With a worsening housing crisis, many people are choosing to renovate their homes rather than move house.
If you’re one of these people, you may be interested in converting your unused attic space to extend your home and provide much-needed space for you and your family. To do this, you may need to obtain Planning Permission or Lawful Development Certificate.
Obtaining statutory consents and building a loft conversion can be a long and frustrating process. It can be even more frustrating when your loft conversion application has been refused. That is why it is a good idea to consider all the possible reasons your proposal might be refused.
If you are wondering what factors could lead to a loft conversion refusal by the Local Planning Authority (LPA) – the authority in charge of processing your application – then this article is for you.
In what follows, we will discuss 5 common reasons for loft conversion refusal given by planning authorities.
We will then go over the role of an architect, focusing on how they can help you avoid an unnecessary rejection for your loft conversion project.
But first, it’s important to clarify something very important…
Where you live can influence the type of application you need to submit.
For instance, if you live in a conservation area, if your property is a listed building, if your dwelling has been converted into flats, or if permitted development rights have been removed in your area; you will have to follow a particular set of rules and obtain Planning Permission.
But generally speaking, outside of those situations, loft conversions can be carried out under permitted development. However, even with permitted development, there are certain restrictions to consider and you need to obtain Lawful Development Certificate to regularise your loft conversion.
Thus, it’s important to understand the difference between projects with permitted development rights and projects without these rights. We will elaborate on this distinction below.
Thus, without further ado, here are the 5 most common reasons for a loft conversion refusal.
In this section, we will discuss the significance of permitted development rights (sometimes referred to as PD rights) and the guidelines set forth by the government for permitted loft conversions.
By the end of this section, it will be made clear that the number one reason for loft conversion refusal is the failure to comply with the policies and guidelines pertaining to permitted development.
As mentioned, loft conversions are generally covered by permitted development rights. With PD rights, you don’t have to apply for planning permission. This is because the government considers the development to have very little impact on the neighbouring properties and the surrounding environment.
Nonetheless, with permitted development, it’s advisable to submit an application for a lawful development certificate (LDC). Because, even though this type of project does not technically require planning permission, you may discover, down the line, that your loft conversion does not actually satisfy the limits and conditions pertaining to permitted development.
Here’s the scary part: If you were to fail to meet these requirements, the council would be able to serve you an enforcement notice, effectively forcing you to undo the conversion. But with the LDC in hand, your loft conversion is protected against such an enforcement notice.
When applying for the LDC, you must pay attention to the extension’s design. If you don’t follow the regulations and guidelines that the government has set up, the application could be rejected.
To that end, the government allows for loft conversions under permitted development subject to the following limits and conditions:
Again, when pursuing an LDC for a loft conversion under permitted development rights, you must follow the criteria set out above. Failure to do so could lead to a rejected LDC application. But if you stick to this criteria, the application process can be relatively straightforward.
As mentioned above, not all loft conversions are covered by permitted development.
If you’re living in a conservation area, if you live in a listed building, if you’ve converted your dwelling into flats or if your council has removed permitted development rights via an Article 4 direction; you may have to submit a different type of application.
For instance, if you live in a listed building, you will have to apply for listed building consent, or if you live in an area without permitted development rights for loft conversions, you may have to submit a planning permission application.
To determine the best path forward, it is advisable to seek out the advice of a skilled architect – one who understands the ins and outs of obtaining planning permission and who may be considered a loft conversion specialist.
When it comes to these other types of applications, the LPA will base its decision on the ‘‘material planning considerations” set out by the national planning policies and the SPG_Supplementary Planning Documents. Each council will have its own SPG that elaborates on the government guides and local plan.
Any loft conversion that fails to comply with the guides and regulations set out by national policies and the SPG Supplementary Planning Documents may be refused at the discretion of the LPA. The reasons for a loft conversion refusal might include (but are not limited to):
In short, the council may refuse your application if you fail to follow the relevant policies, so it’s essential to thoroughly research the policies pertaining to loft conversions. Or, if you want to avoid a refusal, you can reach out to an architect who understands the policies in your area.
In the next three sections, we’ll expand on a few of the reasons mentioned in the list above.
When it comes to projects that fall outside the purview of permitted development, the Local Planning Authority gives great weight to the design’s potential impact on the neighbouring properties.
When considering a planning application for a loft conversion, the planning officer will likely want to determine whether the proposed development has an adverse impact on the amenity of the neighbouring properties. Briefly defined, private (or residential) amenity space refers to the physical external space used by residents for leisurely activities, such as gardening, drying clothes, hobbies or playing with children. If your proposed development were to overshadow the neighbouring amenity space, the planning officer could refuse your application.
Again, the planning authority will be keen to crack down on properties that have a negative impact on the surrounding area, whether it’s because of the size, siting, design or bulk. In this regard, if the proposed development represents an overly dominant and disproportionate addition to the roof, it may be refused by the planning officer.
The LPA might cite the following as their reason:
The proposed extension, due to its size and location, would have a negative impact on the scale and character of the dwelling and an unacceptable negative impact on the properties immediately adjacent to the site and the surrounding area by reason of overlooking, loss of privacy and visually overbearing impact.
The planning officer might add the following:
It must be considered that an incorrect design and development that doesn’t match the local environment would not be in line with the design and character of the existing home and would have a negative effect on the visual amenity of the area.
In short, when deciding whether to approve or refuse a planning application, the planning officer will likely consider whether the design melds with the surrounding environment. If it jars against the existing context of the neighbourhood, the LPA may refuse your application.
During the application process, the neighbours will be consulted and invited to comment. Only those objections which are based on material considerations will be taken into account.
The Local Planning Authority puts a lot of emphasis on the comments of the neighbours because, as mentioned in the previous sections, the effect of the development on the neighbouring properties is a key consideration and could lead to a loft conversion refusal.
Therefore, the neighbour’s input can be valuable for determining any impact a loft conversion might have on the surrounding area. If enough significant objections are put forth by the neighbours, the planning officer could cite these as reasons for refusal.
Now that we are caught up on some of the common reasons for refusal, let’s consider the role of the architect during the planning permission stages.
Hiring the right architect is one of the most important things to consider with any development project. But what exactly is an architect?
According to the common conception, an architect is someone who is trained to design buildings. But the fact is: they can be so much more than this.
A skilled architect can help turn the client’s needs and ambitions into a reality. Most importantly, when it comes to securing planning permission, an architect can be an invaluable resource.
To help ensure a successful planning application for your proposed loft conversion, a savvy architect might employ what is known as a feasibility study.
With such a study, the architect can show you all the potential risks and opportunities involved in your project. Moreover, the study will include valuable tips and advice for obtaining planning permission for your proposed loft conversion.
Once an architect devises a plan for moving forward, they can then begin the process of producing drawings that are specifically designed to satisfy your needs and the needs of the council. They will also begin writing the Design and Access Statement, which contains all the policy arguments in favour of your development.
Once the planning drawings are finished and in line with the Local Planning Authority’s rules, and once the Design and Access Statement is written and all other application materials are gathered; the application is ready to be submitted. During the decision period, the council may propose amendments and alterations to the drawings. They may also ask that further documents be attached to the application.
After the application has been submitted, it will generally take eight weeks for the council to issue its decision. During this time, the architect will monitor the application through the council website up to the final decision.
At the end of the process, the decision notice will be issued, advising whether planning permission has been granted or refused. If the application has been refused and no clear reasons are given, and if the architect considers the decision to be unreasonable, they may advise the client to submit an appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission.
Do you need planning permission for a loft conversion? If so, you’re probably in need of some architectural assistance.
As you may have noticed, architects play a key role in the planning permission process. They can be an excellent resource that saves you time, money and hassle.
With a multidisciplinary team comprised of architects, planning consultants, engineers and interior designers, Urbanist Architecture is more than equipped to help you get planning permission for a loft conversion. We also have copious experience with loft conversion building regulations, so if you want our assistance after you’ve obtained permission, we’re here for you.
Once we have the details of your project, we’ll conduct a FREE quick feasibility check in order to develop a bespoke plan for your development. Take action today by giving us a call or sending an e-mail.