Let there be light…

If you own a home and are considering having an extension built there are certain developments that can be undertaken without the need for planning permission. So called ‘permitted developments’ (further information can be found at www.gov.uk/planning-permission-england-wales) are allowed to proceed without recourse to the local planning department. Modest sized home extensions are included under the permitted development legislation.

However, as with most areas of building legislation, there are caveats and exclusions. Some parts of the country are excluded from permitted development laws and these include conservation areas, areas of outstanding natural beauty and national parks. In our region, that means Northumberland National Park and the Northumberland Coast and the North Pennines (both Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty) together with numerous conservation areas (according to Historic England, there are over 8,000 conservation areas in the country). Living in any of these areas doesn’t mean you can’t alter or extend your home.

It means you’ll need to get planning permission before hand, even if your proposed project is within permitted development guidelines.

So you don’t live in any of the areas outlined above, you can just get on and have your new extension built? Yes, but there are still other considerations to be borne in mind. Paramount amongst these considerations is your neighbour’s right to light.

Half the room should be lit by natural light

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), ‘In your home, just over half the room should be lit by natural light… A right to light may be acquired by ‘anyone who has had uninterrupted use of something over someone else’s land for 20 years without consent, openly and without threat, and without interruption for more than a year.’ Your right to light is protected under common law, adverse possession and in England and Wales by the Prescription Act 1832.’ There is no right to light in Scotland.

What this means in practice is that you, your neighbours and anyone else who owns a home has a statutory right to natural light illumination within their homes. Any proposed extension, modification or complete new build needs to take this right into account.

The permitted developments legislation is a useful tool as long as all possible constraints are taken into consideration. It is certainly not a ‘free pass’ to build or modify without consideration of location and the rights of others.

We have over eighteen years of experience of new builds and home extensions. We’d be very happy to lend our knowledge and experience to whatever project you have in mind. If you are considering an extension or a new home do give us a call on 0800 3118 321.