When you are the owner of a property, there are always things that come to mind that need doing or would be an improvement. This can be something as simple as putting up a fence or a wall to provide you with some privacy or putting up a shed or a conservatory to provide you with more space. The Planning Law and Building Bye-Laws are quite specific as to what you can do and what you cannot do without permission and there are also various common law or contractual obligations to consider before going to the expense of carrying out the works.

Conservatories are always popular improvements to houses. They can give you more space to live in or simply somewhere warm to sit in on a crisp winter's day. There are, however, a number of pitfalls that you should be aware of which conveyancers, such as myself, routinely come across and can cause problems, if not with the authorities, when you build it, when you come to sell the property.

The main points to remember if you are building a conservatory, from a Planning perspective, is that to be exempt from Planning requirements:

  • its external area must be no more than 30 square metres;
  • it must not be in front of the main frontage of your property (that is the elevation that faces and is less than 20 metres from a public road); and
  • it must be accessible from the interior of your house.

If it is to have a pitched roof, it must not exceed 3.5 metres in height and the bottom of the pitch must not exceed 2.5 metres above ground level. Should it have a flat roof, it must not exceed 2.75 metres. However, you should note that if you are constructing it within a metre of your neighbour's property the height limitation is reduced to 2 metres.

A further consideration if you are building close to your neighbour's property is a common law one, in that any windows, unless they are opaque and non-opening, need to be 2 feet 9 inches (0.84 metres) from the neighbour's property.

You may, however, still need Building permission if the internal area is more than 20 square metres or if it cannot be entirely closed off from the main house, thus keeping the heat in the house. All low level glass needs to be safety glass and, if within a metre of the boundary, the walls must be constructed substantially of non-combustible materials.

Whilst the above may serve as guidance, if you have any doubts, it is always recommended that you contact the Planning and Building Control Officers and/or your legal advisor for guidance and thus avoid you encountering problems, once the works are completed.

Bear all of the above in mind and I am sure that you will enjoy the many benefits of having a conservatory, whilst knowing that you have done everything necessary to avoid future problems through the works that you have carried out.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.