Do I need planning permission to use a study as a second bedroom?

Surely one does not need planning permission for a second bedroom?

We were recently asked to provide advice to a client who had bought a property that had been developed as a one bedroom flat, with a study. The buyer was worried that, since permission had never been granted for a second bedroom, it may not be possible to use it as such.

There are various circumstances under which council planners might refuse to grant permission for a two bedroom flat, but grant it for a one bedroom. There are, for example, national minimum sizes for dwellings – a one bedroom must have at least 50sqm and a two bedroom 61sqm. A developer with, say, 55sqm of space to play with might show the flat as a one bedroom, but add a ‘study’ for later use as a second bedroom. 

In our client’s case, the flat is at lower ground floor level and it is likely that the window to the second bedroom is not well lit. Planning policies require new dwellings to give future occupants a high standard of accommodation, including good light to, and outlook from, living spaces. A case officer might accept poor natural light to a study, but not to a bedroom.

You do not need planning permission to change the use of a room in your house, and people often change a spare bedroom to a study or vice versa. The only way the council could control the use of a single room in perpetuity would be to impose a condition on the grant of planning permission or to require the developer to enter into a legal agreement. Neither strikes me as proportionate or practical and I have never heard of a council taking this approach.

In practice, if a case officer was determined that a room should not be used as a bedroom, he would ask the applicant to amend the plans and remove that room entirely so that the plans unambiguously showed a one bedroom unit.

To answer the client’s question, we checked to ensure that there was no planning condition or legal agreement connected to the grant of planning permission (it should be clearly stated on the decision notice) and advised that she could go ahead and use the study as a second bedroom. 

Need some planning advice? Approach our lovely chartered planning consultants for help. 

Would you like to learn more about when you need planning permission for changes to your home, and how to get it? Check out Martin Gaine’s book – ‘How to Get Planning Permission – An Insider’s Secrets’.