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Can I Have a Roof Terrace and a Loft Conversion?

When looking into increasing the size of living accommodation, the most popular choices are between building an extension or creating additional space in the roof with a loft conversion. However, when having access to leisure space outside is as much a consideration as space inside, neither of these two choices seem to work – after all a loft conversion only creates space inside, not outside, right?

Well, whilst it’s true that a ground floor extension can reduce the square footage of garden space, the fact is that loft conversions may not only increase living space, but also provide access to outside space through designs which include the creation of a roof terrace.

Particularly where outside space may cost premium prices, such as in densely populated cosmopolitan hubs like London, having access to private outdoor space can add considerably to the overall value of a town or city home, so there is a growing demand for conversions which provide both – two good reasons why this type of loft conversion has been steadily increasing in popularity in towns and cities. So how can a roof terrace and loft conversion provide both indoor and outdoor space solutions?

Dual design

Professional loft planners can offer creative solutions by incorporating roof terrace options into overall designs. These options will specifically relate to both the amount of roof space available and area planning, such as whether the property is in a conservation area, for example. In the main though, dual design options could include:

  • Small outside spaces created using a Velux balcony, which creates a discreet but useful roof terrace space which can be just large enough for a bistro set. The construction of Velux balconies also means that they provide a floor to ceiling window aspect, so that if the weather’s not good, the view can still be enjoyed.
  • Cutting into a Mansard roof to create the space, a loft conversion design which creates usable inside living space as well as access to a newly created outside roof terrace. Depending on local planning and space available, this option could offer considerable outside space.
  • Building onto an existing flat roof which can then be accessed via the new loft conversion.
  • Constructing roof terraces which connect different apex areas of a roof space. In this design, the loft conversion incorporates a roof terrace between the apexes and can even provide outdoor access from each side, as desired – a great way to add outdoor space accessible from multiple room conversions, such as master suites, studies and living areas.

Permission and planning

Every loft conversion is different and incorporating the dual design of a roof terrace can add considerations of the permission and planning kinds. It is always advisable to check carefully with relevant professionals to ascertain if planning consent is required for the design, particularly in a conservation area or where there is concern about impact on the local skyline. To go ahead without it will make it impossible to sell your home later on and may well result in a legal action from the council to force you to remove it if neighbours complain or if there is a planning violation.

After all, whilst having access to outside space and fresh air may increase the quality of life for many homeowners – particularly those in upper floor flats who have no other access to private outside space, it may negatively impact the lives of neighbours. Whilst in principle they may agree to the loft conversion, one which also creates a roof terrace has additional potential to overlook the neighbour’s home and garden or to block out their own daylight. So, if your dream is for a little outside space for quiet al-fresco entertaining and dining, your cosy plans may fall foul of neighbours who may be concerned about noise and the smell of barbeques wafting through their nearby bedroom windows. Particularly where properties are already built closely together, as is common in busy cities, large balconies and roof terraces erected nearby may also be seen as a security, as well as privacy risk.

Overall, neighbour impact and objections are the primary reason why many planning applications fail, despite careful design and planning, so these should be seriously considered. To reduce impact on neighbours and increase the possibility of planning applications being passed, it is wise to consider:

  • Using reputable professional loft conversion design and planning services;
  • Keeping roof terrace designs modest and close to the character of existing properties, for minimal impact;
  • Incorporating roof terrace border designs where the balustrades are set back from the actual edge of the terrace, so that the possibility of overlooking the gardens below can be demonstrably reduced;
  • Accessing local council appeals services if the council rejects the initial planning application, as some councils have a policy of “reject reflux” which means roof terrace applications in town are automatically rejected first time around. It’s always worth re-submitting the planning request using the appeals process and in accordance with professional advice from local planning offices, architect services and professional loft conversion and construction companies, all of whom will be able to offer advice on how to tweak applications for appeals for a greater chance of success.
  • Speaking to neighbours in advance and throughout planning processes.
  • For designs incorporating existing flat roof space, checking that the existing roof is strong enough or will need reinforcement, and incorporating this into plans.
  • Identifying whether there is enough interior loft space to allow for both a room in the roof and access to the roof terrace, as cutting into the roof to allow full access means meeting planning requirements for sufficient headroom.

Benefits of going up … and out

It’s also worth noting that the dual design benefits of a loft conversion with roof terrace aren’t limited to the enjoyment of additional space on the inside and outside of your existing home. Creating a new outdoor space on a city rooftop can be of immense value to the environment by supporting local eco-systems. Growing just a few plants in pots on a city roof terrace can provide a haven for bees, birds, butterflies and small wildlife and bring greenery to grey skylines, something that has been recognised in London since 2008’s introduction of the Living Roofs and Walls policy.

And finally, where value’s concerned, whilst recent Nationwide and Abbey Partnership’s surveys demonstrate that loft conversions already have the potential to increase a home’s value by over 20%, creating access to not only additional living space but also outdoor recreation space could even add another 10% value to the property (Bradford & Bingley survey as reported in the Telegraph) … and even more for London properties.

So in all yes, you can have a roof terrace and loft conversion, and gain a lot more besides!