How to understand Building and Planning Regulations

What are planning and building controls? Why do they exist? Can you deal with them yourself or is it best to ask a specialist? As with any task, you can decide for yourself when you know exactly what’s involved.

First of all, it’s important to understand what planning and building regulations are. It’s easy to think of them as restrictive, bureaucratic tools put in place purely to thwart your ambitions. However, they’re essential safety mechanisms which have been designed to protect you, your neighbours and the local environment.

The regulatory bodies will give you permission to carry out your plans unless there are very good reasons not to – in which case they must explain their decision. And if you disagree, you have the right to appeal against it.

Below is some information on planning permissions and building regulations which apply to any rennovation work you might need to do.

Planning permission

Planning permission regulates the use, location and appearance of buildings and other structures. What might seem a minor alteration initially, can have far-reaching implications. For example, a structure that could obscure a driver’s vision near a junction, might be a traffic hazard. Equally, a local authority can refuse planning permission because the proposed scheme wouldn’t blend in with its surroundings. If you live in a listed building, you’ll need listed building consent for any significant exterior or interior works. Conservation areas also have stricter rules than normal.

Building Regulations

Building Regulations focus on structural integrity and the suitability of the materials used. Most building works, including alterations or extensions, have to meet certain standards to safeguard public health and safety – and also, increasingly, to guarantee satisfactory levels of insulation and energy efficiency. It’s important to remember that even when you don’t need planning permission, you might well need to take Building Regulations into account.

All side, rear, single and multiple storey extensions will require building regulations approval from your local authority

Permitted development rights

You can make certain changes to your home without the need to apply for planning permission. These permitted development rights were clarified and extended in October 2008 to cover a range of household building projects that used to automatically require an application for planning permission. You can now carry out these projects without having any formal permission, provided they meet a range of key conditions (for example, those relating to the size and height of an extension, and its proximity to a highway). The specific projects include:

  • Extensions, conservatories, garages and outbuildings
  • Loft conversions
  • Solar roof panels
  • Roof alterations
  • Patios and driveways

For full details of the conditions that apply in each case, see www.planningportal.gov.uk

Do bear in mind that that the permitted development rights for houses are different from those for flats, maisonettes, commercial premises and other buildings. Listed properties also have different rules, as do those on ‘designated land’, which includes national parks, conservation areas and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty. As planning rules do differ across the UK, it’s worth getting advice from your Local Planning Authority, if you’re thinking of carrying out any work – just to be sure.

If you think an extension or loft conversion is right for you and want reliable tradesmen and reputable builders to create your new space, please feel free to contact us and arrange a free home visit.