- Simply the best residential development guide there is. Do not do battle
with the Planners until you have read this guide. Also a specification manual
avialable for the Building Regulations.
Planning Permission Tips UK - Loft Conversions in UK Properties - Do They
By Martin Meaks
We get a great many requests to view the potential of Loft conversions. This
type of extension has remained fairly popular since I first started designing
property and is perhaps even more in demand now than ever before - especially
in dense urban areas where the alternative choices for that fourth bedroom
are somewhat limited.
Now, the popular press would have you believe that they do not add value
or have limited appeal. However, that blanket broad brush, slightly disrespectful
opinion does not ring true for most of our clients. So what is going on?
As always, the devil is in the detail - the detail in this respect is mainly
focussed on two primary areas:
1. DESIGN and 2. DESIGN.
It's just like the location, location location slogan for house values and
desirability. Fortunately, the planners have got to grips with a lot of loft
conversions these days and they now have a great more control of schemes
that a few years ago could have been built under Permitted Development. This
means that they have encompassed 'good design guides' in an attempt to stamp
out the ugly full width box dormer that turned a beautiful victorian semi
into a something that looks like a car sized packing crate trying to escape
from a neighbours roof.
Conversely, many people have argued that the 'chocolate box' cottage type
pointy roofed dormers (as suggested by the planners) are quite simply impractical
and do not provide enough space for a fully functional room which in many
cases is a very valid and true point. HOWEVER, life is all about compromises
and choices have to be made. Fortunately, most members of the public are
now becoming far more 'design aware' than they ever used to be and slowly
by slowly they are beginning to accept that the formation of more space must
not be at the expense of a poor external visual impact that simply jars with
the whole look of the locality. This type of poor dormer design can not only
decrease the value of your own home but that of the neighbours as well.
But yet again there are exceptions. Some suburbs of London for example have
a plethora of these types of loft extensions and the ones that have not yet
been converted look out of place. These types of areas pay more attention
to the internal design of the living space than the grotty externals - goes
with the environment I suppose. Also, some areas are 70's and 80's built
estates where the whole so called 'architect design' was for this style of
flat roofed box dormer which is a commonly accepted fact for the area and
enjoyed by many.
So, back to my original question - Does a loft conversion or extension add
value? In my opinion YES in practically all cases baring a few exceptions.
Should it be my first choice of residential development if my site has
surrounding ground that allows alternative solutions? Well no in my opinion
unless your property is a bungalow. A loft conversion for the standard 2
storey dwelling house (detached, semi or terrace) should perhaps be on the
'last option' list rather than your first choice - more to do with peoples
perceptions rather than anything scientific I could quote.
When we assess a loft conversions viability we run through a sort of assessment
check list before we advise our clients and we always steer them towards
nice looking, well balanced, recessed type of pitched roof dormers at the
sacrifice of some space rather than the 'ugly duckling' alternative. However,
like all services, many clients do not value the external look as much and
they insist on the largest dormer possible especially if it can be constructed
under the sites Permitted Development allowances (no planning permission
necessary) - Do we still take the job? - yes of course we do its our living
but our sign board never goes up during the construction works.
Some people subscribing to our news letter may value our 'design lead' approach
so we schedule below some of our assessment criteria relating to loft conversions
that you may find useful:-
1. Does it need Planning Permission - If so utilising the councils design
guides is a must. Some front or side facing dormers may still be resisted
even if they are small. Velux windows often overcome these objections. In
most cases, big bulky box dormers will not be allowed.
2. What area of new space does the client require - Many clients have
overambitious floor space targets and visualise 3 bedrooms for example (all
with ensuite of course). They fail to appreciate the loss of floor space
caused by the extensive sloping soffits, and the new stairs.
3. Where can the new stair set go - Many clients fail to realise that their
preferred location for the stairs does not achieve the required head room
within the new floor for example. In most cases some existing floor space
of the bedrooms for example will need to be sacrificed.
4. It is better to achieve one or two good sized functional rooms to compensate
for the lack of head room in some areas of the new rooms rather than trying
to cram in the bedroom numbers for the sake of it where the new rooms can
become nothing more than single bed sleeping podules with very little inbuilt
5. If flat roofed dormers can only be achieved due to the low ridge height
then split the dormers into 2 or three smaller ones with no more than 1200mm
(4') wide windows to break up its bulk. Always, always always recess the
dormer into the roof slope to reduce the dormers bulk - DO NOT BUILD THE
EXTERNAL FACE OF THE DORMER WALL OFF THE EXISTING EXTERNAL WALL OF THE HOUSE.
6. If a client wants a conversion with only Velux type roof lights then all
well and good (much cheaper as well). However an exercise should be completed
to explore the possibilities of a strategically located dormer or two that
often frees up an extra 30% floor area that the client may not have realised
for very little extra money.
7. Dormers are not the only design solution to more light and space -
consideration could also be given to a hip to gable conversion of the side
roof for example that wont look out of keeping (unless your a semi of course).
8. As a rule of thumb to the practicality of your new room in the roof -
if you can already touch the ridge board when standing in the loft (about
2.3M or less), then its normally too small to form useful functioning bedrooms
unless a bulky box dormer is constructed (which is what we are trying to
avoid) If it is an area just for a play room or a study then all well and
good but beware, many people have embarked on tight loft conversions only
to realise too late that that they have no where to place the bed or locate
There are a great many other issues to consider as well when completing loft
conversions such as overheating, fire regs, weather protection during the
works etc. and these are major discussion topics in themselves that I will
leave for another day. However, the points listed above are the main ones
relative to the external design and appearance of loft conversions.
Our 'Maximum Build Planning Guide' explains further the tactics involved
when developing a site with a loft conversion or extension and how to give
yourself the best chance of being granted a planning permission or planning
- Please note that all articles on this web site does not constitute
professional advice. All articles are intended to provide a general view
of many topical subjects from a variety of sources. We are not responsible
for the content or any sponsored links that you may choose to visit from
this web site. We suggest you to consult a solicitor and your doctor for
advice relevant to you own situation before making any important decisions.
The author is not an expert in any given field. By printing, downloading,
or using you agree to our full terms. Below is a summary of some of the terms.
If you do not agree to the full terms, do not use the information. We are
only publishers of this material, not authors. Information may have errors
or be outdated. Some information is from historical sources or represents
opinions of the author. It is for research purposes only. The information
is "AS IS", "WITH ALL FAULTS". User assumes all risk of use, damage, or injury.
You agree that we have no liability for any damages. We are not liable for
any consequential, incidental, indirect, or special damages. You indemnify
us for claims caused by you.