An incredible consultation has been launched by the government to consider if there is any merit in allowing people in London to extend upwards by one or two storeys – potentially without needing any planning.
The government has already allowed this when converting commercial premises to residential. The aim was to release empty offices nationwide for housing, but most successful applications have been in London, where office space is already in short supply.
Demand for homes is still far outstripping supply. According to the consultation, “on average since 2008, 25,000 additional homes have been completed each year” in London, which is about half what’s required. And when they look at the numbers “only a very small proportion of these, some 400 (less than two per cent), were delivered as a result of developments which included some element of upwards extensions”.
Building extensions – and especially building upwards – is always pretty contentious wherever you live and, having lived in and visited London on a regular basis, it’s astonishing how many homes are still being gutted and almost rebuilt or ‘built under’ with a huge number of basement conversions sweeping through particularly expensive areas of London such as Putney and Chiswick.
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Through the consultation, the government wants to hear your views on what should be done to drive more homes into the London market. Could allowing greater freedom to “build up”, potentially reducing the pressure to “build out”, be considered an “innovative approach to supporting housing supply”?
Should we get excited about this idea?
Probably not yet. The last time the government tinkered with planning and permissions, it was under the “neighbour consultation scheme”. This allowed an extension of property development from three metres to six metres for smaller homes and four metres to eight metres for a temporary amount of time.
It took some time for this to be implemented and some councils tried to opt out, although Eric Pickles prevented this.
But the government is being very specific about what you can do, highlighting three ways to add additional homes to London:
“The existing permitted development rights set out in Part 1, of Schedule 2 of the General Permitted Development Order 2015 already allow for extensions of existing homes. A householder may construct a rear, side or roof extension under existing permitted development rights to provide additional living space, whether it is for a growing family or elderly relatives.”
However, you can’t just “go up” – the plans will have restrictions:
“We are proposing a new permitted development right in London to allow additional storeys to be built on an existing building, up to the height of an adjoining roofline. We propose that the new right could provide for up to two additional storeys to be added to an existing building, where the roofline of the adjoining premises is a minimum of two storeys taller.
“A single storey could be added where the roofline of the adjoining premises is one storey taller. This will help to manage the impact of the development on the area.”
Don’t forget building regulations
Even if the permitted development is allowed and you save a few quid and a bit of time on planning applications, the building regulations drawings still have to be created and, with a two-storey extension, checking the foundations will be crucial, particularly on older properties. If they require strengthening, that can add hugely to the cost and requirement for lots of steels etc.
With many properties in London being terraced, you will need things like party wall agreements and these could take a long time to sort out! So do make sure you get expert help from the likes of Collier Stevens.
Something for the kids? Or for Mum and Dad?
However, if the policy does go through and you have kids, instead of downsizing or moving out of the capital, this may be a great opportunity to build upwards and have either a home for them to rent, purchase or even inherit, especially with the enhanced inheritance allowances.
And who knows, if the policy goes ahead and is successful, maybe it could be extended across the UK?