Rooflights, or skylights, have become a popular alternative to roof windows in situations where the cost, weight, etc. of roof windows is prohibitive. A skylight can actually admit up to 40% more light into a roof space than say a dormer window, but creates only minimal visual impact from outside and typically overlooks nothing but the sky. As such a skylight does not usually require planning permission although there a number of important caveats of which you should be aware.
In England and Wales, you are unlikely to require planning permission for rooflights or skylights unless:
- a proposed skylight installation occupies a large area of your roof beyond what is considered a “reasonable” size
- a skylight projects beyond the existing roof plane by more than 150mm (6″ approx.)
- you live in a Listed Building or in a designated Conservation Area
- a so-called “Article 4 Direction” or other planning condition is in place for the area in which you live.
You should be aware that planning laws in Scotland are somewhat stricter – planning permission is likely to be required even for straightforward skylights – but wherever you live in the United Kingdom remember that planning regulations are always subject to change so it is advisable to consult the planning department of your local authority before undertaking any work.
If you live in a Listed building – that is a building afforded special status because of it significance architecturally, historically, or culturally – you will probably require Listed Building Consent from your local planning department. It may be that your original proposal needs to modified sympathetically to suit the circumstances of your property; this could, for example, include the incorporation of faux Victorian or similar skylights.
An Article 4 Direction on the other hand is a specific planning control imposed on a geographic area – typically a conservation area – rather than an individual property with the intention of maintaining the “character” of that area. Article 4 Directions are not issued lightly – local councils may actually be liable for compensation to homeowners whose normal “permitted development” rights are removed as a result – and are entered in the Land Charges Register which must, by law, be maintained by any local council. You should, therefore, already be aware of any such controls.
This may appear to be a statement of the obvious for some but planning permission and building regulations are two completely separate entities and, even if planning permission for a rooflight,or skylight, project is not required, building regulations cannot be ignored. Any building or structural modification work must, by law, comply with building regulations, which stipulate minimum standards for design and safety. Parts J and L of the latest building regulations – which deal with energy efficiency, thermal insulation, and the protection of buildings against fire – may be of particular relevance to roof light or skylight installations.