Before you start developing your property it is essential you obtain any necessary planning permission. In the latest of our Property Basics series, we tell you why – and, more importantly, how.

There are very good reasons for doing things by the book:

  • You will be protected from making mistakes such as knocking down a partially-supporting wall (building regulations).
  • You will ensure your property is easy to sell (a buyer’s survey will pick up the permissions you should have obtained).
  • You will avoid the expense of having to undo your work.
  • Most importantly of all, you will avoid having to pay a fine, or even going to prison!

Planning permission will be needed if you want to make changes that will affect the way your property looks, or impacts on the local area.

Generally speaking, avoid properties that require planning permission for your first development project as they can involve long delays. As you are paying to finance the property during the delays, it could cost you lots of money.

If you are more experienced or developing your own home, then you might be willing to take on this more extensive development. You can often get an accurate assessment of your development options if you call the Town Hall or Local Authority for advice. Phone up and ask for the Planning Department.

You don’t always need planning permission, even if the work you are considering appears quite substantial. For example, you are normally allowed to build a conservatory up to 15% of house floor space without getting planning permission.

Planning officers will never commit themselves on the telephone. However, your aim is to see whether they are willing to say ‘we would welcome an application to do xyz to a property in street A’.

The planning officers are a bit like accountants. Their main role is to interpret and apply rules. Many officers are helpful and will give you guidance about the rules that apply in that particular area. When you speak to them be courteous and ask them to help you or ‘I really need some help’. It is always best if you appeal to their better nature to help you.

Planning departments will often say yes to a development if it helps to bring continuity. Tell them what you intend to do to ‘this property in this street’ and find out if they would welcome these plans.

The planning permission process is straightforward, if a little long-winded:

  • Submit an application form; many councils make these available online, or you can ask them to post them to you. You may need to arrange for an architect to produce drawings for you to submit with your application, so make sure you allow for this in your time planning.
  • Application is passed to the planning committee.
  • The committee will write to everyone it might affect.
  • Committee collects the objections.
  • Committee then sits to consider whether or not any of the objections raised meet with the Town Council’s established planning objections.

Planning objections might include:

  • Developments overlooking another property;
  • Developments causing a loss of light to others;
  • Developments causing noise;
  • Change of use (particularly from residential to commercial);
  • Increase in visitations or traffic or parking problems.
  • Committee then decides to overrule objections or not.
  • Committee reaches a decision.
  • Appeal stages apply (but unlikely).

This process takes about 6-8 weeks – but check with the local council first.

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Daniel Peacock

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