Planning- Frequently Asked Questions

Planning Issues – FAQs

Below are some answers to questions that Building Design Experts are regularly asked.

What permissions do I require from the local council planning authority to extend or alter my property?

Generally there are two permissions to be obtained when carrying out work to your property –

  • Planning Permission
  • Building Regulations Approval

Some properties will require additional permissions; for example, if your property is a Listed Building.

Under certain circumstances many properties may be altered, or extended using ’Permitted Development’ rights. Some projects may also be exempt under the Building Regulations

What is Permitted Development?

The extension, alteration or enhancement of a private dwelling without the need for planning permission, as allowed under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 (as amended)

How do I go about finding out if my project is covered under permitted development?

After reading this page, your first port of call may be to telephone either a building design professional; most of whom will be willing to give you free advice over the telephone, assuming they cover the type of project you have in mind. Or, your local planning authority (LPA) general enquiries department.

If you ask your LPA, they may just recite back to you what can read here, and ask you to make your own judgement. If you wish them to provide a written confirmation, they will usually require that you submit a set of scale drawings of the proposed design and layout – see heading “Design Drawings” for further information.

If I have found that my proposed extension or alteration is allowable as “permitted development”, do I need to obtain any kind of permitted development approval or confirmation?

In theory No.

However, you would be wise to obtain some form of written confirmation from your local planning authority that your proposal fully complies with permitted development rules that apply at the time the work is started. Keep that letter safe, as it may be required as and when you sell the property.

Every now and then the government changes the rules; so even though you have obtained written confirmation that your proposal is permitted development, You may not have started work for one, or a number of years. In which case you would ideally need to just check out that the rules have not been changed or amended.

You may find that some local planning authorities do not offer a permitted development vetting service. In such cases you must be 100% sure that your proposals to extend or alter your property conform within the permitted development guidelines. A building design professional will be an invaluable asset in such instances.

What does it mean if a project is ‘exempt’ under the Building Regulations?
Some building and alteration works may be carried out without the requirement to submit an application under the Building Regulations; for example some conservatories are ‘exempt’, as long as they fulfill certain criteria, which will be explained in more detail later.[/expand]

So what can I do that will qualify as ’Permitted Development’?
Generally Permitted Development rights are quite expansive and cover a wide range of project types. There is a range of governing criteria, within which you can build –

      • One and two storey extensions
      • Conservatory
      • Loft conversion including a dormer
      • Various outbuildings e.g. shed, garage
      • Porch
      • Satellite dish / aerial
      • Solar panels

This list is not exhaustive and will be expanded in full later.

If I find that what I want to do is not permitted development, what do I do next?

You have two choices:

      1. You could modify the proposed extension, or alteration such that it conforms within the current rules for permitted development.
      2. You will need to apply for planning permission. – Just because your proposal is not allowable as permitted development does not mean that planning permission will be refused.

What does not qualify as ‘Permitted Development’?

Permitted Development rights only apply to individual properties, and do not apply to flats or maisonettes. They also do not apply to listed buildings, and have a much limited scope for their application in ‘designated areas’ such as Conservation areas, or areas of outstanding natural beauty.

If you live in a listed property, or an area designated by the planning authority as of special interest; you should consult the local planning authority, or a building design professional for clarification

What is a ‘Designated Area’ and how do I know if I live in one?

In Planning terms a ’Designated Area’ is an area identified by either one, or both the local planning authority and the Department of the Environment as being of particular importance on a local, national, or even European or Global level.

The area types include ‘Conservation Areas’, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, National Parks, The Broads and World Heritage Sites.

Many traditionally developed suburbs and rural village areas are often identified as ‘Conservation Areas’. Ultimately it is the householders responsibility to determine whether the area in which you live has any special designation. If you suspect that you might, you can check with a simple telephone call to the local planning authority. This may avoid wasted time pursuing a project that may not be suitable within a designated area.

Alternatively to may call a building design professional who will probably be better informed than you, or have more ready access to the information.[/expand]

Listed buildings – What exactly is ‘Listed’?

The short answer to this one is more or less everything that is fixed. The general perception is that it is only the outside of the building that comes under the listing; walls, roof, windows etc. This is incorrect, and should you carry out some internal alterations without the proper ‘listed building consent’, the local planning authority would be within their rights to serve an enforcement notice on you to bring the property back to it’s pre-alteration condition.

The whole building, inside and out will usually form part of the listing, even down to door frames, skirtings and architraves. If your plan is to extend, or alter in any way the original building appearance, or layout you should seek formal listed building approval. Depending on the grade of the listing, it may be that some decoration works require consent.

Listed building permission is quite different and separate from planning permission; for example you may plan to make some internal alterations that do not require planning permission, but these will generally require listed building consent, and possibly approval under the building regulations.

It is generally only building repairs and maintenance work that may be free of the requirement of a formal approval, but even this may be subject to scrutiny depending on the grade of listing.

To avoid problems it must be stressed that what ever you plan to do, seek clarification first.

Is there a limit on the amount of work I may carry out that qualifies as Permitted Development?

In theory No. As long as the governing criteria for each project type are adhered to on each occasion

Is it possible that although my property is not within a designated area, it still does not have permitted development rights?

YES. With the increasing density of housing developments, and scarcity of land on which to build, the local planning authority may grant planning permission for a development of one, or a number of houses, but in doing so make it a condition that some or all future proposals for extensions and alterations must be decided by a planning application. Some minor work may still be allowable as permitted development, but you should always obtain confirmation from the local planning authority.

If my project is confirmed as ‘Permitted Development’, does this mean it will be exempt under the Building Regulations?

NO. You may still require approval under the Building Regulations. Such approval is quite separate from permissions granted under the planning system, and should be assessed separately.

Permitted Development rights often include reference to “The Original House or Dwelling”. How is this defined?

The original house or dwelling” is defined as the building as it was first constructed, or as it stood on 1 July 1948 (if built before that date).

The original house or dwelling definition will include any outbuildings, such as a garage or shed that was built with it, or, on an older property, built before 1 July 1948. This will include any extensions built before this date also.

In trying to assess my permitted development rights do I have to take into account any extensions, or outbuildings built by a previous owner?

YES. Unless the work was completed before 1 July 1948, you will need to include either the land area occupied, or the volume (if considering a roof / dormer type extension); as a contributing to any maximum figures identified separately under the extension or alteration type, later in this publication.

Is there a specific way of measuring areas and volumes for calculating maximum permitted development allowances?

YES. In all cases measurement should be taken externally to include the area or volume occupied by the external walls and roof.

I have discovered that a previous owner has built an extension that should have had planning permission, but for whatever reason this was not obtained. Am I liable, as the current property owner, for any legal action the local planning authority may take?

Provided the extension, or alteration was completed at least four years ago you should be Okay. If building work has been carried out without the knowledge of the planners there is a requirement that it must be discovered within a four year period, otherwise at the very least you may be required to apply for planning permission, which, if not granted could lead to an enforcement order to return the property to its original condition prior to the extension.

It must be pointed out that extending, or altering your property without at least checking the “planning” requirements with the local planning authority, or a qualified building design professional, is not to be encouraged. You might only have to fall out with your neighbours, or even a passer-by: who may report you to the planners, and you could be facing a whole set of costs to demolish and return the property to its original condition, that were never in your original budget.

Am I allowed to re-clad part or all of my house using a different material to how it was originally constructed?

Generally speaking, yes. This type of work will be classed as permitted development. However, you should always seek the guidance of a building design professional, as although it may be allowable under planning; it may have detrimental effect upon the long term well being of the building. So best to make sure.

N.B. If you live in a designated area e.g. a conservation area, or area of outstanding natural beauty, or your property is listed; any proposals for re-cladding walls or roof with materials different from the original, will NOT be classified as permitted development, and will require a planning application.

Example of different materials could be:

Stone, artificial stone, render or pebble dash, timber, pvcU, tiles etc.

If it is decided that my proposed extension or alteration is not permitted development, does this mean that it is unlikely to to be granted planning permission?

Not at all. Just because your requirements are beyond the scope of permitted development does not preclude granting of planning permission. Generally permitted development limits may be used as an unofficial guide as to what the local planning authority may consider to be acceptable. In other words try not to exceed them by too much. However, the planners are obliged to consider each planning application on its own merits, and within their policy guidelines for the type of area you live in. These have been drawn up to cover the vast majority of possible scenarios in types of application they will have to consider.

What is an ‘Article 4’ direction and how can it affect my permitted development rights?

As a consequence of various amendments to the Town and Country Planning Act; local planning authorities have been given the power to remove some, or all the householders normal permitted development rights. This is particularly common in newer housing developments, where a particular style of development design may prevail e.g. open plan densely populated housing estates. The planners may have considered that householders putting up walls, porches and extensions without due regard to the original scheme design may be detrimental to the overall appearance of an area.