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Home extensions - new rules mean you may not need planning permission


With effect from the 25th of May 2019, a change to planning regulations means that many homeowners may now extend their properties without the hassle of time-consuming planning applications.

The changes

In future, no planning permission is required for building an extension of up to 6 metres long onto the back of your home if it is a terraced or semi-detached house and up to 8 metres if it is detached. 

The changes give permanent effect to the temporary relaxation of the regulations which were introduced in 2013 – which as many as 110,000 homeowners took advantage of.

Commenting on the changes, the BBC also noted that neighbours will still be consulted about extension plans and given the opportunity to object.

The reaction

If you are a homeowner wanting to extend your home, the relaxation of the rules may be seen as a blessing. Considerable time – and likely expense – may be saved by foregoing the need for the submission of detailed architectural plans and the indefinite wait for planning permission to be granted. 

Not everyone is quite so happy, as a story ahead of the rule changes in the Guardian newspaper on the 10th of March explained. This highlighted concerns that the need for planning permissions is being relaxed in cases where the planned extension work is “uncontentious” – a quality that is left for individual planning officers to decide.

If you are planning to extend

While the government’s reasons for introducing the changes included making it easier for a growing family to stay in their present – extended – home rather than move house, you need to consider the impact on your home insurance of any decision to commission such building works.

When you are extending your home – whether by building outwards or upwards – structural alterations to the building will be made. 

The building insurance of your home insurance policy almost certainly has a clause excluding the risk of loss or damage to the existing structure and fabric of your property if structural alterations are to be made. Although your insurer may need to advise you on just what building works amount to structural alteration, any extension is likely to fall into that category.

In order to ensure that the existing structure of your property continues to be maintained during the course of any building works, therefore, you need purpose-designed renovation insurance – and an article in our Knowledge Base explains what you need to know about it.

Buildings extension insurance is a standalone policy which takes over from your regular home insurance while building works are in progress, protecting the structure and fabric of the building and typically extending cover to those supplies and materials, plant and equipment, which you may own or have responsibility for during the work in progress.

Since you might need to move out of your home for a while when building work is in progress, it becomes formally unoccupied in the eyes of any insurer, so renovation insurance typically incorporates the necessary element of unoccupied property insurance.

Buildings extension cover is more flexible than other types of property insurance in that you may arrange cover for less than a full year if that is all that it takes. 

Once the building work is finished, you may revert to your standard home insurance policy – but remember to update the total building sum insured to reflect the added value created by your new extension.