Question: My partner and I bought a top-floor flat that had an attic room without planning permission, building or fire regulations. I understand that fire escapes from all properties above the second floor are not required.
The floor of the attic room has been reinforced with wooden beams, which I think will be okay if they are strengthened with metal. We plan on taking out a spiral staircase and replacing it with a wooden one and a fire door that meets regulations. There are already two Velux windows but we are not going to add a mansard/dormer or extend further than the current attic.
In a previous article you said that from April planning permission will not be needed to convert an attic into a habitable room.
Does this mean that once I have changed the staircase, added the fire door and strengthened the beams that the attic will classify as a habitable room and will not need to be signed off by planning control?
Answer: You are correct to say that, if you do not make any exterior alterations to your attic, you will not need planning permission to convert it to a habitable room. Changes to planning rules are expected this year but have not been settled yet. However, you will need building regulation consent.
You should apply for this as soon as possible to ensure that the work you plan is going to meet the necessary standard and that the building inspector knows when to come to inspect the work, which they will have to do before issuing the all-important final certificate. You need an acceptable escape window or fire doors throughout your property and a direct route to the escape door from the staircase without entering any room or open-plan area. Also check whether you need listed-building consent and party-wall consent.
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Fiona is a partner in the property team at Thring Townsend Lee & Pembertons Solicitors www.ttuk.com.