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Do I need planning permission to convert my basement?

Submitted by on 28/12/2012 – 9:29 amNo Comment

One of the major advantages of converting a basement is that for the majority of conversions, no planning permission is necessary.

If you are planning on converting an existing cellar beneath your home from a storage area to living space, it will only involve a ‘change of use’ and so does not require planning permission. Lowering the floor level of a cellar to give you more ceiling height will increase the volume of the property. This is considered an extension and could possibly require planning permission. However, under certain circumstances, fairly small alterations and extensions can be carried out without the need to make a planning application under what is called ‘permitted development’ rights. To find out more about ‘permitted development’ rights visit www.planningportal.gov.uk.

Planning policy on basements varies from one local authority to another, but it is very difficult for them to find reasonable grounds for refusal, particularly if the work does not significantly change the external appearance of the building.

If your property is a listed building, it’s important to remember that all renovations or changes require permission before any work can commence, even if there is no alteration to the exterior of the building. This is because the features, both internally and externally in listed buildings, are protected for historical reasons.

Regardless of whether or not you need planning permission, you will need to meet the current building regulations for extensions – these are simply legal requirements for any new living space, which exist for your own safety.

Building regulations

When creating a new living area building regulations approval is always required.

Building regulations are statutory minimum construction standards that ensure buildings are safe to live in, hygienic and energy-efficient. The renovation of an existing habitable basement area, or the renovation of a cellar that does not require a change of use, i.e. from storage to living , is excluded from the building regulations.

The most basic regulations that affect a basement conversion are: damp proofing, electrical wiring, ventilation, safe access, ceiling height and fire escape routes. These regulations will stipulate that doors must be a minimum width and that windows must be a minimum distance from the floor as well as a certain size.

Although they may seem restrictive, building regulations are relatively straightforward and shouldn’t put you off taking on a basement conversion project. For more information on building regulations go to the Office of Public Sector Information

To be sure of your position, our advice is to always check with your local authority whether or not planning permission is required.

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