In principle, a garage can be converted under exempted development, meaning that you do not require planning permission. However, there are a few questions regarding planning regulations that require exploring first:

  • Has the house been extended previously? The total allowable area for an extension that may be considered exempted development is 40sqm (with certain conditions). A garage conversion can be included as part of this general area, but if it increases the total new floor area to more than 40sqm, then planning permission will be required.
  • Are there any planning conditions from previous planning applications that prohibit the undertaking of works normally considered exempted development?
  •  Are there any covenants attached to the property that prohibit exempted development? An architect or solicitor would be best placed to advise on this issue.
  • Is the property a protected structure? In this instance, no exemptions to development apply.

Every property is defined by a unique set of conditions, and it is always worth seeking architectural advice to make sure you comply with the exemption criteria. 

If you can establish that none of the above issues is relevant, then you would, in principle, be allowed to proceed with a garage conversion without planning permission. 

However, it’s worth noting that extending above a garage is not exempt from the regulations and planning permission would be required.

Most garages, by their nature, are narrow, have a floor level lower than that of the main house, and are un-insulated. The garage roof will likely be solid concrete and at a lower level than the first floor. 

Many have electric/gas meters stored within – these will need to be moved if the space becomes a domestic room. Existing drainage routes should also be checked to ensure there are no direct access points located inside the garage; the last thing you want is a maintenance hole in your new room!

A garage can be converted as a room, but if poorly designed, it will always feel like a garage conversion, underused and unsuitable for your needs. To avoid this, the following are some issues to consider to make the most of your garage conversion:

  • For added comfort and space, think of lifting the roof level to provide a minimum ceiling height of 2.4m (8ft]) or higher if you can, but check the schedule of exempted development for maximum heights.
  • Existing garage spaces are not, of course, built for living in, and it may be necessary to install new windows or roof lights to provide adequate natural light and ventilation.
  • Look at upgrading the insulation to current building regulation standards. This will not just provide savings in the long-term but will, importantly, make the room easier to heat, keep the temperature constant with the existing house, and improve the use of the new space.
  • Simple things like running the flooring across the room draw your eye, making it feel wider.
  • Large glass windows to the front can make it brighter and feel larger, and, for privacy, you could place a hedge in front of the garage, creating a private courtyard.

If you’re planning to extend over an existing garage, ensure your foundations are checked to see whether they can support a second floor or if it might be possible or necessary to reinforce the current structure.

Should you be planning to add the bedroom extension above later, make sure that any garage conversion works include the preparations necessary for a future first-floor addition – this will be a more efficient and cost-effective strategy in the long run.

Finally, don’t assume a garage conversion is your only option. It might be better to leave the garage as a garage and extend elsewhere – you might get a much better and bigger room from a bit more of an investment. Arrange an initial consultation with a registered architect. It might open up all sorts of possibilities.

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Planning Permission For A Garage Conversion

Planning permission is not usually required to convert your garage into additional living space for your home, providing the work is internal and does not involve enlarging the building.

However, sometimes permitted development rights have been removed by a condition that may prevent a garage from being able to be converted without planning permission. This is often the case if your property is located in a housing estate.

A condition attached to planning permission may also require that the garage remain a parking space. In such instances, you will need to apply for permission to vary or remove the condition.

You wouldn’t usually need planning permission to convert your garage into additional living space. The space won’t be used as a separate dwelling, and the works are all internal. 

  • The additional accommodation would be incidental to the main use of the dwelling (i.e. home study or playroom), and a separate or independent unit of accommodation is not created;
  • The works are internal, and no extensions are required to carry out the works;
  • If a garage door needs to be replaced by a window, the window is of a similar appearance and finish to those already used on the dwelling and is flush with the wall, i.e. not a bay window.

Sometimes permitted development rights have been removed about garage conversions, and this is particularly likely to be true if you live in a modern housing development.  

If you require further advice on whether planning permission is required for your proposed garage conversion, the Council offers a pre-application advice service.

Do Permitted Development Rights Apply To Your Property?

Be aware that some properties do not benefit from permitted development rights, so it’s unlikely that you’d be able to convert your garage without submitting a full planning application. 

You should check with your Local Planning Authority whether permitted development rights apply to you, but in the following cases, they usually do not:

  • flats and maisonettes
  • converted houses or houses created through permitted development rights
  • listed buildings or properties in a conservation area
  • other protected areas include national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads and World Heritage Sites

Do You Need Planning Permission To Convert A Garage Into An Annexe?

Suppose you intend to convert a garage into a separate dwelling (even if a family member occupies it). A full planning application may be required. You can seek pre-application advice from your local planning authority if you are unsure about whether or how to apply.

Check Conditions Of Existing Applications

You should check existing planning permissions related to your property. There may be a condition attached to existing planning permission that states that the garage should remain as a parking space. In this case, you would either need to submit a new planning application or an application to vary or remove that condition.

FAQs About Garage Renovation

Do I Need Permission To Convert My Garage?

Planning permission is not usually required, providing the work is internal and does not involve enlarging the building. If you intend to convert a garage into a separate house (regardless of who will occupy it), planning permission may be required no matter what work is involved.

Do You Need Planning Permission To Convert A Garage To An Annex?

A garage is considered to be an outbuilding. As long as its purpose is incidental to the dwelling, it may be built under permitted development rights. This means that planning permission for a garage is not required.

Do You Need Planning Permission To Brick Up The Garage Door?

Planning permission is not necessarily required for bricking up a garage door if the work is internal and doesn’t involve enlarging the house. However, planning permission is required if you’re converting the garage into a separate house, if your house is listed or if you live in a conservation area.

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What Is The Four-Year Rule In Planning Permission?

‘THE 4 YEAR RULE’ applies to building, engineering or other works which have taken place without the benefit of planning permission and that have remained unchallenged by enforcement action for four years or more. In this context, one has undertaken operational development or physical works.

Is Planning Permission Required After Ten Years?

You can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate for existing use or development. You can demonstrate that: the land has been in continuous use (other than as a dwelling) for more than ten years. A condition or limitation on planning permission has not been complied with for more than ten years.

Freeholder Consent

If you are the leaseholder of your property, as well as needing planning permission (as leasehold flats or maisonettes do not have permitted development rights), you will also likely need freeholder consent for the garage conversion.

Easements And Covenants

It’s worth checking the deeds to your property to see if there aren’t any easements or covenants that could restrict your rights to convert your garage. 

Easements are rights enjoyed by a landowner over another person’s land. A positive easement (such as a right of way) involves a landowner going onto or using something in or on a neighbour’s land.

Covenants are a contractual promise concerning land, some of which can be enforced against future owners of the land, rather than just against the person who made the promise.’

Party Wall Act

If your garage conversion affects a wall or structure you share with your neighbour, you must comply with the Party Wall Act. In the first instance, this involves notifying your neighbour about the work. As with all of the above, your architect will be able to advise on this in more detail.

Do I Need Building Regulations Approval For A Garage Conversion?

If you convert your garage into a habitable room, Building Regulations approval will usually always be required.

There are a few ways of obtaining detailed Building Regulations approval in our other recent post here, but the most common route is to submit a building notice to the council before the work starts. Ensure you consult with your builder and architect and agree on who will be responsible for this notice.

We’d strongly recommend working with an architect as you must be confident that the work will comply with building regulations. Otherwise, you might have to demolish/re-do any work that does not comply.

Permitted Development Rights

Getting planning permission for your dream project is a complex task and can sometimes be a nightmare. Still, luckily, outbuildings, such as sheds, garages and greenhouses, are considered permitted developments.

Legal developments are types of projects that don’t require planning permission, and this automatic grant allows certain building works and changes to be carried out without having to make a planning application. 

These permitted development rights are updated regularly, and the rules for them vary in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland and can differ across local authorities. Hence, it’s important to check your LPA for the latest details.

Garage Planning Permission

If you’re looking to build a brand new garage, we have some good news! You don’t need planning permission, but only if the project falls under a set of parameters and outside a few exceptions.

These permitted development allowances apply to houses only and not to flats and maisonettes, converted houses or houses created through the permitted development rights to change of use or listed buildings.

Domestic Purposes

The garage must only be used for domestic purposes. You are not allowed to build a garage for commercial use (to run a business from). You must consult your local planning authority (LPA) if you require a garage for commercial use.

Storage Space 

The garage must not be used as a living space and should be used for storage only. This means that it mustn’t contain beds or any other types of living furniture that would be able to accommodate an inhabitant.

 Building a garage that’s intended for living in or converting a garage, unfortunately, has different rules and will normally require planning permission, which will be explained further down in this blog.

Floor Measurements

The garage floor must be less than 15 square metres if freestanding or less than 30 square metres if attached to the house. In the latter case, it must also be constructed from non-flammable materials and be placed at least one metre from any boundaries, such as a fence or wall on the outside.

Ground Area

The ground area covered by the garage and any other surrounding buildings within the property boundary, not including the original house site, cannot exceed 50% of the total area of the property. 

The term “original house” means the house as it was first built or stood on 1st July 1948 if it was built before that date. Although you may not have built an extension to the house, a previous owner may have done so.

Elevation and Position  

No part of the garage is in front of the principal or side elevation of the original house facing a road.

Height

The maximum height available to build a garage cannot exceed four metres. The reasons for this are structural integrity and not blocking light to a neighbouring property. 

If the garage plans to have eaves, they mustn’t be higher than two and a half metres if the building is within two metres of the property boundary. This is for drainage reasons and the availability of natural light on your neighbours.

Public Roads 

Any part of the garage must be within three and a half metres of the property boundary, with a public road to the rear of the house.

Location

If your property is located within a World Heritage Site, an area of outstanding natural beauty or a national park, the maximum ground coverage area has to be located more than 20 metres from any property wall. It does not exceed the given 10 square metres. For this, you must receive confirmation from your LPA.

If you are located within a UK conservation area, the garage must also not be located between the side elevation of the house and the property boundary.

If you’re unsure about any of these rules, we advise contacting your LPA.

A garage conversion can add up to 20% more value to your property, and it also increases your living space by adding an extra room. Almost half of us use garages to store junk rather than cars, and according to RAC Home Insurance, 40% of homeowners can’t even fit their cars in them anymore due to the amount of clutter. Attached or detached garage conversions are great ways to use this wasted space whilst adding value to your home. Most of them can be completed under permitted development rights, especially if the project won’t alter the structure of the building. 

Therefore, planning permission for a garage conversion isn’t much different to brand new garages. 

Unlike extensions, garage conversions are less about building new space and more about optimising the space you already have. Hence, the planning policy for these types of projects is slightly different.

It’s unlikely you’ll need planning permission for garage conversions. About 90% of them don’t, as long as the work you’re carrying out is internal and doesn’t involve enlarging the existing structure. 

However, the other 10% will need garage conversion planning permission. As mentioned previously, this will be the case if you live in a property that’s not covered by permitted development rights, such as:

  • Flats and maisonettes
  • Listed buildings
  • New developments
  • Homes within a conservation area
  • Homes located near a heritage site, national park or somewhere of outstanding beauty
  • You’re converting the space for commercial use

Conclusion

One of the biggest joys of being a homeowner is that you are free to make whatever changes you wish. In contrast, if you’re renting, you are restricted to the landlord’s contract and unable to make any personal improvements without their permission.

However, it’s a slightly different story if you’re a homeowner looking to change anything external to your homes, such as garages, extensions, conservatories and other outbuildings. If you plan to make any additions or amendments to your home, we advise you to check whether you will require planning permission following the UK law by contacting your Local Planning Authority (LPA).

A common grey area for planning permission that some homeowners can be unsure of is planning permission for garages. Building a new garage is a popular project for home improvements, and in most cases, you won’t need planning permission for one, but there are somewhere you do. Planning rules for garages also depend on the size and position of the building concerning the property and any other features around it.

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