Does My Project Require Planning Permission?

January 22nd 2019

Does My Project Require Planning Permission?

Are you looking to build a home, add an extension, or alter an existing building? If so, you might have come across planning permissions. In the UK, any residential development including new builds, extensions, and renovations generally require prior consent from your Local Authority.

Planning permission is used to prevent the unauthorised development of land. Before starting any work, it's important to check if you need to obtain planning permission. Any breach can result in the council enforcing the removal of your building work and even potential court action, which can be both expensive and time-consuming.

But, planning permission isn't required in all instances. There are some projects you can get started on right away. Read on below to see if your building project requires planning permission.

Planning Permission vs. Building Regulations

Before we dive into planning permission, it's important to understand the differences between planning permissions and building regulations, as they are two completely separate legislation.

Planning Permission is based on whether your development aligns with local and national policies. This can dictate the specific usage of buildings or land, the overall appearance, access points, and general environmental considerations. For new developments or changes to the use of land, planning permission is generally needed. However, this can differ depending on the council. There are also different requirements for conservation areas and listed buildings, so it's always worth consulting a qualified professional before tackling planning permissions.

On the other hand, Building Regulation Approval is based on the overall construction and structural elements of your development. Building Regulation Approval applies to all buildings - commercial and residential - and is designed to ensure all buildings meet national safety and compliance standards. Some examples of when you will need Building Regulation Approval are loft conversions, changing a garage into a room, or replacing the windows, doors, and roofing of your shop. Building Regulations are usually also needed for plumbing or electrical work. Likewise, it's common for developments to require both building regulation approval and planning permission.

When You Might Need Planning Permission

Planning permission is generally required for substantial construction projects such as new builds, large extensions, or if you need to change the use of your building. Instances when you will need planning permission include:

  • Making external alterations to a flat or maisonette. For example, adding an extension to your ground floor.
  • Dividing your house for separate use as either a home or business / commercial.
  • Building a house or outbuilding in your garden that exceeds 4 metres overall, and is not within 2 metres of the original dwelling.
  • Adding an extension that exceeds council height restrictions, or if your extension fronts a highway.
  • Building something that violates the terms of your original planning permission, e.g. you might have restrictions on putting up front fences.
  • Obstructing the road view for drivers or altering the width of a trunk or classified road.

Considerations for Planning Permission

When you submit documents for planning permission, local councils take into account a variety of different factors before accepting or declining a proposal.

  • Will the project have a substantial impact on your neighbours? For example, impact their view, or restrict their right to light?
  • Does the design of your development look attractive, and does it have a similar style, and incorporate similar materials to the existing buildings in the area?
  • Will the project have any impact on protected animals, plants, or habitats in the region? Local councils will always consider the environmental impact a new build.
  • Will your new development cause any environmental health concerns; for example, air pollution?
  • Are any roads or highways impacted during construction, or once the proposed development has been completed?

Before submitting an application, it's best to carefully consider how to minimise the impact your proposed development will have on the environment, neighbours, and the community. The planning department for your local council should be your first port of call if you think you might need to obtain permission.

When You Don't Need Planning Permission

Not all types of projects require planning permission. Smaller home improvement projects such as installing a new door or window to even adding a single storey extension can fall under what is called 'Permitted Development Rights'. Approval derives from Parliament, which means you can conduct certain types of work without obtaining planning permission and clogging up the local system. Usually, this is for small-scale builds that don't directly impact neighbouring properties or the environment.

However, there are restrictions. Different rules apply to houses, which don't apply to flats, maisonettes, and other types of buildings. Furthermore, if you live in a 'Listed building' or 'Designated Area', then there are further restrictions governing the alterations you can make. It's always important to check with your Local Authority first.

While not an exhaustive list, here are a few projects you can get started on right away that fall under 'Permitted Development Rights' including:

  • Interior remodelling provided you are not adding more space to your home. However, be aware, any electrical, plumbing or structural changes will require Building Regulation Approval.
  • Adding or moving new doors or windows will generally not require planning permission. However, bay windows are classified as an extension.
  • Converting an attached garage or existing building structure into a room (e.g. living room), generally won't require approval as you are not extending the space of your structure.
  • Conducting a loft conversion up to 40m3.
  • Building a front porch as long as no part is taller than 3m, it is not within 2m of any boundary adjacent to a highway, and the area (externally) is not more than 3m2.
  • Converting a commercial or industrial building for residential purposes. Whether you need full planning permission is mostly dependent on the use of building class. For example, buildings classified as B1c (light industrial) can be converted into C3 (residential) without obtaining prior planning permission.

Always Check with your Local Planning Authority

Every project is different, and approval can largely depend on the area you live, the type of development, and the overall impact of your project in the broader community.

While there are a lot of building projects that you can conduct under Permitted Development, it's always worth double-checking with your Local Planning Authority. Legislation changes all the time, and you want to make sure any work you undertake is compliant. It's your responsibility to obtain planning permission.