be provided on site.


For Dutch barns, whilst these are structurally unsuitable for conversion under PD rights, they often have intrinsic heritage value and it is worth trying for permission under normal full planning submission requirements. Here is more about how to gain planning permission for Dutch barns.

“I want to build a house different to that which has been approved”

As there is already planning permission for the site, this provides a precedent for the development of a dwelling. It is possible to reapply to amend the scheme with another application to allow your design ideas to be incorporated. This would be subject to the nature of the site, the area and local planning policies.

“My home’s listed, but I want to add a modern extension”

Precedence and guidance indicates that the creation of an extension that shows significant imagination and would not deter from the ‘special’ nature of the listed building may be successful in gaining listed building consent and planning permission. The use of a contemporary design would be applicable to show the transition between the historic and modern elements. This is to ensure that any addition would not compete with the original structure. In this case, design, massing and the use of materials is key. Depending on the grade of listing, 1,2 or 2*, depends on the level of input and scrutiny carried out by agencies such as English Heritage or CADW (in Wales). As a general rule the better the listing the better the quality of architectural process required.

Why not book our listed building review to help you assess what is possible to develop in your listed building. Here is more information.