Guide to Planning Permission

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What You Need to Know

  1. Even small alterations to a property such as fitting a new fence or satellite dish may require planning permission, so always double-check before carrying out any work.
  2. Planning laws can be complicated, especially for extensions or other major projects. Work with your local council and consider getting expert help.
  3. Councils tend to charge a fee to process planning permission applications. However, check to see if you are entitled to an exemption or concessionary rate.
  4. Councils will require some basic information, including the type of work you want to carry out and what type of property is to be refurbished, in order to process your claim.
  5. If you want to carry out work to a listed or historic building, the planning permission process can be even more complicated and time-consuming.
  6. Be aware from the beginning that obtaining planning permission can take a while. Be patient and never start any work before you have the appropriate green light.

Introduction to Planning Permission

Many alterations to your home - from extensions to alterations to a porch, installation of a satellite dish, or even a new fence - might need planning permission.

Planning laws are complicated, and in essence you shouldn't go ahead with any work - or even commission it - without either putting it in the hands of an architect (an expensive route) or speaking direct to your local council, which has the relevant information at its fingertips. Your council may not give you an instant answer over the phone, but it will give you the right response if you can wait a few days.

Some building works can be done without planning permission - under what is called Permitted Development Rights - but be very careful to read the regulations because they are not straight forward, don’t apply to all buildings, and could leave you with a costly legal argument at the end of the day.

And let's face it, you might as well get the council to do the work for you; that is why you pay tax.

Things you Need to Consider

If you do talk to your council you should be able to let it know some basic information:

  • What kind of house/flat/etc you live in. (Flats usually need permission)
  • Who owns it.
  • Whereabouts your extension will be.
  • The size of the proposed extension.
  • Whether there have been previous additions to the building.
  • How close the extension would be to your neighbours.
  • Has your house been extended in the past?

If the council decides that permission is necessary, then that means form-filling. Many councils allow residents to download the forms from their website, but all should be able to post the correct forms to you.

Generally, planning applications are dealt with within two months - and in reality most applications get approved. But this fact does not mean that you can blithely start doing the work and apply for permission later. That could result in your having to change the building work even if you have finished or, in the worst case, be ordered to take it down (and that will involve court actions and legal costs).

Additional Considerations

That is not quite the end of the story. In some areas and on some types of property you might need additional permissions - for example, if you are living in a listed building or have noteworthy trees that will be affected. Again, your council should be able to advise you.

Further Reading


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