With housing being in short supply across many parts of the UK, it is very common for houses to be split into flats or for us to live in maisonettes or purpose built flats. You may feel that living in a flat means that you are very limited on work that you can do on the property. But it doesn’t have to be the case – it is still possible to carry out extensions on a ground floor flat or maisonette as long as you follow the rules set out by your Council.
Will I need planning permission?
In almost all cases the answer to this is yes because extension work carried out on a flat does not come under Permitted Development. Permitted development essentially states that work carried out on a house that extends it by a set amount does not require Planning Permission. But when it comes to flats the rules are different and planning is almost always needed.
This is especially the case if your flat is part of a listed building or is in a conservation area. In fact if you start work on a building that has special historical character without permission you could be committing a criminal offence. So checking with your planning office is essential before you do anything.
Why do I need Planning Permission?
The main reasons for flat extensions needing planning permission is the fact that your neighbours will inevitably be affected, due to their proximity to your property. Not only will the your property and the extension impact on their property, but the work being carried out will affect their day to day living. Noise, mess, parking issues and people in and out of the building throughout the day will be bothersome to them – so they need the chance to understand what is happening.
The building structure and look will also be affected – possibly impacting on their own property value. This is a very valid concern for your neighbours and one that may require you to compensate.
Any extension built on a flat will also need Building Regulations approval. This regulatory service ensures that the work carried out meets government requirements on buildings of this type. The Buildings Inspector will attend the site at regular intervals throughout the project to check on work and ensure that all work is carried out to the right specifications.
The following categories will be taken into account when it comes to your extension planning application and regulations.
Doors and windows
Your doors and windows may need to look the same as others in the building and will need to meet the energy conservation levels required by your Council. Planning permission for doors and windows will be required if the building has special characteristics.
If you share drainage with your neighbours you should always clarify ownership before you start any work.
Usually this is not a planning concern – but you should check if you live in a listed building. However if electric work forms part of your extension you should include it in your planning application.
Those in listed buildings or in conservation areas should seek advice before doing any work. This is especially the case if cladding is going to be used. In other cases Planning Permission is not needed for this type of work. The levels of insulation and soundproofing will also need to be checked.
If your extension is affecting any part of the roof you may need to apply for Planning Permission related to that change.
The Party Wall Act
If your new extension is likely to have any impact on the internal or external wall or floor of any other flat or maisonette in the building you will need to advise your neighbour of the work. Work on foundations in flats or maisonettes is also subject to this Act. The Party Wall Act 1996 was brought in to reduce the number of disputes occurring between neighbours when work is carried out and it lays down the requirements of the builder and homeowner regarding party walls.
- You must give the neighbour notice of the work
- They have the opportunity to object or ask for changes
The Act lays out all the rules that must be adhered to when working on a party wall and the circumstances where a neighbour can object or even ask for work to be restricted or stopped.
As you can see permission for extending a flat can be a little more complicated than for extending a house, but a good builder who works with an architect and that has experience in extending flats will ensure that your design meets all of the requirements set out by your council. The Planning Process will add time and some further expense, but the results can be stunning and the extra room is well worth the time taken.