Planning & Building Regulations

What is Planning Permission?

Planning Permission is formal permission from a Local Authority for the erection or alteration of buildings or similar development.

In simple terms it is asking if you can do a certain piece of building work for example to build a house or an extension to a house which will be either granted (possibly subject to certain conditions, known as Planning Conditions) or refused.

When is Planning Permission Required?

Certain works depending on where your property is situated, may be carried out by the homeowner under “Permitted Development” rules. These vary depending on what works are proposed to be carried out, the location of the property and when.

Permitted Development can be withdrawn in certain circumstance depending on the area, it is therefore important to always check with the Local Planning Authority before you commence any building works which are assumed to be permitted under the Permitted Development rules.

Where building is not permitted under the Permitted Development rules then a planning application will usually be necessary and should be made before you commence building works.

Additional planning restrictions will usually apply if the property is a listed building, in which case virtually any work is likely to require permission, including internal alterations (or  where  the property is located within a conservation area).

Extensions which are built over a public sewer will also require separate consent from the Local Water Authority. This is known as a Build Over Agreement.

A Local Authority Search will reveal whether planning permission has previously been granted on  a property, the search will also reveal any ongoing proceedings for breach of planning legislation, such as enforcement notices.

Search results may also reveal where works have been carried out to a property where planning permission has not been obtained. For example, if your survey results show that an extension has been added to the property and there is nothing revealed on the Local Search results then it is possible that the works were undertaken without the necessary permission.

When making enquiries with the seller one of the questions raised by your solicitor will be to ask the seller to disclose building works undertaken at the property and to provide  evidence  of planning consent.

A seller may not always provide accurate information in relation to these enquiries or may indeed be unaware of building works carried out prior to their ownership of the property.

We therefore recommend that clients instruct a surveyor to carry out a survey on the property so that your surveyor can identify any building works or alterations that may have been carried out at the property.

Planning Breaches

Local Authorities have the power to enforce breaches of planning legislation. Generally enforcement action will only be taken within four years of the work being completed however this is a generalisation as whether or not enforcement action will be taken will depend on certain factors specific to each case.

If a planning permission is granted subject to planning conditions then those conditions can be enforced by the Local Authority for a much longer period, usually ten years from when the works were completed.

Building Regulation Approval

Building Regulations serve to ensure that a building or works to a building are carried out and completed in accordance with building regulation requirements and are safe for use by people and in their construction.

Consent is required for the construction of any dwelling and any works which affect the structure of the building, fire safety, ventilation, drainage, energy conservation and also access for disabled people.

Examples of when building regulation consent is required will include extensions to the property, works to the gas or electrical installations within a property, where replacing windows and doors, loft conversions, the removal of internal loadbearing walls and garage conversions.

In some situations Competent Persons who are registered with an approved installer can issue certificates of compliance. For example where a property has a replacement boiler or windows or where works are carried out to the electrical installations, a competent contractor who is registered is able to issue a certificate in lieu of building regulation consent.

Building Regulation Breaches

Enforcement action can be taken if building regulations are not obtained. Local Authority generally only takes enforcement action within 12 months of the works being completed however where there is a risk to health and safety of any person there is no limit to the time when action can be taken against a person for breach of building regulations.

Where works have been carried out with building regulation approval then the question as to the quality of the works will always be a concern. If you are considering buying a property where works have been undertaken without building regulations then this should be raised with your surveyor prior to a survey being carried out and where necessary a structural survey be commissioned.

Indemnity Insurance

In some situations indemnity insurance for breach of planning and building regulations can be obtained.

When considering this option it is important to be aware of the costs, the reasons for considering such insurance and the requirements of the insurer. Please note that if you are purchasing a property  either without building  or planning  consents in place then it is important  not to   contact your Local Authority or anybody responsible for enforcement action in the first instance as doing so may result in you not being able to obtain such insurance.

Finally, please note that if insurance is proposed, this only covers the legal risk of enforcement by the Local Authority and does not give any guarantee as to the quality or safety of the works that were carried out without the required consents.