Understanding The Planning System
Whether your project needs planning permission is a question that is relevant to every client. This subject can be complicated and our role is to help simplify it for you. The Planning system has been set up by the Government to ensure that the right development happens in the right place at the right time but it can seem complex at times – we are here to help you through the process.
We will explain in more detail below what the difference is between planning permission and permitted development, but, very briefly, a development (such as a new house or commercial property, house extension or commercial property extension) usually needs to have permission granted by the local planning authority unless it meets certain criteria and is therefore permitted without needing permission.
Formal confirmation that the proposed project is either permitted development or has been granted planning permission takes around 8 weeks and costs £103 or £206 respectively. Informal officer opinion (‘pre-application enquiry’) takes approximately 2- 4 weeks and costs vary from free to around £85 depending on the local authority.
Property owners, whether of residential or commercial properties, are sometimes confused by the terms ‘planning permission’ and ‘Building Regulations’ and we provide some helpful information here as the two regimes are very different. You may also have responsibilities under the construction health and safety regulations.
You can perform certain types of work that affect the external appearance of the property without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called ‘permitted development rights’. There is more information on our website here. The permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings.
In some areas of the country, known generally as ‘designated areas’, permitted development rights are more restricted. For example, in Sheffield, this apply to the 38 Conservation Areas and, if your property is in Derbyshire, you may well come under the powers of the Peak District National Park planning authority. If you are in a designated area you will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which do not need an application in other areas. There are also different requirements if the property is a listed building.
We will be able to provide advice. If it does appear that the work is permitted development we recommend that we apply for a Lawful Development Certificate on your behalf. This gives the local planning authority the opportunity to confirm that the project is indeed permitted or alternatively request that a planning application is made. This precaution brings peace of mind to our clients and also means a smooth conveyancing process with no delays when the time comes to sell the property.
Sometimes the local planning authority may have removed some of your permitted development rights. There is more information here.
A number of residential projects are single-storey rear extensions and are permitted development so don’t require planning permission. Notable exceptions are what are termed ‘wrap around’ extensions. These are extensions to the rear of a house that also extend to the side of the original house; these do need planning permission. If this sounds a little confusing, don’t worry as we will give advice. 2-storey extensions will also generally require planning permission.
Although some proposed extensions do naturally fit neatly within the permitted development guidelines we are often able to offer more creative and contemporary designs by not attempting to comply with the rather restrictive permitted development criteria. Taken within the context of the entire project budget, the difference in cost between £103 for a lawful development certificate (for permitted development) and £206 for planning permission is negligible and the benefit to the final design can be significant.
Clients are sometimes a little apprehensive about the prospect of applying for planning permission when they first approach us as they may have heard that it is difficult to achieve or the outcome of an application can be unpredictable. At Ecclesall Design we have an amazing record in achieving planning permission – 100% success with planning permission for house extensions – so you can be assured that we do know what we are doing. We often recommend that a pre-application enquiry is made prior to submitting a planning application.
The pre-application process allows time for a planning officer to take a look at a proposed application and provide advice. Some local planning authorities make no charge for this service; others including Sheffield make a small charge such as £85. The feedback we receive allows us to make any required amendments to the drawings prior to making the formal application and greatly increases the likelihood of planning permission being granted.
New Buildings and the Planning System
Sometimes our clients already own a piece of land on which they hope to build, others approach us for advice prior to purchasing. A successful outcome to the project often depends on the planning history of the land. If it already has an existing property or outline planning permission that’s a great start – the principal of development has been established so we can work on appropriate designs that will achieve full planning permission. However, we also have great success in obtaining planning permission on land where there have never been previous buildings.
From a planning point of view there are different categories of land. Greenfield land has not been built on before and includes gardens in urban areas. A brownfield site is defined as ‘previously developed land’ that has the potential for being redeveloped. It is often land that has been used for industrial and commercial purposes and is now derelict and possibly contaminated. A site investigation survey will help to highlight any issues.
A new property on Green Belt land is very unlikely to be granted planning permission. The main aim of Green Belt policy is to stop urban sprawl which means new development is not permitted in general. However, there are exclusions such as agricultural buildings, facilities for outdoor sport and recreation, the extension or alteration of an existing building (as long as it is not a disproportionate addition compared to the existing), the replacement of an existing building by one that is not materially larger and limited infilling in some villages.
Backland, or tandem, development in a back gardens of a residential property is unlikely, but not impossible, to achieve planning permission. An application for a new house in a former side garden is more likely to meet with success as it already has a frontage to the road. Much depends on the impact the proposed new building would have on surrounding properties. We would recommend that a pre-application enquiry be made of the local planning authority for any proposed new build property to establish that a full planning application would be supported.
Commercial property and the Planning System
Whether you are buying or leasing a commercial property, you may need to seek permission to use the building for a different purpose than was originally intended. Building purposes are categorised into “use classes”; if the new purpose falls into the same use class as the existing purpose, you may not need to apply for planning permission.
The occupiers of commercial premises have a range of aspects to consider in relation to the local planning authority including sound issues, opening hours and the use they’re put to. Noise surveys are often requested as part of obtaining planning permission for commercial properties, in order to avoid excess noise as a result of the development that might have significant adverse effects on health and quality of life. We can take care of engaging a suitable surveyor and briefing them so as to meet Planning’s requirements.
Many people these days work from home and using one room of your home for purposes such as a personal office, academic or music tutoring or therapy sessions will not generally require planning permission. However, this is on the condition that the character of the house must remain as a private dwelling. If your activities disturb other residents, through additional traffic and parking for example, this may require planning permission.
The erection, extension or alteration of an industrial building or warehouse is considered to be permitted development, not requiring an application for planning permission, subject to meeting certain criteria. We can advise as to whether your proposed extension or alteration will need planning permission and will provide the architectural drawings and support you need if a planning application is required.
The Planning System and alterations to the external appearance of a property
You will need to apply for planning permission if you wish to erect or add to a fence, wall or gate and:
- it would be over 1 metre high and next to a highway used by vehicles (or the footpath of such a highway); or over 2 metres high elsewhere; or
- your right to put up or alter fences, walls and gates is removed by an article 4 direction or a planning condition; or
- your house is a listed building or in the curtilage of a listed building.
- the fence, wall or gate, or any other boundary involved, forms a boundary with a neighbouring listed building or its curtilage.
Within conservation areas, some alterations or new work that would otherwise be permitted development are not allowed, including side extensions and extension of 2 storeys or more and cladding such as render, stone or timber. Some conservation areas (such as Nether Edge and Broomhill in Sheffield) are subject to an Article 4 Directive that prevents minor changes to properties including windows, doors, walls and gardens which would have a damaging effect on the area’s character and appearance – this means that planning permission is required.
The Article 4 Direction covers works to alter, erect or remove: chimneys, windows, doors, doorways, stonework, brickwork, external timbers, render, extensions, roofs, porches, gates, fences and walls. Along with the provision of: a building, a swimming pool or a hard surface within the curtilage of a dwelling house, including the maintenance, improvement or alteration of any such item. Finally, it covers the painting (or if already painted, the change of colour) of a dwelling house or building or enclosure within the curtilage of a dwelling house (excluding windows, doors and rainwater goods for maintenance purposes).
Understanding The Planning Process – How to get Started
The first step in the planning process is to select the people you want to work with. We provide an excellent service and have 100% success with planning permission for house extensions for our clients, so you can have confidence you’re making the right decision when you choose us.
We provide a detailed quotation that sets out clearly what our fees are and how much the planning authority charges at the various stages. We are always happy to meet prospective clients to consider the project and discuss any queries they might have about our service.
Once we’re engaged, we arrange the initial meeting. This is when we carry out the site survey and take measurements and photographs and also have a chat about what our client hopes to achieve. We’ll be helpful with information about the likely time scales involved.
We arrange the presentation meeting as soon as our initial set of drawings is ready to show. We always suggest we hold this meeting in our client’s home (or the premises in question) as it makes it easy to understand the proposals even for home owners unfamiliar with reading plans if we can just go to the applicable room to show what we mean if there’s any uncertainty about how something would work. We make alterations to the drawings then when they’re ready, it’s time to send them to the planning authority, even for projects that are likely to be permitted development.
We generally recommend that a pre-application enquiry be submitted to the local planning authority. The cost for this varies from zero to around £85, and is invaluable as it provides advice from a planning officer as to whether the proposal is likely to be viewed as permitted development or needs planning permission, and also of any amendments that should be made in order to get permission.
It is useful, for peace of mind before commencing construction and also for ease of eventually selling the property, if a lawful development certificate be obtained to confirm that a project is indeed permitted development. This costs £103 payable to the local planning authority; we make no additional charge for our time in making the application. Confirmation should generally be received within 8 weeks, during which time we can be getting on with the Building Regulation details
A planning application takes 8 weeks to be decided and costs £206 payable to the planning authority. We make the application on your behalf and, again, make no additional charge for our time in making the application or in dealing with any correspondence with the planning officer. We will meet with the officer on site or at the Planning officers at no further cost to our client if this is helpful to the application.
We hope this doesn’t all sound too complicated – our aim was to provide information that would make the planning process easier to understand but we know there is rather a lot to take in. We’re here to help you at every stage of the way. Please get in touch if you’re ready to get started on your project or still have some questions.