Pillarless corner creates an open interface between outside and in:  Houses by John Gauld Photography

​Planning permission: Do you need it?

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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In a perfect world, everyone would be allowed to break and build to their hearts’ content, with no regards for rules or regulations – or would they? Is planning permission really a strict guide on “what not to do” to keep us in tow, or is it there to protect us?

Also called ‘planning consent’, Planning Permission is the formal permission one requires from a local authority for the erection or alteration of a building. It is also needed for a change of use of buildings or land.

However, not all projects require express Planning Permission, as there’s a little something called ‘permitted development rights (PD)’ that also come into play.

But when is it required, then? And how does it involve our working relationship with the relevant building contractors we hire for the job? 

To make this entire process easier to understand and follow, let’s start at the very beginning…

1. When do we need Planning Permission?

First of all, Planning Permission was put in place to control inappropriate development, and is intended to protect all parties. Anything that involves the creation of a new house (regardless of whether it’s being built from scratch or a subdivision) requires Planning Permission. 

Adding outbuildings or building extensions requires Planning Permission depending on the size of the project and the level of Permitted Development rights afforded to or still remaining on a property.

2. What are Permitted Development Rights (PD)?

Pillarless corner creates an open interface between outside and in:  Houses by John Gauld Photography
John Gauld Photography

Pillarless corner creates an open interface between outside and in

John Gauld Photography

Introduced into the Town and Planning Act on 1 July 1948, PD allows for minor improvements (such as converting a loft or modest home extensions) without resorting to full-out planning permission. Bear in mind that these rules differ between Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The level of work that can be carried out under Permitted Development 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

3. When is Planning Permission not required?

Under PD, you are allowed to undertake certain projects that don’t require Planning Permission. Although some of the following projects are subject to relevant rules and/or building regulations from local authorities (which a professional architect and building contractor will be aware of), one generally doesn’t need to apply for Planning Permission for:
1. Internal remodelling 

2. Windows and doors 

3. Garages and attached buildings 

4. Single-storey extensions 

5. Rooflights 

6. Loft conversions 

7. Two-storey extensions 

8. Conservatories 

9. Sheds and outbuildings 

10. Converting two homes into one 

11. Porches 

12. Gates, walls and fences 

13. Decking (as long as the height is not greater than 300mm) 

14. Swimming pools (provided that the total area covered by the pool does not exceed 50% of the area of the garden curtilage) 

15. Adding vehicular access 

16. Cladding and exteriors 

17. Solar panels 

18. Basements 

19. Parking 

20. Change of use to residential (school, church, barn, mill etc. conversions).

homify hint: It is recommended to always check with the Local Planning Authority to ensure no Planning Permission is needed, as in some cases PD rights may have been removed.

4. How much does a Planning Permission application cost?

The final price depends on the nature of the project. Currently, the cost is £462 for a full application for a new single dwelling in England, yet this fee differs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. 

In England, an application for an extension is currently £206, whereas in Wales the cost of a typical householder application is £190.

Take note that, in addition to fees for pre-application advice, further small sums are payable for the discharge of ‘planning conditions’ which must be met before development starts.

5. What is the basic form of a planning application?

House Conversion, Kensington:  Houses by RS Architects
RS Architects

House Conversion, Kensington

RS Architects

Although each site will have its own requirements, generally an application should include: 

• Five copies of application forms 

• The signed ownership certificate 

• A site plan 

• A block plan 

• Elevations of both the existing and proposed sites 

• A Design and Access Statement 

• The correct fee.

6. How are applications decided?

The local authority will base its decision on what are known as ‘material considerations’, which can include (but are not limited to): 

• 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.

It is true that neighbours are consulted and invited to comment, along with parish councils (in England and Wales). However, only objections based on material considerations are taken into account. 

Should no neighbours object and the officers recommend approval, Planning Permission is usually granted.

7. How long does the procedure take?

Rear Garden:  Terrace by CATO creative
CATO creative

Rear Garden

CATO creative

After submitting your application, the planning department will check that all of the required documentation (no. 5) has been received.  

Local authorities are supposed to determine planning applications within 10 to 12 weeks of registration, and the majority of straightforward householder applications are finalised within this timeframe.

A sign will be posted outside the address applying for the proposed development. Any neighbours likely to be influenced by the project are written to and invited to view the plans and 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.

8. What if my planning application is refused?

Telegraph House:  Terrace by MAA Architects
MAA Architects

Telegraph House

MAA Architects

About 75% of applications (in England) are granted. Should yours be refused, you can either amend and resubmit (after dealing with the reasons for refusal), or you can make an appeal to the planning inspectorate.

Around 40% of householder applications that are refused are granted after appealing.

9. How much time do I have to begin my project?

Take Off, Una St Ives:  Terrace by iroka
iroka

Take Off, Una St Ives

iroka

Planning Permission is typically granted for three years , which means you must begin work on your building project within that time or face reapplying.

10. Five facts about Planning Permission

1. You may submit a planning application on any piece of land in the country (even if you don’t own it) 

2. Your planning decision shouldn’t take longer than eight weeks after applying. 

3. Neighbours’ and local people’s objections may not have any impact on the final decision. 

4. You are allowed to withdraw your application at any time up to the day itself (should you think, for instance, that you’re going to be refused). You may then alter your application and resubmit free of charge.  

5. You may submit as many planning applications on one site as you wish, and choose which one to use (as long as it’s current).

Got a question about a project you’re planning? Have a look at 13 things you CAN do without planning permission.

Are you planning on altering your house or yard? Tell us all about it...
Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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