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What do I need to know about planning permission?

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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Planning a home renovation, such as adding an extension to your back garden or perhaps converting that attic into a loft space? As we on homify are all for stylish decorations and practical solutions, we want to ensure that your project gets the go-ahead from the officials – yes, we are referring to official Planning Permission.

Although not all home-transformation projects require Planning Permission (laying down new carpet in the living room or re-tiling your bathroom walls, for example, don’t), there are numerous touch-ups that do.

So, to ensure you don’t waste valuable time and money, put that dream-house project on pause while you follow our quick step-by-step guide on what to expect when applying for official permission.

1. Where to apply for planning permission

You’ll need permission for significant extension and remodelling projects, and you can apply either through your local authority or online through the Planning Portal (see planningportal.gov.uk). 

Anyone can apply for planning permission but in most cases it’s either the homeowner or a designer who will manage the application. It will cost £172 to submit an application in England. Visit your local authority’s website for pricing in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

2. Planning Permission advice

In order to decide whether your proposal has a realistic chance of success, consider engaging the local authority in pre-application advice. This is, in many ways, ‘planning permission-lite’, requiring the submission of a sketched scheme, forms and written documents to outline your planned designs.

Local authorities vary in their approach to this, with some charging between £100 and £200, while others offer it for free. Their response will give you a good, but non-binding, indication as to your scheme’s chances of success and if it needs amending before submission.

3. Be prepared

Your pre-application advice will notify you of any special reports that you may need to compile, such as an ecological survey. However, in the majority of cases, you will have to submit an application form, an ownership certificate, a location plan, ‘before and after’ elevations and floor plans. 

The strict criteria will be listed in your local authority’s validation requirements, which can be found online. Bear in mind that you might also be expected to submit a design and access statement, explaining the thinking behind the proposed scheme and your justification for it.

4. Tips for application success

modern Houses by homify
homify

House Extension Manchester

homify

• Study local policies before you draw up your scheme. Most clearly specify what the planners look for in terms of size, scale and materials. 

• Use the pre-application stage to talk to the local authority about your scheme, and edit it according to their suggestions before formally submitting. 

• Keep up to date with progress. By phoning the local planning office at key points of the process, particularly after the end of the consultation period, you can sense whether the proposed scheme is likely to be approved. If not, withdraw and resubmit it for free.

5. Planning Permission progress

​mansard loft conversion wandsworth: modern Bedroom by nuspace
nuspace

​mansard loft conversion wandsworth

nuspace

After you’ve submitted, your local authority’s planning department will validate the application to check whether all the required documentation and fees have been supplied, for which you’ll receive a confirmation. Councils have a target to respond to applications within eight weeks of receipt; thus, around 90% of decisions are made within this time. During this period, statutory consultees are notified, including the highways department, parish council, and your neighbours, and are invited to respond if they are unhappy with the proposals.

Generally, planning decisions are made in one of two ways: either by the local planning committee if they are particularly controversial (usually in the case of new houses or larger housing developments) or, in the case of most householder projects, delegated to a planning officer to decide.

6. Take note of conditions

Fulham, London - rear extension, loft conversion and entire house renovation including inserting swimming pool:   by Zebra Property Group
Zebra Property Group

Fulham, London—rear extension, loft conversion and entire house renovation including inserting swimming pool

Zebra Property Group

If you’re lucky to receive approval for your plans, be sure to make note of the conditions attached, as they are just as important. Most approved applications are supplied with notes, such as requiring the local authority to approve the exterior materials before commencement of work, or perhaps having sign-off on a landscaping scheme.

Note that you’ll need to formally apply to discharge these conditions and receive a letter to confirm so, as failure to do this will invalidate your approval. You may also need to tweak your design after gaining approval, for which you have two options: either use the minor amendments route (which is designed for issues like new window positions), or submit a new planning application.

The minor amendments route costs £28 and takes 28 days to decide. Opting for another full planning application would take eight weeks, but is free if applied for within a year of the original.

7. Key considerations

To make a decision on which applications to approve, your local authority will take into account what are known as ‘material considerations’, which can include (but are not limited to): 

• Overlooking/loss of privacy 

• Parking 

• Traffic 

• Noise 

• Disabled access 

• Nature conservation, etc. 

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, then they will usually grant Planning Permission for a householder application using what are known as delegated powers.

Should there be objections or the application is called into a committee by one of the local councillors, the decision will be made by a majority vote by the local planning committee. At the planning meeting, you or your agent have an opportunity to address the planning committee, but this time is limited to a maximum of three minutes.

8. In the case of a rejected planning application

Knightsbridge Roof Terrace - Aralia Garden Design:  Commercial Spaces by Aralia
Aralia

Knightsbridge Roof Terrace—Aralia Garden Design

Aralia

If permission for your project has not been granted, take a careful look at the reasons given. If it is because your scheme is in breach of local planning policy, then you will need to redraw it. If you don’t agree that it is, you will have a more serious case for appealing the decision.

In either instance, a conversation with a planning consultant (rtpiconsultants.co.uk) is probably a wise course of action.

9. Five things to know about Planning Permission

House extension and transformation, Wandsworth SW18: country Dining room by TOTUS
TOTUS

House extension and transformation, Wandsworth SW18

TOTUS

1. Most planning decisions should take no longer than eight weeks from the point of application. 

2. The objections of neighbours and local people may well not have any impact on the final decision. 

3. If you think you are going to get a refusal, you can withdraw your application at any time up to the day itself, and resubmit free of charge. 

4. You are allowed to submit an infinite number of planning applications on any one site—and choose which to use, as long as it is current. 

5. You can make an application on any piece of land in the country, even if you don’t own it.

Good luck! 

If you really don’t have the energy for trying to obtain Planning Permission, we suggest you take a look at these 17 ways to improve your home without planning permission.

Planning a project that requires official permission?
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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