What is a side return extension?

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Adding value to your home and extending available living space isn’t only possible via a loft or kitchen extension, there are lots of cost-effective ways to make a big difference to your layout and the functionality of your home.  A side return extension is a great example.

A ‘side return’ is the name given to a ground floor extension that infills the space alongside an original house ‘extension’ (the passageway to the rear and side of a property, typically between two houses, where many homeowners tend to store their wheelie bins, recycling and bikes). They are a common choice for period property and terraced dwellers that tend to have an original house extension to the rear of their property.

When viewing a property from the street, it may appear that adding a side return extension will only earn you a few extra feet inside, but by absorbing available and unused space into the house in this way, can completely transform the internal layout.  Obviously, it depends on your appetite and budget for alterations, the layout of your existing space and the relative position of the adjoining property but, if you get the design right, you should be able to enjoy a roomier living space with greater functionality and oodles of natural light flooding in.  In fact, the addition of skylights in the extension roof and bi-folding doors (or floor to ceiling windows) at the extension rear/side will allow plentiful light in and make the area feel much larger than it actually is.  Plus, unlike rear extensions, a side return will enable you to retain sought-after garden space.

In a smaller property, this kind of extension can make the difference between a narrow, galley kitchen and one with space for a table and that kitchen dining experience much-loved by many homeowners.  In a bigger property, it may make space for a kitchen island, informal dining area or an extra seating area – for a family, this could take the pressure of the existing living room space.

Access considerations

Remember, while filling the space at the side of your house will add great interior benefits, it could affect access to your back garden.  Plus, where will you store your bins and bikes? It’s important to think practically.  Your builder will be able to chat through al your options with you – there is always a solution to be found.

Do you need planning permission for a side return extension?

You probably won’t need planning permission for a side return extension.  The permitted development rules allow side single-storey extensions up to a maximum of 4m high and a width of no more than half that of the original house.  If the extension is within 2m of the boundary, eaves height should not exceed 3m.  However, you may need to get planning if you live in a Conservation Area, National Park, Area of Outstanding National Beauty or an article 4 direction on your property.  We would always advise that you check with your local authority with regards to planning permission before you even consider starting building work, no matter what your set up is.  Your builder should be able to help you with this.

What about Party Wall Agreement?

The Party Wall Act 1996 is an important piece of legislation that shouldn’t be ignored when researching a side return extension. It provides the rules around preventing and resolving disputes involving party walls, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.  We would always recommend having an informal chat with your neighbours first, if possible.  If they agree to the work, it will be straightforward to get them to sign and return the Party Wall Notice.  If they don’t agree to the work planned, you will need to get a party wall surveyor involved or pull back from the boundary.  When will I need a Party Wall Agreement to build a side return extension? Typically, you’ll need Party Wall Agreement if you are digging foundations within a couple of metres of your neighbour’s property.  Again, your builder will be able to advise you, or you may choose to get a party wall surveyor involved early on in the process so you know everything is above board should a dispute occur.

If you are looking to extend your home we would be happy to chat through your options or offer advice. Just give us a call and we’ll take care of the rest.