The UK planning system exists to retain our heritage while allowing for the improvement of our towns, cities and countryside. Parliament controls national planning policy, but your local authority is responsible for deciding whether or not a development should go ahead.
If you wish to carry out certain building work you will need to seek permission from the planning department of your local authority. It is your responsibility to seek planning permission and, if required, approval should be granted before work begins.
If you live in a Conservation Area or own a Grade 1, 2 or 2* listed property you will be subject to further conditions that will be set out by your local authority or regulatory bodies such as English Heritage. If in doubt, always check with your local authority.
How long will it take to get planning permission?
A typical planning application for an extension or a loft conversion should take 8 weeks. This is the time limit set out by central government that local authorities have to stick to, although this rises to 13 weeks for complex applications.
It is important to consider the time you will need to assemble your planning application. You will need to:
- Survey your home and prepare accurate drawings of the existing property and your proposal for development
- Support your application with a 'Design Access Statement' that demonstrates you have considered the form, proportion, layout, volume, materials and impact of your proposal with the guidelines set out by your local authority
- Allow 4-10 weeks, as you will be making important decisions that you will have to live with for some time. In total, from the initial design work to the decision on your planning application, the time frame could be five months or longer.
What will help my application to be approved?
The key factors taken into consideration are:
NEIGHBOURS and whether they raise any objections
DESIGN specifically the quality of design and whether it is in keeping with surrounding properties
IMPACT of the layout, size and volume of your proposal and whether it impacts detrimentally on your neighbours through loss of light, amenity or privacy
When the planners are considering your application, it's not enough for you and your neighbours to be happy with the proposal. Planners take future owners of the property into account and consider the wider impacts of your proposal within their own Local Development Plans.
The trouble with planning permission
It's subjective. You are mostly at the mercy of the planners. If they don't agree with your proposal, it will be refused – even if you feel that you've met the criteria set out in their design guidelines and can demonstrate that there are similar developments within your immediate area.
It's piecemeal. Most local planning departments are over-burdened and don't have the time to provide you with adequate pre-planning advice. High turnover of staff (we have a national shortage of qualified planners) creates major problems, especially if your planning officer leaves mid-way through the application process.
It's emotional. Keeping neighbours up to date in person is a great way of minimising written objections to your application. There is nothing neighbours hate more than first hearing about your development plans from the council. This is often more down to concerns about noisy builders than the aesthetic merits of your proposal.
Why should I bother getting planning permission?
- When raising money to fund your project it is standard practice for lenders to request evidence of planning permission before releasing the full funds.
- If you want to sell your property, you'll need to demonstrate to your buyer's solicitor that you have carried out your improvements in accordance with the relevant planning laws.
- Work carried out without planning permission will often have to be taken down if the local authority finds out.
Certain minor changes to your property may be covered by Permitted Development. If the work you plan to carry out falls within certain guidelines then you do not require planning permission.