AC design solutions on permitted development and planning permission

Planning permission

Not every home refurbishment you undertake at your property will require planning permission.

There is a legal right called ‘Permitted Development’ rights which allows householders to perform certain types of work at their property without the need to apply for planning permission and you might be surprised at what these can include.  For instance, you can usually convert your loft (providing your home is not listed or in a conservation area) under permitted development rights and not just roofline conversions; some dormer conversions as well will fall within PD.

Permitted Development rights derive from a general planning permission granted by Parliament so are nothing to do with the local authority.  PD is usually only applicable to houses and so does not apply to maisonettes, flats or other buildings and there are different types of PD for domestic properties as opposed to commercial properties.  If the house is a listed building then different criteria will apply and permitted development rights can be restricted in what are termed designated areas which include:-

  • Conservation areas
  • National Parks
  • AONB – Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • World Heritage Sites
  • The Norfolk and Suffolk Broads

Liaising closely with your Architect or Architectural Consultants is really important right from the outset irrespective of where your project might sit on the planning spectrum.  It can be an advantage not to have to apply for planning permission as it can save the householder time and money but the fact that planning permission is not required and the project falls within PD is not carte blanche to push the boundaries and build or develop whatever you like.

Can Permitted Development be withdrawn or altered?

Sometimes a local planning authority may have removed some of the hone owner’s permitted development rights by issuing what is called an Article 4 direction.  In essence, this means that the householder has to submit a planning application for work which would not normally need one.  Article 4 directions are made when the character of a particular area is under threat and there is a need to control random developments, something which is most commonly seen in conservation areas.

What is a Lawful Development Certificate?

If you undertake works to your home that fall within the remit of permitted development then you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate or LDC when they are finished.  An LDC is not obligatory but it can be useful if you are likely to have to demonstrate that the development is legal and can be helpful when you are selling your home as any significant development is bound to be queried by your purchaser’s solicitors.  It can speed things up to have an LDC readily available.

An LDC is obtained from the local planning authority and you will need to apply and complete a form with sufficient detail so the council can make a judgement.  There is also a fee payable.  Sometimes, applying for an LDC can be very complex and a professional adviser like an architect may be required to help you with this.  The planning authority has eight weeks to evaluate the application and issue a certificate.

Planning Permission

If you intend to carry out works on your property or even build an entirely new house then you will require planning permission.  A good Architect or Architectural Consultant should be able to steer your planning application through and design something which keeps the customer happy and is likely to be passed by the local planning authority.  Sometimes consent may be granted subject to certain conditions which may mean changes to the drawings or, the application can be refused which means it is back to the drawing board, literally.

Parliament has given the main responsibility for the control of planning matters to local planning authorities who are usually a designated department within your local council.  If you are not taking professional advice and/or your project doesn’t require the services of a surveyor or architect then you can still discuss your design ideas with the local planning authority to help determine whether or not you might need planning permission.

Retrospective planning permission

Planning permission if it is required, should be granted before work begins.  Sometimes, however, a project can go ahead under the mistaken impression that it falls within permitted development whereas in fact it falls outside PD and will require planning consent.  Failure to obtain planning permission in situations when it is required is called a planning breach.  In these scenarios, changes to a property that should have had planning permission and have been made without approval can result in the householder being requested by the local authority to submit a retrospective planning application.

The request to apply for planning permission does not automatically mean that it will be granted; some people seem to read into this an implication that the local authority is just dotting the ‘is’ and ‘crossing the ts’ but the construction work or development will be looked just as if the plans were coming forward afresh and the work had not been undertaken.  This means, therefore, that planning permission may not automatically be granted.  If retrospective planning permission is refused then the local authority can issue an enforcement notice asking you to return the property to its original condition before the works were carried out.  In reality, some middle ground or compromise is usually sought where the new works are altered to comply with the local planning regulations but only if this is possible.  There have been cases where nothing about the new development would ever have complied with the planning regulations and the homeowner is required to remove or demolish the illegal construction or alteration to the property.

Most professional agents will always work with their clients to develop something that will obtain planning permission as it is a pretty pointless exercise otherwise.  Where you do need a good Architect in your corner is when the new design is pushing the boundaries   – this might be literal or technical but it is in these situations that a good professional adviser really earns their fees.