Do I Need Planning Permission to Demolish and Rebuild a House?

6 February 2019 Karl Harper, Self Build Consultant
Before and after image of a replacement dwelling

Demolishing a house and replacing it with a new one is a significant project. Planning approval is required, regardless of the size, shape or location of the original house. Here’s what prospective self-builders should consider along the way.

No matter how you intend on completing your self-build home, you will need to interact with your local planning authority (LPA) in some way or other if you are demolishing to make space for a new structure. 

Although it can feel like a complex process, having experienced people around you and a willingness to learn will do a great deal, and help the smooth running of your project from the moment it commences. If you want to really deepen your knowledge, we also offer self-build courses to members of the public to enhance their understanding of the end-to-end process.

Simply put, the easiest and most cost-effective way to build a house that you can be proud of and comfortable within is to tear down an existing building and start again. Per metre squared, self-building is easier and cheaper than renovating in cases of dated or disused properties, and so many come to be self-builders after finding a perfect plot with a not-so-perfect property on top of it.

Demolish and Rebuild A House - Planning Permission Requirements

If your sole intention is to demolish a structure on your land, you must submit a Prior Notification for Proposed Demolition. This effectively serves notice that you intend to carry out the work and gives the local authority a chance to get involved. 

However, this specific prior notification is not required if such a demolition is part of a wider application to redevelop the site, i.e. demolish and rebuild, which is how most people approach the process.

Often, demolition and rebuilding are carried out together so that the landowner can enjoy a property with an increased footprint or an increase to the overall height of the building (“ridge height”), as compared to the previous house. 

These new builds are known as replacement dwellings, and there are a few key benefits to self-building in this way when thinking about planning permission hurdles. The most important hurdle that you won’t find yourself having to jump over is having to prove that the land you want to build on is suitable for residential development.

You will be given permission to build something, it’s just a matter of what exactly you wish to build and whether that’s within your local authority’s framework. Design, access requirements, scale and siting are the important factors here - rather than having to start by proving that your space is suitable for a structure, full stop.

Replacement Dwelling Allowances

There are allowances for replacement dwellings that are subject to local planning policy and vary according to local circumstances. For instance, one authority might permit a 30% increase in size by volume for a replacement dwelling (in the open countryside, for example) while others might allow no increase in size. Some local authorities may allow a 20% increase by floor area, others may not permit such a large increase. 

The means by which local authorities calculate permitted increases in the size of replacement dwellings varies, so be careful and make sure you fully understand which metric is being used by your local authority. Understanding your LPA’s policies is crucial in progressing with a successful demolish and rebuild planning application. As the information varies depending on what part of the country you are in, a lot of local research will need to be undertaken as part of your preparations.

What’s Stopping Me From Demolishing Without Planning Permission?

In specially designated areas or for specially designated buildings, the act of demolition without planning consent is itself enforceable under planning rules. The consequences are usually hefty fines, and you would be liable if involved in any way. 

This is true of conservation areas if the house is more than 115m³, and for many listed buildings. If the building is listed, you will need listed buildings consent rather than planning permission. The Planning Portal website contains more information about permission for this type of work - if you’re unsure of the status of your building or area, consult one of their guides.

As a result of this, self-builders looking to demolish and rebuild a house on a site they own should word their planning applications very clearly. “Demolition of existing and construction of new dwelling,” would make the full plan clear as part of the process of application.

Bear in mind that you will also need to notify Building Control of your plans to demolish a house. This is because demolition sites can be very dangerous places. You should serve a Section 80 Notice to the local authority building control department, which can be arranged with private approved inspectors. You’ll need to give six weeks’ notice before you intend to demolish, and you should receive a Section 81 agreement notice before this date.

Before & After Case Studies

How Popular is Demolish and Rebuild as a Self-Build Strategy?

Planning Permission to Demolish House
Demolishing an existing house and rebuilding is a very common way that self-builders realise their dream project. Around 55% of new homes built in the UK by self-builders take place on the site of existing homes. 

Potton have worked on a number of replacement dwelling projects, all of which can be found on our Case Studies page.

Jean and Eric Sawyer bought land from their neighbours and self-built a contemporary home for their retirement years. After researching build systems and visiting our Elsworth show home, they set about the task and completed the build process with some really interesting eco features like solar hot water and an air source heat pump that feeds underfloor heating.

​Andrew and Michelle Earle were living in what they described as a “hovel” before their replacement build took them to a perfectly proportioned home in Cornwall. You can also read more about Brian and Loveday Ellis, who bought a plot with a small bungalow and existing planning permission for a four-bedroom dwelling. 

You can also look to Christina and John Horan’s completely bespoke self-build in Gloucestershire for inspiration. They replaced an asbestos-heavy small bungalow with a cleverly designed building that matched the simple front facades of the houses surrounding it, with a beautiful, modern glazed rear.

The general rule when it comes to self-building versus renovation is that the smaller and more run-down a house is, the more sensible it is to knock it down and start again. 

This is true for financial as well as structural reasons. An important financial factor is the situation with regards to VAT. Self-builders, in this case building from scratch after demolition, find their labour and materials costs zero-rated for VAT purposes. If you’re renovating or extending an existing house you are required to pay the full 20%. 

For even more information on decision making prior to demolishing an existing property in order to make way for a new building, you can also read our full analysis of whether you should rebuild or repair an existing home.

Are you considering demolishing an existing building to make way for your very own self-build project? Request a call back to discuss your requirements and what we can do to help make your dream a reality.


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