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Planning Permission

What is planning permission?

Constructing a new building and making major changes to an existing property, for example adding a new extension, will probably need consent from your local planning authority. This is known as planning permission. The aim is to protect your neighbours and control the development of urban and rural areas.  

If a project needs planning permission and you go ahead without it, you can apply retrospectively. However, this is highly risky as there is no guarantee permission will be granted and the local authority can serve you with an ‘enforcement order’ ordering you to undo all the work you have done. It is illegal to ignore an enforcement order although you have the right to appeal.

Do you need expert help?

Perhaps the first question to ask is, do you need professional help? Failing to consult the right professionals at the start of a building project, can be costly in both time and money. An architect or planning consultant can help you get planning permission when you might otherwise struggle or fail while a structural engineer will ensure the work won’t damage a property. You could also be legally obliged to hire a party wall surveyor if the planned building work affects a shared wall or chimney or is within a few metres of your neighbour’s foundations.

When you don’t need planning permission

There is no need to apply for planning permission for many building projects that have no impact on neighbours, for example reconfiguring rooms,  adding a conservatory or simple loft conversion subject to certain limitations on size. This is known as ‘Permitted Development Rights.’ It is a good idea to ask your local authority or property professional if your building project will need planning permission. Nor do you need to apply for planning permission for minor repairs or improvements, such as painting your house or upgrading windows. Any works to alter or improve a house must be sympathetic to the existing building. This means materials used, for example cladding, should be of similar appearance to those already visible from the outside of your home, although not necessarily exactly the same. If you want a different look, for example swapping tiles on the front of the house for stucco, you may need planning permission. When you replace windows, the glazing must comply with Building Regulations on thermal performance, safety, air supply and ventilation. Tradespeople who are registered with Competent Person Schemes can self-certify that their work complies with the regulations.

If you live in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Park Authority, Conservation Area or listed building, you do not have standard permitted development rights. Your powers to make alternations to the property are limited and you need special consents.

Planning Permission
Planning Permission

Some work can be done under "Permitted Development Rights"

How do you apply?

Pre-application advice is available from many local authorities. In addition, to completing an application form, you will probably need to provide a location plan, outline of proposed building, current use, photographs and sketch drawings, draft design and access statement and a covering statement. Architects and other planning experts can guide you through the planning process and submit all the technical information and drawings required for outline and full planning permission on your behalf.

What’s a Design and Access statement?  

These are statements used to explain a project’s design concept and access to it, for example pedestrian and vehicle. The amount of details depends on the size of project and its sensitivity. Planning authorities can refuse to register your planning application unless you ensure one is included with your application. 

How are planning applications decided?

After a planning application has been submitted to the local authority, planning officers will check that all the required information has been received. Most applications are straightforward and will be decided by officers.

The local authority planning department will base its decisions on so-called “material considerations,” including:   

·        Design, appearance & materials

·        Layout & density of buildings

·        Impact on neighbours e.g. loss of sunlight or overlooking

·        Landscaping

·        Noise

·        Impact on listed buildings and conservation areas

·        Loss of trees

·        Local, national and strategic planning policy.

Before a decision is made, an offiical planning notice must be posted outside your property giving brief details of the project and neighbours will be written to and invited to view the plans and comment. This is known as public consultation.  The local authority will also consult relevant statutory bodies, such as Highway Authority, Environment Agency, Regional Water Authority and others to check if they approve the scheme or object. The parish or town council may also comment. It is a good idea to talk to your neighbours and possibly parish council before it gets to this stage and show them the sketch plans.

Objections from neighbours and the public will only affect the final decision if they are considered “material objections” under planning law. If there are no objections, officers will approve or refuse the application under so-called delegated powers. However, if there are objections, the decision will be made by local councillors sitting on the planning development control committee. Planning officers will make a recommendation and councillors vote to approve or reject the scheme. You or your architect or planning professional will get a chance to address the planning committee but the time is limited to a maximum three minutes.

What if a planning application is refused?

About three quarters of applications are approved in England. If your planning application is refused, the reasons will be given and you can amend and resubmit. There is also the option of appealing to the Planning Inspectorate to reconsider the council’s decision. However, this is very expensive route, potentially costing thousands of pounds.

Can I alter the plans after full permission has been granted?

Major alterations, for example adding bedrooms, changing the roof pitch or adding square footage would involve a further planning application. However minor alternations, such as moving a window a few centimetres, may be dealt with by applying for a non-material amendment. You can also apply to have planning conditions amended.

What are planning conditions?

The local authority will typically grant approval subject to certain conditions. For example, types of building materials to be used and landscaping. Conditions are very important and failure to comply can lead to a breach of condition notice (BCM) which can be enforced through the courts by prosecution.

How long does planning permission last?

Typically planning permission is granted for three years, so you must begin work within that time or reapply.

How long does it take to get planning permission?

Your planning application should take no longer than eight weeks from point of registration.

What does it cost?

The fee for planning applications are set nationally. For home improvers in England, an application for an extension currently costs £172 but is different in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The cost is £385 for a new single dwelling in England. There are also fees for pre-application advice.

What’s the difference between Planning Permission and Building Regulations?

Both are a form of permission from your local authority that may be required for building work or changes to your property.

Planning permission controls if you can build or alter a property. The rules consider impact on neighbouring properties, landscape considerations, highway safety and look of the building.

Building regulations control how you build or alter a property – with national minimum standards for design and construction to ensure the safety of people in and around the buildings as well as energy efficiency.

Many building projects will require separate permissions for both from the local authority planning department. For smaller schemes, such as internal alterations, only Building Regulations approval may be needed. See our Building Regulations Information Sheet for more information

If you are looking for help with planning permission, you may need help from some of the following experts. Clicking on the links below will instantly give you contact details for Experts in your local area: