top of page
  • John Baggott

Can I build without Planning Permission? A Guide to Permitted Development

Do you know your rights?

We deal with permitted development rights (PD) enquiries from our clients daily. PD rights allow some types of building work to be carried out without needing to apply for planning permission.

​So, if you are about to embark on any type of building project, including changing a building's use, it could well be the work falls within your PD rights. This guide explains the basics.

In many cases, a house can be extended without planning permission

What is Permitted Development?

PD rights allow certain building works and changes of use to go ahead without the need for a formal planning application to your local council. The rights are subject to conditions and limitations set by the Government.

Are these rights new?

PD rights are nothing new and have been around in one form or another for many years.

However, in recent years the Government has made various changes and introduced a wider range of PD rights. This includes the introduction of ‘Larger Home Extensions’, where some detached homes could have a single-storey rear extension up to 8 metres long. Other PD changes have meant agricultural barns can often be changed to homes without formal planning permission.

What are the types of PD rights?

The most well-known PD rights are those that apply to houses (e.g. extensions and outbuildings)

Some other common PD rights apply to:

  • Minor operations (e.g. gates, fences, garden walls);

  • Changes of use;

  • Non-domestic extensions (e.g. to shops, offices and other commercial buildings)

  • Agricultural buildings and operations

​​Beyond these, there are also PD rights for transport-related development (including road and rail); telecommunications; renewable energy; and more.

Unused agricultural barns can often be converted into one or more homes

What are the limits to PD?

PD rights are subject to nationally-defined conditions and limits. For example there are limits on height, size, location. PD rights are restricted if the site lies within a conservation area or is a Listed Building, and are specific to the category of development.

Some PD rights are in place for a limited period only, meaning the work must be complete by a set deadline.

You should also remember PD rights do not override your legal obligation to comply with other permissions, regulations or consent regimes (such as Building Regulations).

Do I need to apply to use my PD rights?

In most cases there is no need to apply to your local council for permission to carry out work under Permitted Development, as long as it satisfies the relevant limits. 

In some cases, however, it may be necessary to first obtain ‘prior approval’ from the Council before carrying out the development. In such cases, the proposed development or change of use cannot be commenced until prior approval has been granted by the Council. Learn more about prior approval here.

Can my council confirm my project is PD?

If you are not sure if your project is permitted development, or if you want formal confirmation, you can apply for a ‘Certificate of Lawfulness’. If given, this will confirm planning permission is not needed.

A Certificate of Lawfulness is a legally binding decision which can give peace of mind, e.g. if you sell your house. There is, however, no legal requirement that you obtain a Certificate of Lawfulness.

And finally...

There are many opportunities associated with PD rights. On a house, for example, PD extensions can often be combined with other extensions with planning permission to achieve more development than doing PD alone.

Be careful though, there are also many pitfalls, and you need a deep understanding of the rules; you can easily lose your PD rights or fall foul of the rules if you don’t build things in sequence. When in doubt, get a professional opinion.

If you need help on a project, please call:

Birmingham / West Midlands

0121 744 5511


020 3837 4917

If you found this article useful, you may also be interested in our Planning Jargon Glossary.


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page