Inspiration and advice for your building project
Construction of new buildings and extensive changes to existing buildings usually requires consent from the local planning authority. This planning system is designed to control inappropriate development.
Anything that involves the creation of a new house, either by building from scratch or a subdivision, needs planning permission. Adding extensions or outbuildings requires planning permission depending on the size of the project and the level of Permitted Development (PD) rights afforded to or still remaining on a property.
The concept of Permitted Development (PD) was introduced at the very beginning of our planning system – in the Town and Planning Act on 1st July 1948 – and allows for minor improvements, such as converting a loft or modest extensions to your home, to be undertaken without clogging up the planning system. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each benefit from their own version of these rules.
The level of work that can be carried out under PD depends on a variety of factors including location (Areas of Natural Beauty and Conservation Areas have different rules), and the extent of work already carried out on a property
Outline planning permission grants, in principle, the construction of a dwelling, subject to certain design conditions based on size and shape. The design information required with an Outline application however has to be so detailed that many developers decide a Full application is the best way to proceed. If, however, your plot comes with Outline permission, you will need to examine the approval document, which will give you a good idea of the type of house you could end up building. ‘Full’ approval is likely on a design that follows these guidelines — but it is also true to say that other design schemes could be approved.
The fee for submitting a planning application varies depending on the nature of the development. The cost is currently £385 for a full application for a new single dwelling in England, but this fee is different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For home improvers, an application in England for an extension currently costs £172, whereas in Wales the cost of a typical householder application is currently £166.
As well as fees for pre-application advice, further small sums are payable for the discharge of ‘planning conditions’ which must be met before development begins.
Each site has different requirements but generally an application should include five copies of application forms, the signed ownership certificate, a site plan, block plan and elevations of both the existing and proposed sites, a Design and Access Statement and the correct fee.
These statements have to accompany all planning applications besides householder building works in unprotected areas and changes of use. Statements are used to justify a proposal’s design concept and the access to it. The level of detail depends on the scale of the project and its sensitivity. Most authorities will have guidance notes available to help you but, unfortunately, unless you ensure you have included one in your submission, planning authorities can refuse to register your planning application.
The local authority will base its decision on what are known as ‘material considerations’, which can include (but are not limited to):
While neighbours are consulted and invited to comment, together with parish councils (in England and Wales), only objections based on material considerations are taken into account. If the neighbours do not object and the officers recommend approval, they will usually grant planning permission for a householder application using what are known as delegated powers.
If there are objections or the application is called into a committee by one of the local councillors, then the decision will be made by a majority vote by the local planning committee. At the planning meeting, you or your agent will be given an opportunity to address the planning committee, but this time is limited to a maximum of three minutes.
Once your application has been submitted, the planning department will check that all of the information it requires has been received together with the correct fee. Local authorities are supposed to determine planning applications within 10 to 12 weeks of registration, and the majority of straightforward householder applications will be dealt with within this timeframe.
A sign is posted outside the address relating to the proposed development and any neighbours likely to be affected are written to and invited to view the plans and to comment. This is known as the public consultation process and it takes three to eight weeks. The authority will make statutory consultations to the local Highways department, and where necessary the Environment Agency as well as others.
In England around 75 per cent of applications are granted. If your application is refused, you can either amend and resubmit having dealt with the reasons for refusal, or you can make an appeal to the planning inspectorate — around 40 per cent of householder applications that are refused are later granted at appeal.
Planning permission is typically granted for three years — meaning you must begin work in that time or face reapplying.
You can make minor alterations by applying for a non-material amendment. However, major alterations could involve a further application for Full planning permission, so discuss your plans with your LPA first.
While it is not illegal to develop land without planning permission, it is not lawful and, consequently, if you have failed to get consent for your project, then the local planning authority can take action to have the work altered or demolished. In this instance, you can make a retrospective planning application and if this is refused you can appeal the decision. If you lose, it can prove very costly.
There is a legal loophole: if no enforcement action is taken within four years of completion, the development becomes immune from enforcement action (10 years for a change of use). The development then becomes lawful — but this is too great a risk to take.
Altering a listed building without prior permission is, however, a criminal offence, and in extreme cases it can lead to prosecution and unlimited fines — and even imprisonment. So do ensure you apply for this first.
If you were granted planning on or before 1st October 2009, and it has not already run out, you can apply to extend it. The form is available here on Planning Portal and is subject to a fee of £50.
5 things you need to know about planning permission
Since April 2008, all local planning departments use the same application form, known as 1APP, you can find the appropriate form for your area and complete the application process online at the Planning Portal.
Article Updated January 2013