While planning permission for a garage conversion is not normally required, some projects will require it. In this post we look at different scenarios and identify what triggers the need for planning permission.

If you do need planning it's nothing to worry about, there is a simplified application called “householder planning application” and the fee for this is fixed at £206. The process only takes around 8 weeks and every application we have ever made has been approved.

While we are on the topic of legal permissions, I also introduce restricted covenants and building regulations that may also be required as part of your garage conversion project.

What are the rules for converting a garage?

Planning permission is the local authority’s approval of your development and is designed to restrict the building of anything that would be inappropriate. Read our general guide to the UK planning system to learn more about the history and the legislation that forms the planning policy.

Permitted Development Rights are permissions to perform certain types of work such as garage conversions and extensions of specific sizes without having to apply for planning permission. These rights are granted nationwide by central government and were designed to relieve the pressure on local authority planning departments.

Building Regulations govern the quality of the work, the materials, the safety, and the performance to a minimum level. Read our quick guide to find out if your garage conversion needs building regulations approval.

Restricted Covenants are legal terms included in the deeds of your property that restrict specific actions. The most relevant covenant we encounter is a restriction on making any alterations (including converting the garage) for a period of 5 years. This normally effects owners of new builds who need to apply to the developer to have this removed. If you live in a new build read our guide on removing restricted covenants.

Some projects won't need any of these approvals, but most will need at least one and some will need them all.

What are the Garage Conversion permitted development rules?

Permitted Development rights are the reason why most garage conversions don’t need planning permission and therefore checking if you have them is one of the first steps. These rights were put in place to ease the burden on the planning system and avoid lengthy applications for small projects such as garage conversions.  

The reason you need to check if you have the rights is they may have been removed as part of a previous planning condition or because you live in an article 4 area. Without going into the detail, I recommend you email your local planning department and ask them if you have permitted development rights in place. This is a free service with most local councils and is just a regular email to the planning departments email address.

If you have permitted development rights then great news, most garage conversion projects will not require formal planning permission.

Important

Not all garage conversion project types are covered by permitted development rights, read on to learn what garage conversions qualify and which ones will require planning permission even when you have full permitted development rights in place.  

Designated Areas & Listed Buildings

It is likely you will be aware if you live in a listed building or a designated area as your conveyancer would have highlighted this to you during the purchase of your home. The planning portal provides a list of areas where permitted development rights are restricted:

  • Conservation areas
  • National Parks
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
  • Work Heritage Sites
  • Norfolk or Suffolk Broads

If you live in one of these areas, you are likely to need planning or another permission and you should not proceed without filing a pre planning advice enquiry of full householder application.

Project Based Examples

Here we look at project types and highlight the reason planning may be required. The table refers to a domestic room which covers the following room types for personal use by the occupiers.

  • Home Office
  • Home Gym
  • Partial Conversion
  • Dining Room
  • Kitchen Extension
  • Playroom
  • Cinema Room
  • Guest Bedroom
  • Additional Bathroom
  • Utility Room

Garage Conversion Project Type

Planning Required/Likely

Reason / Context

Granny Flat or Annexe

Yes

Self-Contained / Sleeping Accommodation. Applies to both detached garage conversions and attached/linked

Business Use, Salon, Massage Room etc

Yes

Business Use, this may constitute a material change and require planning permission.

Domestic Room Conversion with Bay Window

Yes

Increased footprint and change of street scene

Domestic Room Conversion with Flat or Bow Window

No

Covered under permitted development and shouldn’t require planning

Part Conversion – Window to Front

No

Covered under permitted development and shouldn’t require planning

Part Conversion – Retaining Garage Door

No

Covered under permitted development and shouldn’t require planning

Open Plan Knock Through Kitchen/Diner Project

No

Covered under permitted development and shouldn’t require planning

Can I convert my detached garage without planning permission?

The same table is applicable for detached garages. As outbuildings, detached garages with permitted development rights in place can even be turned into separate dwellings (A separate house) via a prior approval application.

What to do if you are unsure

You have three options of increasing complexity, fees and certainty.

Application Type

When to Use

Cost

Pre-Application Advice for Householders

If you are unsure about your permitted development rights and/or project is within the rights

Varies by council

Certificate Of Lawful Development

When you know you have permitted development rights and want formal assurance your project is within the criteria.

£103 plus £32.20 service charge when using planning portal online

Householder Planning Application

When you don’t have permitted development rights, or your project is outside of the permitted development criteria.

£206 plus £32.20 service charge when using planning portal online


Pre Application Advice for Householders

If you are unsure if you need planning permission, it may be possible to submit a Pre-application Planning Advice for Householders form. This is a discretionary service offered by some councils and is designed to give advice and opinion. I have noticed that the level of service and assurance varies between councils, some will answer the question “Do I Need planning permission?” and others will only advise on the process and likelihood of obtaining permission when you already know it is needed. You should weigh up the service your council offers against a more formal Lawful Development Certificate Application.

Important - Terminology

A “Pre Application Enquiry” is for business related developments and is not the same as a “householder pre application advice service.” There does not seem to be a clear term between councils who offer this service, but the inclusion of “householder” and a low fee will signal you’re in the right place. I have included links in the table below for the North East Councils fees and forms.

Pre Application Advice Table

Council

Fee

Timeframe

Link

Newcastle

£58

28 Calendar Days

Newcastle – Pre Application Planning Advice

Gateshead

£30

30 Working Days

Gateshead – Pre Application Planning Advice

Sunderland

£24

Not Quoted

Sunderland – Pre Application Planning Advice

Northumberland

£40

20 Working Days

Northumberland – Pre Application Planning Advice

South Tyneside

£62

28 Calendar Days

South Tyneside – Pre Application Planning Advice

North Tyneside

£50

Not Quoted

Will only offer advice if you know you need permission.

Durham

£30

21 Days

Durham – Pre Application Planning Advice


Lawful Development Certificate

This application costs £103 which is half of the full householder application and should take around 8 weeks to be decided.  This route should be used when you know you have permitted development rights but there is a question over the project that you would like legal assurance on. The certificate is issued by the local planning authority and signifies that enforcement action cannot be taken against you in regard to the described works.

Householder Planning Application

Most professionals such as architects and surveyors will skip straight to this point when they know the proposed conversion will require planning permission. However, if you are attempting to gain planning permission yourself, I would advise you to engage with your local planning officer via the Pre Application Advice service before attempting a full application.

You need planning permission, what next and how much?

If your garage conversion does need planning permission, it should almost certainly be covered by the householder planning application which as mentioned earlier is a simplified process and application. As discussed there is a fixed cost for the service of £206 plus a service charge of £32.20 if you use the online service from planning portal. However, you may need to pay for professional help to file the application form and produce the required drawings.

Architectural Drawings and Forms Required

The table below describes the forms and drawings required, while the screen shot Figure 1 shows how they are submitted to the online planning portal. Example Planning Drawings are shown in Figure 2 & 3.

Drawing / Form

Description

Householder Application Form

Use the online planning portals form which is included in the service charge of £32.20 or obtain the paper-based form from your local council.

Site Location Plan

A plan drawing of the site at a scale of 1:1250, these can be bought online for around £30

Site/Block Plan Existing

A plan drawing of the existing site showing all buildings and boundary at a scale of 1:500.

Site/Block Plan Proposed

The “proposed” site block plan should be identical to the “existing Site/Block plan” for a garage conversion that is not increasing the footprint of the building.

Elevations Existing

These drawings show the sides/faces of the building (Front, Rear, Right & Left) as they are prior to the conversion and at suitable scale, normally 1:50 or 1:100

Elevations Proposed

These drawings show the intended faces of the building after the works have been completed. It is likely that most of these will be identical to the existing with only the front of the building showing the change from garage door to brick infill and windows.

Floor Plan Existing

This shows the internal layout of the building prior to the conversion, normally 1:100 or 1:50 in scale.

Floor Plan Proposed

This shows the internal layout after the works. In the case of a knock through kitchen diner project it would show significant changes to an open plan configuration. Whereas a home office conversion the change could be limited to changing the garage door to a window and possible a new access door from the hall to the new room. 

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) form.

If your council has adopted the levy, you will be required to complete a form to ascertain if you need to pay towards local infrastructure. This is highly unlikely that your project will qualify, charges are normally reserved for housing developers or additional floor space over 100m2


How much will architectural drawings cost?

The costs to produce the drawings listed in the table above should range between £400 and £1000 with an additional charge to cover the filling of the application form and CIL form. The good news is the same drawings can be used to discharge a restrictive covenant if required. The drawings can also be developed further to satisfy building regulations after planning is approved.

Do I need an architect to produce the drawings?

While an architect would be able to help with a planning application and produce the drawings, they are typically engaged when a project requires a high degree of design work. If you know what you want and just need help producing the drawings an architectural designer, technician or draughtman should suffice. Alternatively, an Architectural Technologist or Building Surveyor would also be able to assist with the drawings and project in general.

Can I produce the drawings myself?

While it is possible to buy the location plan online and then produce the other drawings yourself using a scale ruler, I would advise you hire a professional. The reason is that the drawings will take an amateur a lot of time and a subsequent delay from filing an invalid application is likely to make you regret tackling this task yourself. 

Conclusion

Most garage conversions won't need planning permission as they will be covered under permitted development rights. Send an email to your council to confirm you have permitted development rights. If you are unsure, you can get pre application advice from your planning department for a small fee or apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.

If you do need planning its nothing to worry about as most application are approved. Costs for planning permission including the architectural drawings and all admin fees are less than £1000 for most garage conversions.

Get a personalised quote for planning permission applications and drawings here.

Frequently asked questions

Should I get “prior approval” for my garage conversion?

Largely, no, the term “prior approval” and the associated application is designed for other types of permitted developments such as large extensions, additional storeys, and new dwellings. A more appropriate way of determining if you need permission or not is to file a “householder pre application advice” form.  However, if you have a detached garage that you are looking to convert to a separate dwelling then prior approval to confirm the project as a class of permitted development may be suitable.

Do I need an architect for my garage conversion?

While you do not need an architect, they or an alternative professional (architectural technologist / building surveyor) would add significant value to the project. If the project requires drawings for planning permission, then we advise you obtain quotes for their services or use a specialist company that includes this as part of the service.

If planning is approved, will I also require building regulations?

Building regulations is a separate approval and application process, some conversions will need both planning and building regulations. Whereas some projects will be exempt from building regulations and only require planning. 

Disclaimer, this article is designed for information purposes only and should not be relied upon as legal or planning advice. We recommend you seek professional consultation.

About the Author Michael NEGC


Michael is the Architectural Designer and Surveyor at North East Garage Conversions.
Michael has a HNC in Civil Engineering and a HND in Construction Management. Previous experience includes multiple renovations, a self build plus working as an Architectural Technician, Designer and Project Manager.

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