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Can I extend my property without getting permission?

The Government has announced further changes to ‘Permitted Development Rights’ which will allow homeowners to add up to two additional storeys to their home through a fast track approval process, with a “requirement to carefully consider the impact on neighbours and the appearance of the extension”.

Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) are rights which allow certain changes to be made to a building without the need to apply for planning permission.  Under the current regime while a single storey extension would fall under PDRs a double storey extension would require planning permission.  While full details of the ‘fast track approval process’ are yet to be revealed it is likely that planning permission will no longer be required.

While this news may be welcomed by those homeowners who wish to extend their homes to accommodate growing families or changing needs, there is concern that since such development will no longer fall under the scrutiny of the local planning authority that design and quality could be poor if it goes unchecked and, that it could adversely affect the character and aesthetics of our streets and neighbourhoods (which the planning system works so hard to protect).  Perhaps more worrying is that neighbours will no longer have a formal route to object to this type of development.

Another issue of concern is the impact that such development will have on neighbouring homeowners.  In particular, the area of greatest concern tends to be around ‘access’ and the extent to which a homeowner has to give rights of access over their property to their neighbour for building/maintenance.


Under the current regime while a single storey extension would fall under PDRs a double storey extension would require planning permission.  While full details of the ‘fast track approval process’ are yet to be revealed it is likely that planning permission will no longer be required.

However, we have listed a few of our top considerations below:

  1. “Its good to talk” we are quite often approached to provide a legal opinion before any approach has been made to the owner of the neighbouring property. If you are planning on extending your home and will require access to your neighbours property it is good to talk to them at an early stage to let them know your plans, what is required and hopefully alleviate any fears they may have.  In our experience the majority of cases can be resolved in this way without the need for any legal intervention.
  2. Trespass – don’t just assume you can access your neighbour’s property. If you access their property without permission this may be trespass.  Even if you do think you have a right to access your neighbour’s property it is always good to let them know when you require access.
  3. Building vs Repairs – the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 (“the Act”) provides that if the owner of the neighbouring land does not agree to give access to allow necessary repair or maintenance works to be carried out, then a landowner to apply to Court for an ‘Access Order’ to allow access where the works are reasonably required for the preservation of the landowner’s land, and the works cannot be carried out, or would be made substantially more difficult, if access to the neighbouring land is not granted. Please note these rights are only in relation to ‘repairs’ and would not cover the building of an extension.  In our experience we have not had to apply for an ‘Access Order’ which suggests that either the parties reach an agreement between themselves or the suggestion of a court order is enough to grant access.
  4. Party Walls – The Party Wall etc Act 1996 (the Party Wall Act) provides a framework for preventing and resolving disputes in relation to party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings. Your surveyor will be able to advise you if your works are covered by the Party Wall Act 1996.  If your works are covered by the Party Wall Act you will need to notify your neighbour and there are timescales for doing so set out in the Party Wall Act.  Your neighbour may object to the works, but the Party Wall Act also provides a mechanism for resolving such disputes.
  5. Scaffolding – as stated above the Access to Neighbouring Land Act 1992 allows for access in respect of “repairs” which may extend to the erection of scaffolding to carry out such repairs. However, you will not have an automatic right to erect scaffolding on your neighbour’s land for a new building/extension.  If you wish to erect scaffolding on your neighbour’s land you will need their prior (ideally – written) approval.  We would suggest that the agreement you reach is documented to include as a minimum – where the scaffolding will go, how long it is needed, and any fee/compensation to be paid.

While building an extension can be an exciting time, it is also important to remember that it may well be a worrying time for your neighbours who may have genuine concerns about how your build may affect them.  We cannot reiterate enough the need to build good relations with your neighbour when embarking on a building project and suggest that you talk to them early on in the process in respect of your plans, timescales and how it might affect them.  In our experience this will save time and money and potentially disputes which are often started through fear/lack of information.  Ultimately once your build is finished and the dust has settled you will have to continue to live alongside your neighbours and you will enjoy the benefits of your extended home all the more if your neighbours are on side!

Please contact our commercial real estate team for further information.

About this article

This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

About this article

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