State of permanence?

The government has pledged to make permitted development rights for single storey extensions permanent. Will this deliver growth to the home improvement sector?

It may appear about as clear as mud and it’s easy to miss, but in among the various consultations, ministerial statements and parliamentary questions, there is a very sizeable chink of light for home improvement companies: Permitted Development Rights (PDRs) are going to be made permanent.

PDRs were introduced on a temporary basis in 2008 to cut the bureaucracy for homeowners wanting to make home improvements. The strategic aim that underpinned it, was that of getting the UK building again in the dark economically apocalyptic days that followed the banking crisis and ensuing credit crunch.

Arguably, with the UK trapped in the purgatory of a ‘perpetual Brexit’, the government is again turning to PDRs to keep a home improvement sector, which is starting to feel the effects of lower levels of consumer confidence, moving again.

“Permitted development rights effectively ran out at the end of May,” Ian Woolley, sales director at HiTech Blinds, said. “If you have extended your home under them, work must be completed by the end of the month to qualify.

“It’s one of those things that have got caught up in the mire of Brexit but the government is committed to extending permitted development rights and, most importantly, making them permanent.

“With consumers favouring extensions of their properties rather than upping sticks and moving home, a permanent extension of PDRs should be expected to deliver significant growth in home improvements.”

The key feature of the Permitted Development Scheme is that it removes the requirement for planning on single storey extensions, as long as they comply with a series of criteria. Although not an exhaustive list this includes:

  • Any extension is limited to a single storey and the height of that extension cannot exceed the height of the roof of the existing property or a maximum of 4m.
  • There are also a series of restrictions on how far you can build out from your property depending on its type, and if your development is at the side or the rear of the property.
    • Rear – your new conservatory must not extend beyond 3m from the original property in an attached house, and 4m in a detached property. It also can’t exceed more than half the space around the original property
    • Side – no more than half that of the original house. The same restrictions apply on space around the original house.

“If you’re extending out, there is always a fundamental issue of roof pitch and getting light back into the original property,” Ian said. “Flat roofs combined with rooflights are a common solution to both challenges.”

This analysis has driven the development of HiTech Blinds’ TRL90 Rooflight, which is manufactured in a high performance and slim sightline, thermally broken aluminium system.

Where it is different, however, is that the HiTech TRL90 is supplied with a white pleated and fully retractable, remote-controlled integrated blind as standard.

“It’s very clear that homeowners are expressing a preference for home extensions with a more solid feel, ‘bricks and mortar’ type builds but also that they want to combine that with natural light,” Ian said. “That’s driving growth in flat roof and rooflight builds.

“The HiTech TRL90 Rooflight is the same as any other high performing aluminium rooflight but with an integrated blind, which we supply as standard. It’s a unique end-user proposition.”

The TRL90 Rooflight is fitted in the same way as a standard aluminium rooflight system, using the same process, with a fix to a suitable upstand and internal plaster boarding and wired into a standard mains supply.

Operated via a wall-mounted switch and remote control, the in-built blind can be opened or closed at the flick of a switch or press of a button, to provide privacy or to control the flow of natural daylight inside the property.

This includes retracting completely behind a ceramic surround when fully closed, giving the TRL90 exactly the same appearance as a standard aluminium rooflight.

It’s available in eight sizes ranging from 800mm x 800mm up to 1,200mm x 2,200mm, chosen by HiTech following a market analysis, identifying the most commonly fitted rooflight sizes in home extensions and commercial applications.

IGUs also feature a laminated softcoat inner pane, warm-edge spacer and 6mm tough outer-pane and are argon filled as standard, achieving U-values as low as 1.0W/m2K. They also feature EnduroShield easy-clean surface coating technology.

HiTech also supplies triple-glazed options and 33mm walk-on-glass. Standard colours are black, grey and white with any RAL colour available on special order.

So, when can the government be expected to make its announcement? Well in part, it already has. The original pledge was made in the Autumn 2017 Budget Statement, which committed to a consultation, completed at the beginning of this year.

This was meant to have led to a definitive statement on April 1. This didn’t, however, materialise as the UK lurched from one EU leave date to the next. Challenges to separate proposals to allow PDRs to facilitate office-to-residential conversions because of concerns about the quality of housing they deliver, also continue to rumble in the background delaying an announcement.

A written statement in answer to parliamentary questions from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government on March 13, however, commits to “make permanent the time-limited right to build larger single storey rear extensions to dwelling houses and to introduce a proportionate fee”.

An official statement made to us last month said: “As set out in the Written Ministerial Statement of March 13, we intend to make the right permanent. To do so we need to make regulations. The government intends to bring forward a package of permitted development rights measures in due course. That would include making permanent the right for larger single storey rear extensions.”

Ian said: “We will be interested to see quite what this ‘proportionate fee is’ but as long as it’s set at a sensible level, a permanent extension of PDRs is a very positive step.”

HiTech Blinds also supplies a core range of high performance IGUs with integral blinds. Available in 16mm and 20mm options, these are suitable for use with slim 24mm units, in addition to 28mm standard units. With 20mm available in nine standard colours plus a dual colour option, with white inside and anthracite grey outside. HiTech also offers any RAL colour on special order.

“If people are extending, those extensions are often south facing and supplied with a bifold or inline sliding door, which creates a requirement for some form of shading or privacy,” Ian said. “This again creates demand with the opportunity to upsell to an integrated blind offer delivering potentially higher margin sales.

“Current market conditions are creating a level of challenge but there are also opportunities. Removing red-rape from the planning process on a permanent basis will deliver an immediate win for the home improvement sector.”