Having your own home can be an exciting time in your life, with the potential to take a property and really make it your own. When you first begin the path to homeownership, you will probably be focused on just making the building feel like a real home for you as well as sorting out finances. However, after a few years living there, you become more financially comfortable and settled. This may be when you start thinking about improving your home through extensions or other building work. 

Extensions and home improvement projects allow you to transform your home without the costs of relocating. You can often end up with a nicer home if you invest money into these projects rather than buying a ready-made one, and this doesn’t take into account the fact you make it a far better prospect if you do come to sell it down the line. 

If you are looking to knock down a rebuild or build a huge extension, then yes, you will need permission from your local authority before you begin. It is only natural that big projects require planning permission. There are smaller projects which don’t require planning permission but only if they fit the correct criteria. So if you are thinking of a loft conversion, an extension or a new kitchen, it will require detailed planning and research to ensure this is the case, or if you will need to start researching what permission you need.

What is Planning Permission?

Planning permission is the consent of your local authority on a proposed building project and is in place to deter inappropriate development. The building of a new dwelling, or extensive changes to existing buildings, usually requires planning permission. It is in place to prevent unlawful development. It is also the key that turns a piece of land into a viable building plot and, as such, is an essential part of any self-build projects. 

When Do You Need Planning Permission?

If you are building from scratch, planning a large extension or making improvements to a listed building (or a property in an AONB, or another specially designated area) then you will need planning permission. Bear in mind, for smaller home improvements you will not need to apply so it is good to fully understand the legislation. 

How to Get Planning Permission?

To apply for planning permission you submit an application and contact your local planning authority. 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.

It is essential to follow the steps for permission if your project needs planning consent. If you do the work without getting it, you can be served an ‘enforcement notice’ ordering you to undo all the changes you have made. It is illegal to ignore this notice but you can appeal the decision. 

How Much Does Planning Permission Cost?

Sadly,the application process is not free.. When submitting your planning application, you need to pay the local council £462 for a full application for a new single dwelling in England. For home improvers, an application in England for an extension currently costs £206, whereas in Wales the cost of a typical household er application is currently £190.

How Long Does Planning Permission Last?

Planning is only half of the process, you then need to start the building project. You can’t start until the application is over so you need to factor this into account. Once you have building regulations approval, it is not indefinite approval. The permission will expire after a certain period. Unless your permission says otherwise, you have three years from the date full consent is granted to begin building.

Types of Planning Permission

There is not just one kind of planning permission as there are a number of different sized projects you can carry out. There are four main types of application for planning permission:

  • Full Application
  • Householder Application
  • Outline Application
  • Reserved Matters Application

Essentially, a full application grants permission for a project with a detailed design. But before going full steam ahead on site, the planning conditions attached to the consent must be discharged. They must be discharged (satisfied) formally by a letter from the local authority, usually before commencing work — otherwise, the approval is invalidated. 

An outline application grants permission in principle but does not include design specifics. It is important to note that outline planning consent does not provide permission to start work.

How Long Does it Take to get Planning Permission?

The process length can vary depending on the type of application but it is usually approved within eight weeks. More complex applications, like building from scratch, can take longer but this isn’t the common situation. 

What Factors Affect Approval?

Planning approval is quite stringent and is by no means a guaranteed success. There are a huge number of factors that they look into when deciding if they can approve the project. It is important for you to  be aware of these so you can address them before making the application. These will be taking into account how it will affect neighbours and the neighbourhood in general. Here are a number of important factors that are taken into account. 

  • Overlooking/loss of privacy
  • Loss of light or overshadowing
  • Parking
  • Highway safety
  • Traffic
  • Noise
  • Impact on listed building and Conservation Area
  • Layout and density of building
  • Design, appearance and materials
  • Government policy
  • Disabled access
  • Proposals in the development plan
  • Previous planning decisions
  • Nature conservation

As this will affect the neighbourhood and your immediate neighbours, the council will often consult with them and take into account their views when doing the application – so try not to burn bridges with them. They will be  invited to comment together at the parish council. 

They can reject your permission, so it pays to be polite and involve them early on in the planning process. Be sure that the extension will not adversely affect their home and their property value. 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.

What Does a Planning Application Include?

In general terms, your application should include:

  • Five copies of application forms
  • The signed ownership certificate
  • A site plan, block plan, elevations of both the existing and proposed sites
  • A design and access statement
  • The correct fee

When You Don’t Need Planning Permission

Some building projects don’t need planning permission. This is known as ‘permitted development rights’. Building projects that normally have permitted development rights include:

  • Industrial premises and warehouses – though there are some limits and conditions
  • Some outdoor signs and advertisements – though there are special rules around these
  • Demolition – but before you begin you must get approval to demolish from your local planning authority

There are other projects that might not need planning permission, eg. projects that will have no impact on your neighbours or the environment. If you think this could apply to your project, check with your Local Planning Authority. We will cover some of these later on as there are specific rules for each. 

There is also something called Community Rights in England which may affect whether you need planning permission or not. If your building project benefits the local community, and the community supports it, you may not have to go through the normal planning permission process. Neighbourhood planning and Community Right to Build lets your community grant planning permission directly under certain circumstances. 

Situations Which May Not need Planning Permission

As mentioned before, there are some instances where you may not need planning permission. These are often decided in relation to your current property and what kind of extension or alteration you wish to make. For example, a rear extension of a certain size may not need permission. This depends on the size of your home in relation to the extension. We will cover some of the main areas below. 

Do I Need Planning Permission for Outbuildings? 

Extensions or projects of this nature are generally considered to be permitted development. This means you will not need planning permission. This is the case as long as it follows a certain set of rules which are:

  • On your designated land
  • Not on a listed building
  • It does not affect parks etc. 
  • They are not permitted to be built over the principal elevation of the house (the height it first stood at)
  • It does not exceed 50% of the land around the house
  • Must not be separate or self-contained 
  • Must be a single storey

Do I Need Planning Permission for a Porch?

Adding a porch to any external door of your house is considered to be permitted development, not requiring an application for planning permission, provided the following limits and conditions are met.

  • The ground floor area does not exceed three square metres, measured externally.
  • The highest part of the porch does not measure more than three metres up from ground level, measured as you would an extension.
  • No part of the porch is within two metres of the front boundary and the highway.
  • The front entrance door between the existing house and the new porch must remain in place or be replaced with a new door.
  • If the house has ramped or level access for disabled people, the porch must not adversely affect access.

Do I Need Planning Permission for a Loft Conversion?

For most loft conversions, planning permission is not required. That’s because they generally fall under your permitted development rights. That said, you will need to get planning permission if your plans exceed certain limits and conditions, such as extending or altering the roof space beyond its current limits. You’ll also have to follow strict building regulations, which are in place to ensure that building work is done safely. 

  • A volume allowance of 40 cubic metres additional roof space for terraced houses*
  • A volume allowance of 50 cubic metres additional roof space for detached and semi-detached houses*
  • No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway
  • No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof
  • Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms
  • Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7m above the floor
  • Roof extensions not to be permitted development in designated areas**
  • Roof extensions, apart from hip to gable ones, to be set back, as far as practicable, at least 20cm from the original eaves
  • The roof enlargement cannot overhang the outer face of the wall of the original house.
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