Homeowners in and around London want to maximise every last corner of their investment. With building and heritage restrictions tight around the capital, finding space to expand is a challenge. But of all the ways to enlarge the footprint of a house, none delivers more function per square metre than the side-return extension. Opening up a kitchen or lounge to the side threshold, incorporating space and natural light into the floor plan, can change the entire focus of a home. This minor shift makes a huge difference to a family’s closeness, productiveness and lifestyle.
Our London practice is founded on period home extensions, going back more than a decade. Our creative solutions to city living enhance the effectiveness and flow of the most frequented, hardest working spaces in a home. Our portfolio of side-return extensions reveals our passion for functional luxury, smart storage and spaces that breathe.
Collaboration is the cornerstone of our practice. Since we founded Scenario in 2007, we’ve used our knowhow, our compassion and our technological skills to create houses with a past, present and future. Scenario homes are tailor made to the needs of each of our clients, and every finished project tells their story – not ours.
To see what we mean, take a look at our landmark residential project Scenario House, located in Stoke Newington, East London. This widely recognised Victorian terrace-house expansion showcases the potential of a Victorian side-return extension. Still as fresh and efficient today as when we put it to paper, it merges contemporary steel and glass with reclaimed wood, antique brick and eco-friendly elements.
Your Side Return Extension project
We’ve compiled some general research for homeowners thinking about extending into their home’s side return, or undertaking any additional residential renovations or expansions. Click here to read our illustrated overview, outlining each stage of the process. Keep in mind that most of these architecture projects require planning permission from the local council. We’ve built a successful record securing planning permission for our clients and claim home advantage across the city.
To discover whether or not your architect has had success steering planning applications through your local council, visit the “planning applications” page of your local council’s website and enter the architect’s name in the search criteria.
Scenario is an established architecture practice focusing on contemporary residential design. We take on projects of every scale and scope, from home refurbishment, renovation and expansions to new-builds.
Working with Scenario Architecture
Scenario is a boutique architecture studio based in London, focusing on residential extensions, new-builds and renovations. Our bespoke service tackles high-end projects of every scale and scope, making city-living more accessible, comfortable and enjoyable long term.
We work closely with all our clients through every stage of every project, consulting regularly from the drafting phase through moving day. We work on site with contractors and builders with the goal that all our projects finish on time and on budget.
We pride ourselves on adopting cutting-edge architectural technology as soon as it’s available. Our experience shows that real-time visualisations are the most efficient tools for choosing fixtures and fittings, and for simulating natural light, so state-of-the-art 3D design and visualisation tools are standard on all our projects.
We produce reliable construction information ahead of breaking ground with 3D building information modelling (BIM) technology. All our project data derives from accurate, coordinated 3D models, and saves our clients time, money and worry. The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has published this case study featuring a Scenario Architecture project. It demonstrates the benefits of advanced technology for domestic architecture.
Scenario is a RIBA Chartered Practice complying with the strict criteria of the Royal Institute of Chartered Architects. Our relationship with RIBA helps to protect our clients against health and safety issues with quality-management systems.
In our client's words
Great ideas and vision to help with our substantial improvement of a Victorian terrace. In our experience Scenario's method prioritises the final result. That may mean more professional fees or higher quotes from contractors, as they understand the exact requirements.
Great, professional service. Good drawings and models and ultimately passed planning at the first attempt with Hackney Council. Would certainly recommend!
Scenario Architecture have created an outstanding design and space that was beyond my expectations. The design was through their unique process of understanding the client’s daily scenarios and collaborating with the client to come up with a unique design. The design process is one of the most memorable parts of the process and they also stretched my existing ideas to help create this unique space. A stress free journey throughout the whole process which Scenario were indispensable by giving advice on many difficult design and build decisions.
We wanted to renovate our house in a conservation area in central London. Given this involved a complete demolition and new build with an extra floor on top, getting planning approval was always going to be tricky. Scenario did an amazing job on the new house 'envelope' and throughout the planning phase. We couldn't have wished for better from them and having succeeded in gaining planning approval owe them a very big 'thank you'.
Scenario were great at thinking imaginatively and coming up with a design for a ground floor extension that was more ambitous than other architects we spoke to. They also helped us find a contractor who was able to complete the project working within timescale and our tight budget. I would recommend for mid to large sized projects with sufficient budget to allow for full utilisation of their creativity.
The housing market in Britain’s southeast is hot. Trading up to accommodate a growing family is particularly daunting, and in many areas in and around London the saying “Don’t Move, Improve” has caught on. Recouping space from a house’s side return – the empty void at the rear that separates the kitchens and gardens and many attached terrace homes – is particularly common. With this option available to most Victorian homeowners comes the ability to plumb new areas of the home. Small period kitchens can open up into the side return of an attached house without eradicating the period look of the place. And in the recovered space, a corner can be reserved for a small guest toilet or utility room. In some neighbourhoods around London, side-return extensions are grouped under “permitted development”, which means they don’t require planning permission from the local council if the final plans heed the extended volume requirements of the area. Avoiding time-consuming planning applications will save you money in the short run.
Extending your house only a few metres can open up any space in a dramatic way – particularly if you find an architect whose drawings integrate the adjoining rooms. A side-return extension can turn several poky rooms into a so-called Great Room in just a few months. It can enable a family to include a kitchen island or peninsula in their plan where, previously, counter space was at a premium. Where once cupboards and uppers crowded the room, a good side-return extension can deliver clean, uncluttered walls hung instead with art. In a typical Victorian terraced house – still the most common style of family home, at least in London – a side-return extension has the greatest potential for transformation for the price.
Many Victorian homes – particularly in London and some of the market towns within the Home Counties – sit in conservation areas with strict planning regulations. Applying for a side-return extension in one of these areas should be fairly straightforward, as long as the project complies with vernacular elevations. Anyone seeking to undertake a side-return extension in one of these areas would be wise to hire an architect to help ease them through the planning process. On top of this, they will have to undertake a Building Regulations application to make sure your design complies with national standards in fire safety, ventilation, plumbing and structural integrity. Better architects have relationships with most building and planning commissions and will be able to tackle these responsibilities for their clients. If you’re interested in taking on a side-return extension, contact your preferred architect or visit the Projects page of this website for more information.
Frequently Asked Questions
- As a dynamic practice operating in London’s premium residential market, managing projects remotely and conducting virtual meetings was a very familiar territory for us, long before the pandemic began and ‘working remotely’ became the norm.
- Our clients have very busy lifestyles and may move between several different locations, both within the UK and beyond, during the lifecycle of a typical project.
- To accommodate such client needs and enable us to run their projects smoothly we had all the technology and know-how associated with remote working in place for several years.
- Read our full (Virtual) Process
- Scenario based design – We start each and every project with a meticulous analysis of our client’s vision, requirements and aspirations. We do this by asking our clients to imagine their everyday scenarios living in the completed house and describe their desired interaction with it.
- Uniquely interactive - Our client’s deep involvement in the process does not stop with completion of the brief. Our design meetings are highly interactive, informal and fun.
- Designed to reflect you – Based purely on your lifestyle, aspirations and requirements and free from externally imposed concepts, metaphors and pre-conceptions, a completely fresh and unique design will gradually emerge and it will tell your story not ours.
- Collaborative – We start the conversation with planners early and advise most of our clients to seek pre-planning advice prior to submission of a full planning application. Our experience shows that when properly consulted and liaised with, most planning case officers will be receptive to conduct a professional dialogue, increasing chances of successes.
- Strategic – We tailor a custom planning strategy for each project based on its circumstances such as planning history, local context and specific challenging elements. We sometimes split applications or introduce minor tweaks to the scheme during the consideration period in conversation with the officers to prevent one contentious element from jeopardising approval of the main scheme.
- Professional – Our experience shows that the quality and clarity of the submission in terms of background research, planning history of the property and context, precedent and of course the arguments presented to support the case has a tremendous effect on success rate.
- The decision period clock only starts ticking once the application is validated by the Council, This requires then to check that the forms are completed correctly and that the submission contains all the necessary drawings, statements and reports.
- Although required by law to provide a decision within the statutory eight weeks period, it is not uncommon for councils to miss the deadline of the consideration period, normally only by a few days, sometimes longer.
- In some cases the council may ask us as your agent for an extension of time, this may be requested due to internal reasons or as an acceptable result of a professional discussion that we are conducting with them about certain aspects of the application that they are not sure about.
- Our experience shows that planning officers respond better to projects when they feel consulted and collaborated with. We find that when we truly listen to their often helpful and valid feedback and treat them as consultants for the projects and not representative of an evil enforcing authority, they tend to collaborate well with us and demonstrate increased flexibility.
- Although the council in theory have eight weeks to consider your application, in practice they are constantly overloaded. They will only look at your application in the last few days of the consideration period. If this is the first time that they come across a scheme that they were never consulted about, our chance to secure permission for you in a single attempt is significantly compromised.
- The standard practice is for the council to consider the full planning application as submitted and then issue a yes or no decision. Case officers are not required or even encouraged to enter a discussion with us or accept resubmission of minor changes to the proposed scheme during the consideration period.
Want more space? Adding a side extension could be the answer
A side return extension is when the house is going under development to make alterations and extend parts of the home. There are different types of house extensions available to choose from that allow for home improvement. It allows for people to get as creative as possible with their living environment and removes having to move houses. There are rules, regulations and restrictions that come with developments of side return extensions.
The planning would need to be done with certified professionals to ensure that the integrity of the area is respected and the renovations are done right with considerations to planning, design and construction. Expansion of small living spaces is made possible and it can add long-term value if done right and is considered. A side extension should make a notable and positive difference to the home by opening it up. With an extension or building insurance, you can ensure that there is protection against liabilities. This helps to reduce stress.
Permitted Development Involvement
The consent needed for certain side return extensions involves following the relevant planning development rules. When the magnitude of the project is not too big, and if neighbours have been consulted prior to submissions, the house extensions would then comply with the standards, where a lawful development certificate would be viable to apply for. This gives permission to continue with the project under national permitted development rights immediately after it has been issued. The requirements for permitted development involve a few factors.
The land and building type would need to be considered and understood. This would involve knowing the legality and restrictions of the area. In designated areas such as heritage sites or conservation areas, restrictions would be involved where article 4 may be issued. Article 4 directions remove or withdraw any permitted development rights. Flats, maisonettes and listed buildings may have development rights that would be similarly restricted or do not apply, however it can be noted that 500 square meters of office space can be rebuilt into homes if it falls under specific requirements and permitted development rights are approved.
Residential homes may gain approval for permitted rights for interior modelling, the roof that can include solar power and other house extensions. Requirements would involve needing materials that are like the rest of the house. The developments done on a single storey home can be extended up to 4 meters in height and a rear extension of up to 8 metres. Boundary limits and extensions have minimum requirements that should be consulted with the local planning authorities to ensure that permitted development can be followed.
Planning Permission Involvement
There needs to be adherence to all guidelines and regulations with a load of information when submitting your applications. There are many considerations and procedures to consider during the design phase to increase the likelihood of approval. It is recognised that in order to achieve early success; it is necessary to have a positive and professional attitude toward the planning process. As well as a collaborative experience with the planners.
It is essential to first guarantee that the drawings in the design phase are ready. The designs would need to be quite comprehensive, and if possible or desired in the relevant applications, a 3D model would be added for further guidance and evaluation. This is where interactions need to become notably collaborative with the fundamental planners, officers, and architects engaged, meaning that if risk assessments are supplied, they should be considered and the Local Development Frameworks followed. Likewise, all parties should be involved in discussions throughout the process by you or your architect.
Standards such as building regulations and possibly protected extension or building insurance must be followed. Building regulations compliance is achieved by submitting detailed design plans for a comprehensive plan application, which includes structural design standards. A full plan submission would be required depending on the scope of the project; otherwise, a building notice application would suffice, which would be reviewed by an inspector and the local authorities. If approved, it means that you comply with the building regulations.
Effects Of The Party Wall Agreement
The Party Wall Act was enacted in 1996 to avoid disputes between neighbours and neighbouring property owners. A party wall divides landowners along their relevant property borders. When building improvements or excavating beneath boundary lines, the statute requires that adjoining parties be considered. This ensures that your neighbour is notified in writing of the impending renovation plans beforehand.
The statute gives neighbours 14 days to challenge or agree with proposed plans, and if a proposal is not responded to, it becomes a dispute. The plans would have to be agreed on, and if not, a surveyor would draw out a party wall agreement. They may be entitled to take legal action if the prior warning was not supplied. The statute protects people from damage, loss, or infringement on their properties where you would then be liable to compensate them. The moral is that it is critical to minimise conflicts between you and your neighbours and to get their cooperation early on by carefully considering them when planning.
Value of Side Return Extensions
The building’s design should benefit you and your family. As previously indicated, a side return extension that is carefully built and planned may add significant intrinsic worth to the experience. The flow, character, and allure of how you want to add a modern twist with the help of the proper specialists in the development process should help provide value for you.
Within the living space, great ventilation and natural sunlight may be maximised and produced. It should clear out any superfluous space and make the room more spacious. The difficulties that are put forth may be used to drive for sustainability and distinctiveness while also allowing for possible camaraderie. If there is a rich history in the building, the constraint may be used as a guide to help create innovative, practical, and sustainable solutions.