Your Local Planning Authority (LPA) – usually the district or borough council – is responsible for deciding whether a proposed development should be allowed to go ahead. This is called Planning Permission. Most new buildings, major alterations to existing buildings and significant changes to the use of a building or piece of land need this permission.
However, certain minor building works – known as Permitted Development– do not require Planning Permission. This is because the effect of such developments on neighbours or the surrounding environment is likely to be small. Under the current ‘existing Permitted Development’ rules, single-storey rear extensions and conservatories can be constructed without Planning Permission as long as they do not extend beyond the rear wall of the original house by a set distance.
Recently the government has introduced new legislation in relation to Permitted Development. In a temporary measure, it is now possible to build more under the remit of Permitted Development. For a semi-detached property, the previous limit of three metres from the face of a building for single storey extensions (9ft 11ins) and for detached homes four metres (13ft 1in) are doubled, meaning that many extensions which would have required Planning Permission can now be built under Permitted Development.
Permitted Development rights apply only to a ‘private dwelling house’ as originally constructed, or as the dwelling stood at a certain point in time. Flats are excluded, as are listed buildings, whilst properties in designated areas such as conservation areas, Green Belt, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and The Broads have restrictions on their Permitted Development rights.
While it should be possible in most cases to decide whether or not a proposed project qualifies as Permitted Development, there will inevitably be instances where the decision is less clear cut. If there is any ambiguity or question over whether your proposal passes the Permitted Development tests, you have a number of options. It may, for instance, be possible to alter your plans to ensure they meet Permitted Development limits and conditions. For peace of mind you may choose to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. This is not the same as Planning Permission but is proof that your household building work is lawful.
This option is recommended even if you are sure your project falls within the constraints of Permitted Development. If you should later want to sell your property a Lawful Development Certificate may be helpful to answer queries raised by potential buyers or their legal representatives.
An increasing number of Local Authorities offer a consultancy service for a small fee, and will confirm in writing whether or not a planning application is required. This can be very useful when it comes to reselling the property within the first four years of completion.
Please note that Building Regulations approval is a separate matter from obtaining Planning Permission for your work.