Sunday, 10 November 2013

When is planning permission needed for extensions and outbuildings?

A major drawback of running a business from home is the precious domestic space that your enterprise will take up. Whether it be converting a bedroom to office space, using your garage for storage of products, or having a workshop in an outbuilding, your business has the potential to eat into your domestic space at the expense of your home life.

A solution is to extend your home or to find other ways of accommodating your business in your home. However, developing your home to accommodate your business may require planning permission.  This blog advises you on when your home alterations are likely to trigger the need for planning permission.

Do I need planning permission to work from home?
In my previous blog I provided an overview of the UK planning system.  I explained that if your home business is classed as a "development" an application for planning permission may need to be made to your local Council.

"Development" includes carrying out physical building work or the making of a "material change of use" to your property.  I previously clarified what a "material change of use" means with respect to working from your home. In this blog I will deal with physical building work and will explain the instances when planning permission will be needed for this work.

How do I find out whether I need planning permission?
Your building work will fall within one of three scenarios:
- it will require planning permission
- it will not require planning permission
- it will not require planning permission subject to complying with the "Larger home extensions: neighbour consultation scheme" (more on this later).

With respect to the first two scenarios, under planning legislation a range of minor "developments" are granted an automatic planning permission, and therefore a planning application does not need to be made. Such developments are known as "permitted development".

A useful tool for finding out whether your building work needs planning permission is the Planning Portal's interactive house.  The interactive house is an easy to use web-tool that provides guidance on the consents you will need for common domestic building projects, such as house extensions, loft conversions, outbuildings and garage conversions.

I live in a Listed Building, does this matter?
Take particular care in Conservation Areas and with Listed Buildings. Different rules may apply that limit or remove your Permitted Development Rights. If either of these applies to you property always check with your Council's Conservation Officer before undertaking building work.

How do I proceed if Planning Permission is not required?
Where planning permission is not required, whilst no further action is required with respect to Planning, if you would like peace of mind that you have interpreted the regulations correctly, it is recommended that you apply to your Council for a “Lawful Development Certificate”.  This will provide legal confirmation that your building work does not require planning permission. This is a particularly useful document to have if you ever decide to sell your home.

How do I proceed if planning permission is required?
Where planning permission is required, you are required to submit a planning application. Planning application forms can be downloaded from your Council's website or you can apply online via the Planning Portal website.  It can take up to 8 weeks for your Council to determine your application.

Be aware that your neighbours will be consulted by the Council on your planning application, so try to get your neighbours on board before submitting the application.

Will planning permission be granted?
In considering whether planning permission should be granted, your Council will assess the "local amenity" impact of your development.  The Council will consider such issues as whether the development would have an overbearing impact on your neighbour's property or whether it would reduce light to your neighbour's property to an unacceptable degree.

Most planning applications (around 85% to 90%, depending on the Council) are granted planning permission.

So do I need planning permission or not?
So what does this all mean in practice?  I review typical scenarios below.

Do I need planning permission for a shed that will become my workshop or office?
Outbuildings, such as sheds are considered to be "permitted development" (i.e. not requiring planning permission, provided that certain Conditions are met.  These Conditions are listed within the Planning Portal's Outbuildings Mini Guide.

The key condition is that to be permitted development the outbuilding must not itself be separate, self contained, living accommodation, and must not have a microwave antenna.

Do I need planning permission to convert my garage to office space?  
Planning permission is not usually required, providing the work to convert the garage is internal and does not involve enlarging the building.

However, in certain cases "permitted development" rights will have been removed from a property with regard to garage conversions.  You should check with your Council Planning Department before proceeding with a garage conversion, particularly if you live on a new housing development or in a conservation area.

Where work is proposed to a listed building, listed building consent may be required.

Do I need planning permission for a loft conversion?
Loft conversions do not usually require planning permission.  However, this is subject to a number of exclusions and conditions.  For example, any dormer windows installed facing the public highway, will require planning permission.

Do I need planning permission to extend my home to accommodate additional rooms?
The most common type of house extension is the extension to the rear.  You can build a single storey rear extension of up to 3 metres outwards from the rear of your house if it is attached (i.e. terraced or semi-detached), and 4 metres in the case of detached properties.  This allowance is subject to caveats, including the requirement that your extension should not exceed 50% of the total area of land around your property.

For further information on rear extensions, and also side and front extensions, check out the Planning Portal's common projects mini guides.

What is the Larger home extensions: neighbour consultation scheme?
Earlier, I mentioned the "Larger home extensions: neighbour consultation scheme" earlier.  This is a new initiative that allows home owners to build larger extensions without the need for planning permission.

For a period of three years, between 30 May 2013 and 30 May 2016, householders are able to build larger single-storey rear extensions under "permitted development". The scheme doubles the size limits of rear extensions from 4 metres to 8 metres for detached houses, and from 3 metres to 6 metres for all other houses.

However, these new larger extensions (i.e. if they extend between 4 and 8 metres, or between 3 and 6 metres) must go through a process that involves a consultation with your neighbours.

You will need to notify your local Council of your intention to take advantage of the extended "permitted development" rights allowed by the scheme.  Your Council will then "serve a notice" on your adjoining neighbours. The notice will include your address details, and a description of your proposed development.

Your neighbours will be given 21 days to make objections, and your Council will have up to 42 days to determine the application.  If any adjoining neighbour raises an objection within the 21-day period, your Council will take this into account and make a decision about whether the "amenity" impact of your development on your neighbours is acceptable. 

The development can go ahead if your Council notifies you that either: 
a. no objections were received from adjoining neighbours and it has not been necessary to consider the impact on amenity, or 
b. that following consideration, it has decided that the effect on the amenity of adjoining properties is acceptable. 
If your Council does not notify you of its decision within the 42-day determination period, the development may go ahead. 

A key feature of the "Larger home extensions: neighbour consultation scheme" is your neighbours' involvement in the process.  Your neighbours have a major sway over whether or not your development can go ahead.  If a neighbour is unhappy with your proposal there is a good chance that the Council will side with them and conclude that the development would have an unacceptable amenity impact.  It is therefore in your interest to speak with your neighbours, and to address any concerns that they may have, before making an application.

For further information on the "Larger home extensions: neighbour consultation scheme", check out the Planning Portal's Guidance Note.

How do I get my plans drawn up?
Accurate architectural drawings are needed to enable the Council to process your planning application (or Lawful Development Certificate application) and to help you to check on the progress of the building work.

A good starting place for finding a good local architect or draughtsman is to speak to your Council's Building Control Team.  Most Councils will have a list of "partner agents", who will invariably be among the best agents in your local area.

Your architect or draughtsman will usually be happy to submit your planning application on your behalf. They will also be able to ensure that your building work complies with the Building Regulations (I explain the Building Regulations later).

Where can I get Further Planning Advice?
Your local Council can advise you further on whether your building work will require planning permission.  If your building work does require planning permission your Council should also be able to advise whether planning permission is likely to be granted.

What about the Building Regulations?
People are often unaware that Building Regulations approval will often be needed in for building work in the home. You should note that the grant of a planning permission does not remove the need to secure Building Regulations approval.

What are the Building Regulations?
Whereas as the Planning process is designed to look after your neighbours' interests (e.g. to prevent ugly looking development, or to prevent development that will unacceptably reduce light into your neighbours' properties etc), the Building Regulations process is very much about looking after your interests (e.g. ensuring that the development is structurally sound, watertight, or that you can get out safely in case of a fire etc).  In basic terms, the Planning process looks at external issues whilst the Building Regulations considers internal issues of a development.

Should I use my Local Authority Building Control or an Approved Inspector?
The Building Regulations process is unusual in that you have the choice of using your Local Authority Building Control (LABC) Service or of using a private "Approved Inspector" to secure Building Regulations approval.

House-Saver would recommend sticking with your local Council's Building Control Service (LABC).  Local Authority Building Control Officers are highly regarded in the industry and their advice and guidance can save you time and money.  Also, by using your Council's Building Control Service, you can be sure that the advice you receive is independent, plus you will have the peace of mind in the knowledge that you Council will still be around to assist you if problems occur with your building work in the future.