Planning ahead – what you need to know about the planning regs
Before embarking on a building project, if you want to make changes to your property, or add a garage or outbuilding on your land, you’ll need to consider the submission process. There are some exceptions, but in most cases you’ll usually need to acquire planning permission. In England and Wales, you need planning permission if you want to build something new, make a considerable change to your building, such as add an extension (either outward or upward), or if you want to change the use of the building.
No permission required
If you don’t need to attain planning consent, then this is known as ‘permitted development rights’. There is a range of Permitted Development rights to cover things such as extensions, windows and rooflights, chimneys etc. More recently, some changes have been introduced that enable property owners to make more significant and substantial changes to their properties. If we consider domestic properties, new rights have come in to force that allow large upward and rearward extensions. These larger extensions fall under Permitted Development Rights but require the applicant to undertake an additional step called Prior Approval. This requires the submission of drawings to the LPA and a consultation period with neighbours to ensure the works will not be detrimental. Whilst this requires more work and a delay that is not always necessary with standard Permitted Development works, it does enable the applicant to extend by much more in terms of area and, should the desire be there, to create an additional dwelling above the existing property. This option won’t appeal to everyone, but the scope is there to make substantial changes that were not previously available.
The application process
Most building projects will require planning permission, however. This will involve gathering together as much supporting information as possible, including designs and drawings, to make your case to the LPA that your development should be permitted. You will need to engage with an architect or designer to create the necessary drawings, which can be submitted digitally via the planning portal. Once submitted in its best form possible, your LPA will consult with interested parties and decide whether to grant planning permission for the project based on its development plan and policies.
To decide whether a planning application fits within its development plan, an LPA will look at various key factors that feed into planning regulations. These include the number, size, layout, position and external appearance of the new buildings. This will include if the building and its design is in keeping with its surroundings – a concrete and glass block may not be suitable for a rural conservation area, for example, while a structure using local materials and a sympathetic architectural style may be looked on favourably. It will also look at the infrastructure available, such as roads and water supply, and if they can cope with the expanded demand placed upon it. The same goes for how the development would affect the surrounding area – would it create lots more traffic or parking issues, or an increase in noise pollution? It also looks at any landscaping needs involved in the project and the purpose or use of the development. In most cases, planning applications should be decided within eight weeks. In England, for unusually large or complex applications, the absolute time limit is 13 weeks, and if the judgement takes longer. There is an appeals process available. It should be noted that design is a subjective thing and much of the application will be tailored to demonstrating the positives the scheme brings and providing justification to the case officer/ LPA. It is this area where a professional consultant’s skills and experiences will be able to assist you and get results that may not otherwise be possible.
If your application is turned down, you can find out the reasons behind the refusal. Sometimes the reason can be amended prior to a refusal being issued – a change in the size and design of the building, or a clarification of the exact use – and you can come to an agreement with the LPA by adjusting the plans. This permission may come with certain caveats you must agree to. However, if you can’t reach an agreement, it is possible to appeal. This process can be longwinded and take several months to be decided.
Reasons for an appeal include if the LPA refuses your application; or grants permission but with conditions you object to; it refuses to change or remove a condition of planning permission that has been granted with conditions; or refuses to approve something reserved under an ‘outline permission’ (planning permission for a general idea, not of a specific plan). You can also appeal against an LPA that refuses to approve something that you were told to build as part of a previous planning permission – so the current development was one of the ‘conditions’ stated in the previous planning permission, or you are served with an enforcement notice because you are accused of braking planning permission and you do not agree.
Planning permission is a complicated process, even when it goes smoothly. Much more information about planning applications and the submission process can be found at the https://www.gov.uk/planning-permission-england-wales website and your local authority’s planning portal.