It’s easy to get carried away with planning works to your home without considering whether or not you need formal consent for such works.
Failure to obtain the relevant consent not only puts you at risk of costly enforcement action but can also cause difficulties if you wish to sell your home.
But what do you need to think about before you commence works?
• Planning permission exists to ensure the development of land is carried out in a planned and appropriate fashion and is the responsibility of the relevant local authority.
• Planning law affects whether a building can be built, demolished, altered or extended, it also affects the use of property, for example as a residential home or a shop. Generally planning permission is not required for maintenance, improvement or other alterations of a building which affects the interior only.
• Heavy fines can be issued for breach of planning laws and in some scenarios an order can be made for the building works to be destroyed. Enforcement action can be taken against subsequent owners even if they were not responsible for the breach.
• Certain works may be carried out to a property which falls within what is known as “permitted development”. If applicable, this automatically grants planning permission to works which falls within its scope. The rules surrounding this can be complicated so it is best to check with the local authority as to whether or not this would apply prior to commencing any work.
• Permitted development rights in some cases may be restricted by the local authority and will not apply where a property is a listed building or within a conservation area both of which are subject to tighter controls.
• If you are about to purchase a property it is important to ascertain that planning permission has been granted for both the initial construction and any subsequent works that have been undertaken by the seller or their predecessors. Your legal advisor will assist you with this as part of the purchase process.
• If there has been a breach of planning control there are time limits within which the local authority must take enforcement action – again your legal advisor can assist you with this.
• Listed buildings are of outstanding historic or architectural interest, and listed building consent must be obtained for the development of a listed building which may also apply to internal works and works within the curtilage of a listed building. A detailed article regarding listed buildings can be found here
• Non-compliance is a criminal offence and there are no time limits for enforcement.
• It is important to take extra care when purchasing a listed building and to obtain details of all works carried out and ensure consent was obtained.
Conservation areas are areas of special architectural of historic interest and are intended to preserve or enhance the character, as such these areas are subject to tighter planning controls and it is prudent to check with the conservation officer/local authority prior to commencing works.
In addition to planning permission other private controls on land such as restrictive covenants may exist which could restrict or prohibit development.
Building Regulation Consent
As a separate issue to planning permission the need to obtain building regulation approval from the local authority must be considered whenever building works are to be undertaken.
Building regulations are concerned with the health and safety aspects of works and regulate for example the types of materials used and consent is often required even if planning permission is not.
There are many, which on the face of it, appear to be minor home improvement schemes that require building regulation approval for example replacing windows, electrical works, the installation of a boiler, the installation of a wood burner, drainage and plumbing works.
Some contractors are able to self certify their work for the purposes of building regulation approval. They are regulated by their trades own governing body and on completion of the works they issue the certificate and notify the local authority of the completion of the works.
Some examples of where self certified schemes are used:-
FENSA – windows and doors;
HETAS – installation of wood burning appliances;
ELECSA – electrical works;
Gas Safe – installation of gas appliances.
As with planning permission care must be taken by a buyer who is purchasing a property to ensure the relevant approvals exist for all works undertaken to the property.
Further guidance can be obtained from the Planning Portal