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A householder's guide to planning permission and building regulations

Not sure what the difference is between planning permission and building regulations?

It's easy to get confused because the rules are complex. Read on and we'll explain...

Step 1: Your guide to planning permission

Most new buildings, major changes to existing buildings or changes of use need consent - known as planning permission. Without a planning system everyone could construct buildings or use land in any way they wanted, no matter what effect this would have on the environment and on other people who live and work in their area.

The council is responsible for deciding whether a development - anything from an extension on a house to a new shopping centre - should go ahead.

Following the submission of a planning application to make alterations to your property, such as an extension or a loft conversion, the planning team will look at the location of the project, the height and size of the building, and the percentage of the plot that you want to build on. We look at local policies regarding the appearance, the materials, the colour of materials, the match of the bricks and tiles.

Things to consider before you begin:

Will you need to apply for planning permission?

Not all projects will need you to apply for planning permission. Small scale extensions and alterations may not need planning permission, and are classed as 'permitted developments'.

This is because the effect of such developments on neighbours or the surrounding environment is likely to be small.

Read more about whether you might need planning permission.

Are there planning restrictions on your property?

Your home or housing estate may only have received planning permission to be built as long as certain conditions were met. An example condition may have stated that no extensions could be added without further planning permission, even if it is classed as a 'permitted development'.

This may be because the garden is restricted in size and the relationship to neighbours needs to be protected, or the open plan style of the estate was seen as an important factor when it was first designed and built.

The land searches done by your solictor when you bought the property should have highlighted any such conditions.

Still not sure? We can check if you need planning permission and if any restrictions apply.

Are you planning to develop against, or near to a boundary with a neighbouring property?

It is advisable to consult any neighbours who might be affected by your proposal. Not only is it common courtesy to do so, but not doing so could lead to conflict and potential delays.

There are also additional requirements under the Party Wall Act if you are building on a boundary.

Is your house a listing building or do you live in a conservation area?

If your householder proposal is for work to a listed building or to a building within a conservation area, you will need to be mindful of the Listed Building and Conservation Area Regulations.

Do you need to cut down or remove any trees or hedges?

There are various forms of legislative protection for trees and hedgerows. Find out how this legislation is applied and what it means if your tree or hedgerow is protected.

You need to be aware of any planning constraints which might influence our decision when considering your application

When we consider a planning application for proposed development, we have to take into account various planning constraints which can affect our decision, these include the following: (please note this list is not exhaustive)

  • Flood Risk Zones
  • Tree Preservation Orders
  • Conservation Areas
  • Listed Buildings
  • Hazardous Sites

Read more about planning constraints and view them on an interactive map.

If you're granted planning permission, it might be with certain planning conditions attached

Planning permission will usually be subject to 'planning conditions'. These conditions will always include:

  • the approved plans which you must adhere to
  • the period (usually three years) during which the permission is valid* 

* If you don't start work within this time the permission will not be valid.

Conditions may also require the submission of further details, such as landscaping and materials, before development commences.

Finally, conditions may also restrict what can be done, for example restricting the hours of operation, or requiring the retention of obscure glazed windows where a window may cause a lack of privacy for neighbours.

Read more about planning conditions on the GOV.UK website.

Step 2: Your guide to building regulations and building control

Building regulations

'Building regulations', often known as 'building regs', are the standards that apply to all aspects of building work including structure, fire safety, ventilation, drainage and glazing. They determine how a building should be constructed, whereas planning permission determines whether a development should go ahead or not.

Regulations apply to renovations, alterations, new developments and even the change of use from a house to a shop, for example. They exist to make sure buildings are safe, energy efficient and provide reasonable access for all, now and in the future.

Whether you need planning permission or not, your building work must still comply with building regulations. Whoever carries out the work must ensure their work is compliant. However, responsibility ultimately lies with the building owner who may be served a notice to pull down or alter the work if it doesn't comply with the building regulations.

Building Control

The council's 'Building Control' service ensures that any work done complies with 'building regulations'.

When your application to carry our building works is approved, we will give you an 'Inspection Service Plan' before you start work. This outlines the stages of work that require inspection. It will vary depending on the size and complexity of your project, age of your home, the construction type, ground conditions and your builder's experience.

Once the work has been completed to our satisfaction, you will be issued with a 'Completion Certificate' to show that all the work complies with the current building regulations. This certificate will be required when you come to sell your home.

Things to consider before you begin

Will building regulations apply to your project?

Building regulations apply to most projects to alter or extend residential properties, and the rules can be quite complex.

Common projects include:

  • New buildings
  • Extensions
  • Balconies and roof terraces
  • Conversions, including loft, garage, barn
  • Alterations, including a 'granny annex', new ensuite bathroom, kitchen
  • Removal of internal walls
  • Installation of new heating systems, electrical installations and fixed air conditioning systems

Our Building Control services can help you work out if building regulations will apply.

Do you need to demolish anything?

You may need to give us notice of demolition if you intend to demolish:

  • a whole building
  • part of a building
  • part of a project or site, such as demolishing an old extension with the intention of replacing it with a new one.