Amazing Spaces' planning expert Ian Fergusson explains how these special building rights can work in your favour when it comes to improving your home.

What is Permitted Development?

Carrying out building work or changing the use of land (e.g. from a shop to an office) can require planning permission.

Sometimes, however, this work or change of use is 'permitted development' (PD), meaning the government has decided it is automatically approved and planning permission isn't required.

Most homeowners aren't aware of just how many improvements they could make to their home without applying for planning permission (and sometimes finding this is refused).

Before starting any work though it is important to be aware that planning is just one of the controls on what we can do with our property. It may be necessary to consider building regulations as and legal rights affecting your property.

What can I build in my back garden?

Detached, semi-detached and terraced houses (not flats or maisonettes) usually enjoy PD rights that allow among other things:

  • Extensions (to the rear and sometimes side as well) plus alterations (such as changing windows and doors)
  • Other changes such as putting up 'outbuildings' (which can be more than just sheds)
  • What can't I build in my back garden?

    The PD legislation specifies what won't be accepted as PD. This tends to control amongst other things:

  • Locations (often must be directly behind the house)
  • Height, width and depth (including heights above ground)
  • Materials (not always though – there are no controls for example for outbuildings)
  • In short, if it falls within one of the PD categories and is not restricted by the PD legislation then it may not require planning permission.
    What can I build at the side or front of my property?

    The PD rights are less generous here but there are often rights available. For example:

  • Adding porches
  • Alterations (such as changing windows and doors)
  • Where can I get advice/find out more?

    The government has published a helpful guidance document on PD rights for houses but it understandably doesn't draw attention to all of the wide variety of opportunities that the legislation allows.

    The local planning authority (usually the local council) can advise on PD if asked. Its officers will usually recommend an application is made for a 'Certificate of Lawfulness' to provide clarity. This is not the same as a planning application but is essentially a yes/no test about whether something is or isn't lawful at that time.

    Many architects and builders (as well as planning consultants) have a good grasp of PD rights as well.

    For more information about Permitted Development, go to

    Please note: The above is a general summary of the position for information purposes only. Please take professional advice before starting your own development