Q When is a rooflight not a rooflight?

A When it’s not in a roof

See what you think of this one – we’re not sure what to make of it here. An inspector has denied a lawful development certificate for a rooflight to a basement underneath the garden of a house in central London on the basis that it would not be in the roof and would therefore not constitute permitted development (DCS Number 400-013-551).

Both parties agreed that there is no definition of “roof” either within the GPDO or its Technical Guidance. The appellant obtained counsel’s opinion to support his stance that the works would be undertaken to the roof. Counsel noted that the Oxford English Dictionary definition of the word “roof” is:- “The external upper covering of a house or other building; the framing structure on top of a building supporting this”. He suggested that the soil above the basement could properly be described as the “external upper covering” of the basement and questioned what the roof would comprise if not the soil above.

The inspector, however, reasoned that a basement will very often not have any external roof. She observed that around one metre of soil separated the basement from the air space above. She acknowledged that a building could have an earth roof, and many forms of conventional roof coverings will typically exceed one metre in height, but noted that the soil did not form any structure above the basement. Rather, it was merely a deep layer of earth which so happened to now have a basement beneath. It followed, she concluded, that Class C of Part 1 of Schedule 2 to the GPDO did not apply; the council’s refusal to grant a certificate of lawful development in respect of the “installation of a fixed rooflight to basement” was well-founded and the appeal should fail.

The following DCP section is relevant: 12.41

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