Who Needs Planning Permission?
Last year nearly one-and-a-half million people were considering building works on their homes. Fortunately, only a fraction of these jobs actually required planning permission - so, who needs it, and who doesn't?
Firstly, although there are many exceptions to the rule, it is generally works to the outside of a house that require planning permission.
Every case is different, but usually the larger the build, and the closer the changes would be to the road or to your neighbours' properties, the more likely you are to need it.
But you must still do your research. Even the most modest home alterations, such as erecting a kids' climbing frame, or even putting up a satellite dish, can get you into trouble if you don't do your homework properly.
And, if you do go ahead without the required planning permission, you could find yourself unable to sell your house, or, even being forced to put things back as they were at your own expense.
No Exceptions - Listing And Learning
Some groups of people are never allowed to make structural alterations without permission.
These include those fortunate few who live in a listed building, a Conservation Area, a National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Broads.
Add Velux windows to a listed cottage in Cornwall, as Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen once did, or make 30 unauthorised alterations to a country cottage, as Tory politician Teresa Gorman once did, and you'll incur the wrath of your neighbours and the local planning officers.
The same, it goes without saying, applies to Lutyens-designed country houses in Surrey. A few years ago Chris Evan bought one, started building work, and so scandalised his neighbours that English Heritage moved in and slapped a Grade II listing on the place.
Owners of less grandiose, and less obviously protected, properties also have to jump through the hoops - sorry, flat owners, you all need planning permission before beginning any works that will affect the exterior of the building.
Specific Planning Permission Restrictions - Pubs, Pigs & Padded Cells!
No, you can't covert your home into a pub!
There are, however, many exceptions. For example, your plans may contravene the original planning permission for your house.
Many older houses may have seemingly bizarre restrictions (restrictive covenants) on changes you can make, for example, barring you from converting your house into a pub or a lunatic asylum.
Converting a building with an existing use - shop or a pub, a church or a barn - will require planning permission, as will dividing off part of your house to use as a separate home, for example as a granny flat, or for business use, or converting a garage into living space.
And if the work you want to do could obstruct the view of road users, or would involve a new or wider access to a road, then the planning department would definitely have to be involved.
But, perhaps more realistically, your house may have been built with a clause to stop people putting up fences in front gardens. Your local council will be able to tell you if the development of your house is restricted in any way.
Who Doesn't Need Planning Permission - Permitted Rights
If you live in a semi, or a detached house, things are less restricted. You can usually increase the volume of your home by 15 per cent, or 70 cubic metres, (whichever is more) under your permitted development rights.
For a terraced house (including an end terrace) you usually have a right to increase the volume of the original house by up to ten per cent or 50 cubic metres.
Popular small projects such as conservatories, side-return kitchen extensions and loft conversions with a dormer, often fall within the owner's development rights. And you can sometimes even fit in two small projects.
Buyer Beware - Permission For What?
But it's not only home improvers who need to worry about planning permission. When you're buying a house that has been altered your solicitor must check that the work has been approved by the planning office.
One poor buyer came a cropper when she bought a house because it had a 'bungalow' in the garden. It was in a dilapidated state, but she planned to modernise it for her sick mother to live in.
Unfortunately her solicitors failed to check out the planning permission for her mother's future home, and feathers flew when they found out that it had only, in fact, been granted planning permission as a bird house.
Sensible Sellers - Planning Poundspinner
There are a few owners who apply for planning permission for works that they don't intend to carry out.
Edward Foley of Winkworth, Wimbledon, explains: "Planning permission can be an extremely efficient way of adding a great deal of value to your property, and at comparatively little cost.
"We recently marketed a property with ambitious plans to extend sidewise. It has increased the desirability of the property and opened it up to a much wider audience.
"The result is a 1.3 million pound property which has generated a fantastic amount of interest after being on the market for only two weeks."
1. Do You Need It?
Firstly, find out if your grand design does require planning permission. To do this either contact the planning department of your council, or use the online planning service at Planning Portal.
2. Ask A Planning Officer
If you do need permission, ask your planning officer if he or she can see any obvious difficulties with your proposal, and any ways to make it more acceptable. Tony McDonald at Wandsworth Council offers the following top tips when applying for permission:
- Check out your local council's policies on their website.
- Look at the schemes that have already been approved locally.
- Make sure your proposal fits in with your area.
- Think about how you would feel if your proposed work was built next door to you!
3. Draw Up Plans
Many homeowners hand over the responsibility for obtaining planning permission to their architect or builder.
Architect Your Home offer a unique system that will do some or all of this - for plans and a survey, they reckon £1,500. To submit the plans £170-250. For design work, £450 for half a day consultation.
Tony McDonald at Wandsworth Council says: "An architect could present your scheme in the best light, but it is possible to do it yourself if you look at your local council's website and see the kind of drawings that are required."
4. Fill In The Forms
You will need to fill in the necessary forms, enclosing your fee (usually £135 in England), a plan of the site, and a copy of the drawings showing your proposed work.
4. Public Announcement
Your application will be put on the Planning Register at the council offices for public inspection. Your neighbours will be sent a letter, or a notice will be put up near your house, and perhaps one in your local paper.
5. Fingers Crossed
Now all you can do is cross your fingers, and be nice to your neighbours. Expect to wait around eight weeks for a decision.
6. Acceptance Or Refusal?
The council officers will then make their decision based on the impact that your ideas would have on the appearance and the safety of the surrounding area.
Only a small percentage) of applications are refused. Tony McDonald says: "Plans are usually rejected if they conflict with policy, over-scaled and un-neighbourly, or if they are badly designed."
You may have a fabulously individual plan, but it won't make life easy. Tony suggests checking out what is usually accepted on your local council's website. He advises, "less common structures can create problems."
7. Rethink Or Appeal?
If you are refused you can appeal against the decision, but it's probably simpler to talk to your planning officer, and find out whether there are any modifications that might make your proposal more acceptable.
8. Second Attempt
You may be able to submit another application with modified plans free of charge within six months of the decision on your first application.
9. Start Work
Within no time you can put all this behind you and start enjoying the rumble of cement mixers and the endless tea making.
10. Sell With Planning Permission
The again, maybe not. If building work horrifies you and you plan to move anyway, having planning permission in place can be a good way to help sell your house.
Indeed, some estate agents say having permission in place for, say, an extension or a loft conversion, can add 10-15 per cent to the value.