Legal Q&A:Do we need planning permission to convert two Victorian cottages into one larger property?

We own a small terrace cottage in Suffolk and may be able to buy an adjoining property in the future. Is there any reason why we wouldn’t be able to knock through the two houses and create a larger home?

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QUESTION: We own a small terrace cottage in Suffolk, which we love but which will be too small to make into our permanent home when we retire.

However, it is possible that one of the adjoining cottages will be on the market at some stage. Can you tell me if there is any reason why we wouldn’t be able to make the two properties into one larger one?

The cottages are Victorian but they are not listed. Is it simply a matter of sorting out the council tax with the local authority?

ANSWER: Look at the title to each property to see if there are any restrictive covenants which could prevent the two cottages being converted into one larger dwelling.

Planning permission is sometimes needed to amalgamate two dwellings into one. You would need to check the policies in the Local Plan to be sure. Usually it is not required but in some areas — including some London boroughs — the rules are more restrictive in order to prevent a “loss” of housing. Planning permission would be required, though, if it were ever decided to change the newly converted dwelling back into two separate homes.

Planning permission is not required for internal works. Therefore, if your plan would be to knock through from one property into the other, the planners’ consent would not generally be needed for that.

However, any external changes may need permission, particularly if the dwellings are in a conservation area. Also, if you build an extension across the back of both cottages, as often happens, then planning permission is likely to be needed.

Building regulations consent will be required for the necessary alterations to convert the cottages into one dwelling.

Council tax may be less for one larger dwelling than for two separate smaller ones.


If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey.

These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.

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