What are the rules around extensions and conservatories in England? This Milton Keynes expert explains

Many homeowners mistakenly think they can build what they want, where they want on their own property and land, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

When you are creating your dream home the headaches and heartaches can be costly if you don’t follow the rules. Some high profile celebrities, as well as thousands of ordinary home owners, have been forced to tear down hugely expensive extensions and conservatories – at their own cost – because they weren’t built to the agreed specifications.

It’s all too easy to fall foul of the rules; we asked Jonathan Strefford from Custom Glaze, a Milton Keynes firm which specialises in conservatories and home extensions, to talk us through the common problems and solutions.

Firstly, why do we need rules?

Without regulations there would be building work mayhem, with buildings not being safe, thermally efficient or pleasing to the eye. Consents, which are managed by the local council, can be divided two broad categories – safety and aesthetics.

It may seem inconvenient, but flip that on its head –if your neighbours were planning a grand design you’d want to ensure it wouldn’t negatively impact on you and your living space.

Plus, a home which has been altered without proper planning consent may never sell further down the line, and even if you find a solution it could cost you thousands.

What kind of things do they look at?

Every extension should be safely habitable, built to last, designed so it doesn’t inconvenience neighbours (for things like noise or blocking out sun) or devalue the property.

Regulations cover everything from the depth of foundations and size of windows, to land evaluation – searching for old mine works, sink holes or manholes for example. Planning officers study every application meticulously to ensure it meets the proper specification for a safe job that won’t become a dangerous eyesore.

The aesthetic part covers how it looks – for example, the stone work or tiles should be in keeping with the existing home, and the style of the street.

Is it tricky to get permission?

Single storey extensions and conservatories are always covered by some degree of regulations. It may be full planning permission is needed, or it could be covered under building regulations. Every application carries a fee, so costs can start building up from day one if you don’t know what you are doing.

Planning permission covers the big things, like the size of the building, what it is made of and the impact it could have on neighbouring properties etc.

Building regulations cover everything else – like how heat efficient it is, what the carbon footprint is, does it meet fire regulations, how close the proposed extension is to trees and their roots.

Both of these categories will need an application, and a determination from planning officials, before work can begin. Applying after the work is done – called a retrospective application – carries the very real risk of homeowners being legally forced to remove the building.

Do homeowners only have to deal with the council?

Potentially your building job could involve consultation with numerous partners – if you want to move a manhole cover, for example, the water company has to be consulted, or in some parts of the country coal board archives need to be reviewed. Plan something too close to utilities and the gas company or National Grid might also come into the mix.

Who can help homeowners?

Jonathan says most planning departments are helpful, but they are also hugely busy. If you choose the right building contractor they can work with you to visualise your dream, draw up plans, seek full permissions from all the relevant authorities and then agree a timeline to begin work.

“We like to think we take all the pain out of your gain, and with our years of knowledge, we plan to get the application right first time,” he said.

Custom Glaze can help. Visit the showroom at 8, Denbigh Hall Industrial Estate, Denbigh hall Drive, Bletchley, Milton Keynes MK3 7QT to speak to one of their specialists. You can also view some of their previous builds on their website, here.