Planning permission rules and regulations

Planning regulations for houses can, understandingly, seem daunting at first, but they needn't be confusing or complex.

The guidelines

The government sets out what you can and cannot do to your home and garden, (referred to as curtilage), in a document called the General Permitted Development Order. This includes the terms of development you can start without getting planning permission from your local council. This is known as Permitted Development, or is often shortened to PD.

Permitted Development allows you to extend your house, make alterations to it, add additions into the roof, such as dormers to the rear or roof lights to any part of the roof, new windows, doors and porches, outbuildings, hard surfacing, decking and raised platforms, or solar panels both on your roof or within your garden.

Central government have increasingly relaxed PD rights for homeowners over the years, to allow for more types of development, which have increased hugely in the past few years, yet this move has reduced the burden on the planning system. A key example of this is the relaxation over the depth of single storey rear extensions.

The criteria

All of these require you to meet a set list of criteria. The first to note is it has to be to a dwellinghouse; this does not include flats. If you are ever uncertain about whether you meet these criteria, you can apply to your local council to assess this for you by submitting what is called a Lawful Development Certificate. This costs just half of what a normal planning application costs, and the requirements for information to be submitted are significantly less. These confirm, formally, in writing, your assumptions about what you intend to do (they cannot be submitted in retrospect) and gives you some peace of mind.

It isnt compulsory to do, but if you were to fast forward to the start of the works, and suddenly your neighbours raise concerns, or worse still, complain to the local council, it will certainly help. The council provide a formal certificate to confirm if the works comply with the PD rights. This is also useful when you come to sell your property. Conveyancing solicitors often like to see confirmation planning permission was not required – and so will prospective buyers.

The problems

Pitfalls people often fall into include not obtaining confirmation or being uncertain about the rights they have. Sometimes the PD rights a homeowner thinks they have may be misinterpreted when checking the legislation. Alternatively, the works they want to carry out may have already been exercised in the past. For example, a rear extension of the dimensions allowed under PD rights may have been built previously, and therefore you cannot go ahead and build a further extension under PD. However, this just means planning permission is required – and the local council may well approve it. Ultimately, the permitted development rights are there to allow flexibility for homeowners, and protection for neighbours, the landscape and street scene.

The breakdown

There are ways of obtaining simple advice on what the rather wordy legislation really means. Central government produces information via its Planning Portal website, where Lawful Development Certificates and Planning Applications can be electronically submitted. There is also central government guidance available for householders to help interpret more specifically the individual criteria under the relevant sections of the legislation.

Planning permission in itself is more complex. There are many more considerations which have to be taken into account when a council assess the acceptability of a planning application, as opposed to the pre-defined applications for Lawful Development Certificates. Neighbours are also consulted, as well as the local parish or town council for that area. Planning permission is also time limited if it is approved, and subject to other conditions which must be adhered to.

Some conditions which the local council can impose require the submission of information to the council through a discharge of conditions application. The wording of the condition is important, as it will outline what is required, and at what point in the development approved. Failure to provide certain information, or to comply with conditions, could result in the council taking action against you.

It is worth remembering that any development you wish to carry out to your home may require planning permission. Obtaining confirmation that it doesn’t is advisable. Any development which is carried out is done so at the risk of the homeowner, and councils do take action if there is harm caused.