Do I Need Planning Permission for an Attic Conversion?

Matt Keane
July 24, 2023

Attic conversions have become increasingly popular as homeowners seek to maximise their living space without costly extensions or renovations. However, before embarking on an attic conversion project, it is important to determine whether you need planning permission. This article will explore the ins and outs of planning permission for attic conversions and provide a comprehensive guide on determining if you need approval for your project.

What is Planning Permission, and Why is it Necessary?

Planning permission is the legal authorisation required for construction or changes to a property. Attic conversions fall under the umbrella of planning permission, as they involve a change of use from storage space to habitable living space. Obtaining planning permission is crucial, as failure to do so can result in enforcement action, fines, or the need to undo the conversion.

Factors to Consider When Determining if You Need Planning Permission for an Attic Conversion

While planning permission is generally required for attic conversions, some factors may exempt you from this requirement. It is important to carefully consider these factors before proceeding with your project:

Permitted Development Rights

Permitted Development Rights (PDR) allow certain types of development to carry out without planning permission. These rights vary depending on location, property type, and previous alterations. Sometimes, PDR may grant you the freedom to convert your attic without seeking planning permission. However, it is essential to check with your local planning authority to confirm whether your project falls within the scope of these rights.

Size and Scope of the Conversion

The size and scope of your attic conversion can also influence whether planning permission is required. Generally, smaller conversions that do not significantly alter the exterior appearance of your property are more likely to be considered permitted development. However, if your conversion involves substantial changes, such as raising the roof or adding dormer windows, you are more likely to require planning permission.

Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas

Additional planning restrictions may apply if your property is a listed building or located within a conservation area. These restrictions are in place to protect the historical or architectural significance of these properties or areas. Attic conversions in listed buildings or conservation areas are more likely to require planning permission, regardless of the size or scope of the project.

Understanding Permitted Development Rights for Attic Conversions

Permitted Development Rights (PDR) grant homeowners certain freedoms to carry out specific types of development without the need for planning permission. While PDR can vary depending on your location and property type, it is essential to understand the general principles surrounding attic conversions:

Volume Allowance

Under PDR, you can typically convert up to 40 cubic meters of additional space in a terraced house or 50 cubic meters in a detached or semi-detached house. This volume includes any previous loft conversions or extensions that have been made.

Roof Alterations

PDR allows for alterations to the roof, including raising the height or adding dormer windows. However, these alterations must not extend beyond the existing roof slope at the front of the property or exceed the highest part of the roof. Additionally, any materials used for the conversion must appear similar to the existing house.

Side-Facing Windows

Side-facing windows are generally not permitted under PDR, except for obscure glazing. This restriction is in place to protect the privacy of neighbouring properties.

It is important to note that these are general guidelines, and local planning policies may have additional restrictions or requirements. Therefore, consulting with your local planning authority is crucial to ensure that your proposed attic conversion meets the permitted development rights.

Common Scenarios Where Planning Permission May Be Required for an Attic Conversion

While permitted development rights provide certain freedoms, there are several common scenarios where planning permission may still be required for an attic conversion:

Change of Use

Converting your attic from storage space to habitable living space constitutes a change of use. Any change of use usually requires planning permission, regardless of the size or scope of the conversion.

Alterations to the Roofline

Planning permission is likely required if your attic conversion involves altering the roofline by raising the height or adding dormer windows. These alterations can significantly impact the appearance of your property and may require approval from your local planning authority to ensure they are in line with local regulations.

Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas

As mentioned, properties within listed buildings or conservation areas are subject to additional planning restrictions. Attic conversions in these areas are more likely to require planning permission, even if the conversion falls within the scope of permitted development rights.

Steps to Take if You Determine That Planning Permission is Needed

If, after careful consideration, you determine that planning permission is required for your attic conversion, there are several steps you should take to ensure a smooth and successful application process:

Consult with Professionals

Before proceeding with your planning application, it is advisable to consult with professionals such as architects or planning consultants. They can provide valuable guidance and assist you in preparing the necessary documents and drawings required for the application.

Prepare a Detailed Design and Access Statement

A Design and Access Statement is a key document that supports your planning application. It outlines the design principles and justifies how your proposed attic conversion meets local planning policies. Ensure that your statement is detailed and demonstrates how your conversion will comply with relevant regulations and enhance the overall character of the property.

Submit Your Application

Once you have prepared all the necessary documents and drawings, you can submit your planning application to your local planning authority. Be sure to include all the required information and fees, as incomplete applications can result in delays or rejection.

Applying for Planning Permission for an Attic Conversion

Applying for planning permission can be a complex and time-consuming process. However, by following these steps, you can increase your chances of a successful application:

Research Local Planning Policies

Before submitting your application, thoroughly research the local planning policies and regulations that apply to your area. Understanding these policies will help you tailor your application to meet the requirements and demonstrate how your attic conversion aligns with the overall development goals of the local authority.

Engage with the Community

If your attic conversion is likely to impact the local community, engaging with them early in the planning process can be beneficial. This can help address any concerns or objections they may have and demonstrate your willingness to work collaboratively with the community.

Seek Professional Assistance

Consider engaging the services of a professional planning consultant or architect to help you navigate the planning permission process. They have the expertise and experience to guide you through the application, ensuring that all necessary documents and drawings prepare to the highest standard.

Potential Challenges and Considerations During the Planning Permission Process

While obtaining planning permission for an attic conversion is generally straightforward, there can be challenges and considerations that arise during the process:

Planning Constraints

Local planning authorities have specific constraints and policies that may affect your application. These may include limitations on the size, height, or appearance of your attic conversion. It is important to carefully review these constraints and ensure your proposal adheres to them.

Neighbour Objections

Neighbours can object to planning applications that may impact their property or quality of life. It is crucial to address any concerns they may have and demonstrate that your attic conversion will not adversely affect neighbouring properties.

Planning Committee Decision

Ultimately, the decision on your planning application rests with the local planning authority's planning committee. They will review your proposal, consider any objections or concerns, and decide based on local planning policies. It is important to be ready for the possibility of your application is reject and have alternative options in mind.

Alternative Options if Planning Permission is Not Give

In the unfortunate event that your planning application for an attic conversion is not granted, there are several alternative options you can explore:

Permitted Development Rights

Review your project in light of permitted development rights. If your proposed conversion falls within the scope of permitted development, you can proceed without planning permission.

Modify Your Proposal

Consider modifying your proposal to address the concerns raised by the planning authority. This could involve reducing the size or altering the design of your conversion to meet planning requirements.

Appeal the Decision

If you believe the planning authority's decision was unjust, you have the right to appeal the decision. This involves submitting an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, who will review the case and decide.


Attic conversions can be an excellent way to create additional living space in your home. However, it is crucial to determine whether planning permission is needed before embarking on your project. You can ensure a successful planning application process by carefully considering the factors discussed in this article, consulting with professionals, and following the necessary steps.

Remember, it is always best to seek guidance from your local planning authority to clarify any doubts or concerns regarding your project.

For expert advice and assistance with your attic conversion project, connect with top-notch home improvement professionals like Build Pro. They can provide planning consultation, architectural design, interior design, home renovation, home extension, and deep retrofit services to turn your attic conversion dreams into reality. 

Don't let planning permission hurdles hold you back from creating the home of your dreams. Contact professionals who can guide you through the process and ensure a smooth and successful conversion.

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