How Does Planning Permission Work?

Knowing about planning permission, how it works, when it is needed and equally when it is not needed is paramount to many building and refurbishment projects. This apples across all scales of project. However, there are some types of project for which planning permission is a more frequent requirement:

  • Extensive Property Renovations
  • Loft Conversions
  • Changes of Use of Properties
  • New Builds and New Homes
  • Projects Involving Restructuring of Properties

Particularly when it comes to projects requiring refurbishments, where permission may not be needed, it is crucial to understand whether or not you need to apply for any form of permission. Moreover, there are properties and projects where there is little if any scope for work. In such cases, it is important to avoid carrying out work so as to avoid penalties that may be imposed by a Local Planning Authority (LPA).

Proceeding without planning permission when it is required can lead to hefty fines, legal proceedings and even the requirement to reverse the works. Applications for permission are straightforward to complete and are generally completed online, to be forwarded to your LPA who will grant or refuse applications based on various factors and considerations.

Applying for Planning Permission

Applying for planning permission is purposely made easy and straightforward to allow applicants to submit everything required of them in an efficient and logical manner for consideration by their LPA. However, prior to making an application, there are a few basic criteria that should be considered and accounted for with regards to the property or project in question including:

  • Are there Permitted Development Rights in place for the property?
  • Is the building or any adjacent properties listed buildings?
  • What extent of work has been carried out previously on the property?
  • Are there any specific local planning laws or restrictions in place?
  • What type of property are you looking to perform works on?

Although none of the above may be relevant to the project in question, it is always worthwhile to seek the advice of a surveyor and any relevant legal professionals to ensure everything is sound from the very start of any building or development works. In cases of development finance for example, these costs will be included and accounted for; this is one of the uses of development finance in the first place.

The Application Process

Although submission of an application and the necessary supporting documents is usually free of charge, there may be fees involved such as surveyors and legal experts’ fees in addition to others. Furthermore, the precise process, costings and details are dependent on the LPA. However, many project managers and tradespeople commissioned for works are well-attuned to assisting with these applications and requirements. Also, different projects will need different rights and this dictates the exact type of application that will be made.

For example, a self-build project’s planning needs will differ from those for a property that simply needs interior refurbishments and decoration, covered by a simple refurbishment loan. However, there are times where time may be of the essence, for example a property purchased using auction finance that requires work in order to be resold is likely to need works to be completed quicker.

Other Planning Considerations

In addition to the factors pertaining to specific properties and the type of building to which works are to be carried out upon, there are other (sometimes generic) considerations and factors to account for which are of equal importance. These include:

Design and Build of the Property – This relates to what the works will actually entail. A loft conversion for example may require restructuring of the roof in the case of a mansard conversion and this needs to be accounted for and planning permission granted. A conservatory’s addition on the other hand falls under the remit of Permitted Development (in most cases), so permission is not necessarily needed.

Impact on the Neighbours and Neighbourhood – There is a great deal of weight given to the potential impact that building work may have on residents living close by. For example, if an extension is likely to impact on the ‘Rights of Light’ [the right of a neighbour to receive sufficient natural light], the application is likely to be rejected quite early on. The impact that noise during works is also taken into account.

Environmental Impact – This covers the impact of building work on the local environment. For example, a project that requires many trees to be removed and grassy areas to be paved over may be rejected on an environmental basis. This also relates to the impact a project may have on local infrastructure such as sewage and drainage, although that is less likely in cases of works to smaller extents.

Type and Status of the Property – Some properties have restricted development rights, whilst others have full development rights. This pertains to listed buildings (depending on their grade of listing) and those that may not be practical to perform major works upon, such as outhouses or otherwise.

What Happens Without Planning Permission?

Blatant breaches and the ignoring of planning laws usually leads to harsh penalties and legal action being imposed by the LPA. However, those who proceed without planning permission in cases where such permission is a requirement face a number of potential challenges and eventualities:

Retrospective Planning Permission – This is where there is an application made to the Council and LPA after the works have been completed. In some cases, the LPA may grant permission retrospectively, depending on the precise nature and size of the works completed before being granted permission.

Legal Action and Financial Penalties – The LPA or even neighbours may take the proprietor to court for breaching planning laws. The courts may then decide to impose financial penalties which, depending on the nature of the breach can stretch into the tens of thousands of Pounds.

Enforcement Notices and Demolition – An Enforcement Notice may be issued by the LPA in cases where the works need to be reversed. This will be at the expense of the property owner. In such cases, the Council will give the property owner a time limit within which to reverse the works that breached planning laws. The proprietor will need to reverse the works performed to how the property was prior to the work being carried out.