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Sep 15

Beginner’s guide to planning a side extension to your home

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Do you own a period terrace or semi-detached house? Is your kitchen situated in a small and narrow space beyond the downstairs reception areas, tucked away in a rear-projection known by architects as an outrigger position? And does this leave you with an L-shaped garden and a strip of land at the side of the house, also known as the side return?

Many homeowners find that the original kitchen layout is no longer suitable for 21st-century living, and improving your home with a side return extension can make a lot of sense. Using the side return part of the garden, you can create an open plan kitchen/diner that makes the most of the available space without losing too much of the garden. If you’re looking to add extra space in your kitchen and add value to your property, this could be the way to go. Let’s take a look at what’s involved.


What permissions do you need?

Before you get carried away with the design and build of your new kitchen extension, you should do your homework to ensure that you are complying with the necessary paperwork.

The good news is that side return extensions are generally considered to be permitted development. This means that you won’t need to obtain planning consent as long as certain conditions are met. These include

  • The extension must be to a freehold house; leasehold flats and maisonettes do not benefit from permitted development rights
  • The side return rear extension must not go beyond 3 metres of the rear wall of the original terraced or semi-detached house, or 4 metres for detached houses.
  • The side return rear extension must be single-story, no more than 4 metres high, no bigger than half the area of land and no wider than half the width of the original house.

You need to notify your local council of your proposed works and formally consult with your neighbours. In particular, you have a legal obligation to give notice to your neighbours under The Party Wall Act 1996 if your building works are going to affect your shared property boundary (the ‘party wall’). There is a clear process you must follow and, if you cannot reach agreement with your neighbours, a surveyor will be appointed who will draw up a legally binding Party Wall Agreement. For more information on this complex area, here are some useful FAQs.

If your house is a listed building, it is still possible to extend under permitted development rights, though Listed Building Consent will of course always be required. If you live in a Conservation Area or there are other planning restrictions applicable to your house, you should consult your local council for advice.

Finally, there is a quaint form of easement in English law whereby your neighbour may be entitled to an amount of light into their home. Many property owners opt for glazed roofs or glazed extensions as an architectural element to maximise the amount of natural daylight coming into the extension. This also elegantly deals with any Right to Light issues, by allowing the light in the side return extension to flow through into the neighbouring property.


How to obtain Building Regulations approval

Your building works for a side return extension will need to comply with Building Regulations to ensure that the works meet a minimum standard. Building control approval is always required, whether or not you need planning permission. You can apply for approval via your local authority building control service, which may be given in one of two ways:

  • A full plans application must include a set of planning and construction drawing detailing how the extension is to be built. Once approval has been obtained, you are free to start the build.
  • A building notice is a quicker and less detailed application designed for smaller building projects. Work can usually start a few days after basic details of the proposed works have been submitted.


Preparing for the build

The first steps towards your side return extension start with instructing an experienced and affordable architect or architectural designer who will be asked to produce two sets of drawings: planning drawings that cover the layout and elevations, and construction drawings that show how your side return extension will be built.

Finding a reliable builder for your extension can be a daunting task. Draw up a shortlist of recommendations from friends, neighbours and your architect, search online trusted trader databases and associations such as the Federation of Master Builders. Get three written quotes but don’t necessarily go with the cheapest contractor. Some design & build companies offer architectural services as part of their service. Of course, it’s also worth calculating the cost of other expenses at this point, whether you’ll need to invest in portable toilet hire or whether you’ll need to stay somewhere else while the construction work is done. This will give you a good idea of how much your extension is going to come to, in total.


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