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Extending your Home in the UK

Since the mid 1990s there has been a vast increase in the tendency for homeowners in need of more habitable space to extend or alter their homes rather than move to a larger existing or newly built houses.

The vast increase in house prices over the last decade combined with a heightened awareness created by numerous home improvement and do-it-yourself television programmes has made it a more viable proposition for the homeowner to alter or extend their existing home to create the accommodation they need.

The financial cost of purchasing a new house is generally far grater than the costs involved in extending a new home to provide comparable accommodation. Although initial funds need to be raised to cover the extension build costs, the overall increase in the house value on completion will normally substantially exceed the extension build costs.

Homeowners tend to carry out a variety of building projects on their homes which include extensions, garage to room conversions, loft conversion, dormers, and conservatories etc. all of which usually require permission from the local Council before work can start. The two main approvals needed are known as a Building Warrant and Planning Permission . Some building works of a small or minor nature do not need these approvals so it is important that clarification is obtained from a competent Building Designer.

Many homeowners understandably will not have any previous experience in building work, so the first thing they must do is appoint a competent Building Designer to prepare plans and guide them through the Councils approvals procedure. I would always recommend the appointment of a competent Building Designer who can prepare plans and provide this service on a fixed fee basis for all domestic home extension work, as an Architect would base fees on a percentage basis and would have more involvement in your project than is necessary.

The process of obtaining permission is generally the same throughout the UK. Different Planning and Building Regulations apply to Scotland and Northern Ireland compared to those in force in England and Wales however the regulations and the process for obtaining approval is very similar.

When a Planning Application is made to the Council immediate neighbours are informed that an application has been made and they then have about two weeks to go to the Council offices to look at the plans and to make any observations or objections on the proposals. Any objections they make would have to be relevant under planning legislation to be successful in preventing the approval of the application. The Council consider things like design and appearance and how the proposed project may affect the neighbours before they will grant approval.

A building warrant application is normally considered by the Councils Building Standards or Building Control section. On receiving an application they check the house plans to make sure they comply with the Building Regulations. This process involves a lot of correspondence between the Building Designer and the Council to satisfy them that the proposals will comply with the Building Regulations. As part of the warrant application process a Civil or Structural Engineer may have to be appointed to provide design certification your Building Designer will be able to advise you further when such an appointment is required.

About the Author: James Adams is a UK Building Designer/Consultant specialising in house plans for building warrant approval.

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