empower yourself by understanding what’s involved and why it matters
Planning regulations in the UK are notoriously complex, and falling into the pitfall of the ill-informed is an all too common occurrence. Set out below is an overview of planning law in the UK, the things you must consider as a home owner embarking upon a building project, and the process getting planning consent.
In 2012 the government published the first National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), the basis from which local councils produce their own local plans, which in turn inform decisions on individual planning applications.
Decision Making Considerations
When a decision is made on a planning application, only certain issues, referred to as ‘material planning considerations,' are taken into account. It is important to understand what material, and likewise non-material, planning considerations are:
overlooking / loss of privacy
loss of daylight / sunlight or overshadowing
scale and dominance
appearance and materials proposed
impact on character or appearance of area
previous planning decisions.
pre application advice
who the applicant is/ background
loss of views
loss of property value
strength / volume of local opposition.
construction noise / disturbance during development
fears of damage to property
maintenance to property
There are instances in which development is permitted without requiring express consent from the planning authority. These are referred to as permitted development rights and are granted in the form of General Development Planning Orders, which in effect give implied planning consent.
In order to carry out work under permitted development, the proposal must strictly conform to the current criteria, and it should be noted that any space added by past owners to your property since 1948 count towards your permitted development allocation.
Conservation areas are designated by local authorities for their special architectural and historic interest. The designation does not preclude development from taking place, but does require that developments preserve or enhance the historic character of the area.
Some buildings of special architectural or historic interest are placed onto a statutory list of buildings, which means that in addition to planning consent, ‘listed building consent’ is required in order to make any changes to the building.
The buildings on this list make up approximately 2% of the English building stock, and there are three ‘grades’ of listing:
buildings are of exceptional interest
(approximately 2.5% of all listed buildings)
buildings are particularly important and of more than special interest
(approximately 5.5% of all listed buildings)
buildings are of special interest
(approximately 92% of all listed buildings)
A ‘pre-application’ is where you meet with a planning officer employed by your local council prior to submitting the planning application itself. This provides an opportunity to discuss your project and often brings a lot of benefit such as verifying the requirements of the local planning authority and better understanding how the local policies affect your proposal. This process generally gives your scheme the best chance of being granted planning permission.
Application / Validation
The submission should be made via the online planning portal, where you will be advised of all the documents that you need to submit as well as the correct fee to pay. After submission, a period of ‘validation’ follows, where the local council checks the application and requests any outstanding information.
For householder applications, the following information is required:
Completed application form
Ownership certificate (stating the owner of the application site)
Existing & Proposed Elevations
Existing & Proposed Floor Plans
Existing and Proposed Roof Plans
Site sections (only if on a sloping site)
Parking Plan (only if converting garage to living space)
Flood risk assessment (only if development is in flood zones area 2 or 3)
Once it has been confirmed that all the required information has been submitted, a consultation period follows where neighbours are sent letters with instruction on how to view and comment on planning applications online. Where applicable, external bodies are consulted for their expert view.
After the consultation period, the case officer that has been assigned to your project will visit the site and assess the application. Any responses from the consultation period are reviewed, and relevant planning policies considered.
Your local council approves / refuses planning permission by sending you a letter notifying you of the decision.
In many cases planning approval comes with conditions attached to it, which if not addressed can invalidate the consent. These conditions are designed to either enhance the quality of the development, or enable development to proceed where it would otherwise have been necessary to refuse planning permission.
It may be possible to make minor changes to the proposal after it has been consented, however this should always be discussed with your local planning department and agreed in principle before submitting the ‘non-material’ amendment application.
Following approval of your planning application, you have three years to start work on site before it expires.
In the event that your planning application is refused, it doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your project. Your local planning authority must give written reasons why it has been decided to refuse your application, and it may be that with an amended application, it will gain consent. The case officer should be available to discuss what options are available to you.
If you think the authority’s decision is unreasonable, you may wish to consider appealing to the Secretary of State, however this option should only be considered as a last resort. Should you decide to pursue an appeal, it must be submitted within six months from the date of the decision letter, and is most commonly in the form a a written document that states all the reasons why you believe the application should be granted, along with completed forms. There is no guaranteed timeline for getting a response, however for householder applications, it is generally a couple months.
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