Building ‘permissions’

This wasn’t going to be the next theme for my blog, but I’ve had a few people contact me recently a bit confused about their home projects. This blog is aimed to give you an idea about permissions for your projects.




Do I need planning permission?


Sort of.


Planning permission is there for a good reason. It’s to protect you / your neighbours / your local area from development that is unsuitable – planning permission arose from the need to protect human health. Now, by unsuitable, I mean things like blocking light, privacy, keeping the street scene, to ensure the size of rooms / houses / gardens etc are appropriate for the number of residents etc.




For many properties, some alternations are covered by permitted development. These sort of alterations can include changing your windows, adding a SMALL porch, building a single storey extension to the rear (and in some cases two storey), adding a dormer to the roof to the rear, adding solar panels.


  • solar panels

You don’t technically need ‘approval’ for projects covered under the permitted development rights for your property, BUT for extensions / loft conversions / conservatories etc. I would always recommend applying for a certificate of lawful development. It’s an application to the local authority just to confirm that what you are doing is lawful. It’s not necessary, but it can help with concerned neighbours and legal searches if and when you come to sell.   




For bigger projects, you will need planning permission. Planning permission is granted (or not) by your local authority. Regardless of where you are in the country, the process is the same. You make an application, you pay a fee, the application is determined by the planning team and you have a result. There’s a time limit of 8 weeks for minor development (like extensions) and 13 weeks for major developments (think lots of houses). The aim is to have an answer within the 8 weeks, but local authorities are busy so you should allow for the full 8 weeks. Sometimes it takes a bit longer – the local authority will let you know if it’s going to exceed the time frames. Technically you can appeal the lack of decision, but in reality, that’s likely to take longer than just working with the local authority on the sticking point.





  • planning permission

You need certain things to submit a planning application. The basics are a site plan, existing drawings and what your proposing. Sometimes you need additional information – it’s very site specific but if you need this level of information, your professional should talk you through it.




If you live in a designated area (e.g. conservation area), the permitted development right may be restricted in order to protect the conservation area. If your building is listed, you will need to apply for planning permission. If in doubt, check with your local authority or your professional.


[As a side, sometimes the local authority try to charge you for asking – they’re covering it under preapplication advise].




No one can guarantee planning permission.

Building Control


Now, regardless of whether you need planning permission or you are within lawful development rights, you need building control approval. Planning permission protects from inappropriate development, building control makes sure what’s being built is safe and efficient. If you build something that doesn’t comply with the regulations, you will be asked to alter or remove it. You can be prosecuted and you can be fined if you don’t comply. The building control team are NOT the same team as the planning team. They may both work for the local authority (depends on your area and route – your professional or contractor should be able to guide you), but they do not do the same job. If you have planning permission, it does not give you building control consent, and vise versa.




There are some things you can do without needing building control approval as long as they are carried out by a competent registered person (think Gas Safe for your boiler). Most repairs, maintenance and replacements (like windows, or a new replacement kitchen) you can also do without building control consent, but the replacements must still comply with the current safety and energy standards. I.e. your new windows are likely going to be more energy efficient than the ones you’re taking out. FENSA certificates cover replacement windows




There’s a list here if you need to check:


Once you click on your project there’s a tab on the left to switch between planning and building control.




Although you will pay for building control, and they are part of your team who will answer questions and queries etc., they are not designers. I’ve heard ‘building control designed my foundations’ from a builder. No, building control don’t design foundations, they’ve simply said what you’ve got doesn’t comply and pointed you in the right direction.




So in short:


          Always aim for planning permission, but you may not need it.


          You do need building control.


Still not sure – ask.