From the end of August homeowners will be allowed to supersize their homes by adding two extra floors without planning permission.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick claims the move will provide “much-needed additional space for children or elderly relatives” – so in theory, growing your home upwards could ease both the housing and care crises in one fell swoop.

Unfortunately, in London at least, its application will be limited. For a start the new rules, which come into force on August 31, will only apply to detached homes, and those built between 1948 and 2018 – which leaves out hundreds of thousands of Londoners living in red-brick terraces, top-floor flats or new-build homes. Homes in conservation areas are also out.

Rising concerns

The cost of removing a roof to add two new floors to a home will far exceed the cost of a traditional loft extension.

“I think the people who will use this will be freeholders,” said Chris Romer-Lee, director of Studio Octopi architects. “They will want to max out the value of their properties, at the expense of their poor leaseholders.”

He also fears the lack of control will lead to design “atrocities” blighting the skyline.

What is “permitted development”?

Permitted development is the scheme which allows certain specified changes to be made to your home without the need to obtain planning permission.

What other changes can you make to your home without obtaining full planning permission?


Check the rules carefully before embarking on a kitchen extension as the materials used need to be in keeping with the original house (Juliet Murphy)

Kitchen extension

You can extend up to four metres at the rear of a detached home, or three metres behind a semi or a terrace house. However, the extension must not take up more than half of the outside space and the materials used need to be in keeping with the original house. In London that effectively means that brick and glass are likely to be fine, but you might struggle more with timber, metal cladding or anything more unusual. This, said Chris Romer-Lee, is a real problem.

“Permitted development died as soon as you had to match materials to the host property,” he said. “It just meant that everything becomes bland and you lose the difference between the new and old; you just end up with all sorts of weird growths on the side of properties.”

Flats, unfortunately, are not included, and permitted development never applies to homes in conservation areas, or property that is listed.

Two-storey rear extension

It’s a yes to this, as long as you don’t go back more than three metres, and there is a gap of at least seven metres to the end of the garden.

Side return extension

Hoover up the dark, slightly pointless sliver of space that is the side return by extending the back of the house to its fullest width. You can do this without planning consent if you are not building higher than four metres, or more than half the width of the original house.

Side extension

Owners of detached houses can extend sideways. The extension must be single-storey only, the finish should resemble the existing property and the extension can be no more than half the width of the original house. There are also restrictions on height, depending how close you will be going to the boundary of your property.

Loft extension

Need another bedroom or a home office? You can extend into your loft using permitted development, keeping the space you create to no larger than 40 cubic metres for terrace houses or 50 cubic metres for detached and semi-detached houses.


You can add a pool to your garden as long as it can’t be seen from the front of the house (Alamy Stock Photo)

Perfect for working from home, “outbuildings” are allowed if kept to one storey. There are also size and height restrictions, depending on the size of your plot. You can use your garden room as a gym, an office, a playroom or whatever else you like – but it can’t be used as a full-time bedroom.

Swimming pool

As long as your new pool can’t be seen from the front of the house and doesn’t take up more than half the back garden, you could be splashing about next summer. It’s generally also okay to put in a hot tub – but do check with the council before taking the plunge.

Front porch

Somewhere to dump boots and umbrellas is invaluable in winter. To use permitted development, keep to a footprint of three square metres max, a height of up to three metres and your porch cannot be within two metres of the boundary.

Balcony extension?

Sorry, no, you will need planning consent. The only exception is a Juliet balcony with no platform or external access, but which really does add light and a sense of space to a room.

Be warned: check the rules before you start

Permitted development has lots of small print to consider. If you are not working with an architect, you must touch base with your local council to check that what you are planning is not breaking the rules. 

For more information on your permitted development rights, visit


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