Renovating Your House? Dealing with Planning Permission

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Renovating your house can be exciting, but the one thing homeowners dread is having to acquire planning permission. But do you need it, and how can you acquire it?

We’ve all heard stories from friends and neighbours about the difficulty of securing planning permission. In the UK, getting planning permission for a renovation involves a whole lot of red tape and can take several months to be approved, if at all.

Thankfully, some home renovations don’t require planning permission at all, so you might be off the hook. That’s where this article will come in handy. The first thing we’ll tackle is whether you need permission at all and, if you do, how to get it.

We’ll then be detailing some problems you might face getting planning permission. This way, you’ll know when to contact litigation solicitors in London, Somerset, Manchester, or wherever you live in the UK, to appeal a refusal. So, for all your planning queries, read on…

What Kinds of Renovations Need Planning Permission?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of how to get planning permission in the UK, we’re going to help you means test whether you need it or not.

If you’re planning on building something new or you’re going to make a major change to your house, you’ll likely need planning permission. If you choose to do the work without getting permission, you could be served with an enforcement notice ordering you to undo the work, so frankly, it’s not worth the risk.

Here’s a quick list of the types of renovations you’re likely to make and whether they’re considered permitted development, or they require planning permission:

  • Garages, sheds and other outbuildings: these can be considered permitted development, as long as they’re of reasonable size (no higher than 4 metres). It also shouldn’t take up more than half the land around the original property.
  • Paving over the front garden: if the material you’re using is porous you don’t need planning permission, but if it’s impermeable you can’t pave any more than 5 square metres with it.
  • Windows and doors: the only time you’ll need permission to repair or replace windows is if your building is listed, in which case you’ll need to acquire listed building consent.
  • External walls and roof: minor maintenance work, painting your house or inserting a skylight doesn’t require planning permission, unless your building is listed of course.
  • Wind turbines and solar panels: if your turbines are temporary, you’re good to go. If they’re permanent, however, you’ll need permission. Solar panels are also fine unless, again, you live in a listed property.
  • Fences, gates, and walls: planning permission is needed for any fence, gate, or wall that’s next to a road and over 1 metre high. It’s also necessary if it’s not next to a road but over 2 metres, if your house is listed, or the wall forms a boundary with a listed property. (The fence for your garden is included in the planning permission too.)
  • Trees and hedges: lots of trees are protected by tree preservation orders and you’ll need permission to prune them (you’ll have to ask the council to find out). Hedges can be any height, just make sure to keep them out of the way of your neighbours.
  • Indoors: anything you do indoors, such as loft conversions, garage conversions, new staircases, bathrooms, kitchens, rewiring, etc. doesn’t require planning permission. As always, the rules change if you live in a listed building.

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How to Get Planning Permission

Based on the list above you should have a decent idea of whether you need planning permission or not. If you do need it, it’s time to tell you how to get it.

Most of us aren’t builders, contractors or planning experts, so if you’re building something you might need permission for, getting a good planning consultant on board is key. They can help ensure your project meets the requirements needed to be granted permission by your local council.

The first thing the consultant will do is suggest you meet with your local planning authority (LPA) before you submit your application. Some LPAs charge for this service and some don’t. If you get in there before you submit your application, it can speed the process along and help you get permission.

You have to go into this meeting ready to describe your proposal and show your designs to the LPA if possible. That includes floor plans and a proposed new design. The planning permission portal suggest that you should:

  • Ask the LPA whether there’s a reasonable chance of permission being granted based on what you’ve told/shown them;
  • Discuss any site issues, such as footpaths, roads, sewers, telephone lines and power cables;
  • Ask if there are any conditions they want to impose related to the noise and traffic of the work, instead of them refusing planning permission based on this later.

Once you’ve gotten this meeting out of the way, and you have a better picture of whether planning permission will be granted for your project or not, you can simply apply online or have your consultant do it for you.

The Issues You Might Face Getting Planning Permission and How to Appeal

So, at this point you’ve taken the necessary precautions. You’ve also decided whether your work needed planning permission, and met with the LPA to make sure you have the best chance of being granted permission. That said, you might still be refused, and these reasons might be why:

Material Considerations & Neighbours

The LPA might refuse you permission based on what’re known as ‘material considerations’, which can include:

  • Overlooking/loss of privacy
  • Loss of light or overshadowing
  • Parking
  • Highway safety
  • Traffic
  • Noise
  • Impact on listed building and Conservation Area
  • Layout and density of building
  • Design, appearance and materials
  • Government policy
  • Disabled access
  • Proposals in the development plan
  • Previous planning decisions
  • Nature conservation

Once you’ve submitted a plan for permission, it basically becomes an open forum for neighbours to leave their comments on. If their complaints fit into any of the categories above, they will be taken into account by the LPA and play a factor in whether you get permission or not.

Whether you like it or not, whenever you build something it can risk upsetting your neighbours. These neighbours can be irrational and easily upset by change they believe will affect them, but there’s not much you can do about their comments.

The only thing you can do is be polite, show the plans to the neighbours who are unhappy, and accommodate any minor changes that might help you get planning permission.

If there are enough objections, however, or if the application is called into a committee by a local councillor, the decision will be made by a majority vote by the LPA. At the planning meeting you have the opportunity to address the planning committee and make your case. At this point you either win or lose, but if you lose, the fight isn’t over yet.

Planning Disputes and Appeals

In England, around 75 percent of planning applications are granted. That said, if you fall into that 25 percent, you can either amend the application to deal with reasons for refusal or you can make an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

The good news is, around 40 percent of householder planning applications that are refused are later granted at appeal without any changes being needed. You only have 12 weeks to make your appeal, unless you’ve received an enforcement notice (because you’ve breached planning control), in which case you only have 28 days.

You can send your appeal to the Planning Inspectorate online and send a copy of it, including supporting documents, to the LPA. The planning inspectorate will look over your appeal to make sure it’s valid, tell you what happens next and how long your appeal might take (usually between 20 and 41 weeks).

Disagreeing with the Appeal Decision

Just when you thought it might be over, statistically you still have a 60 percent chance of losing your appeal. If you’re unfortunate enough to be in this position, after everything you’ve already been through, it’s time to call in the solicitors.

The LPA and Planning Inspectorate have messed you around for months and you finally get to take your case to high court. The solicitors will be able to tell you if the Planning Inspectorate made a legal mistake, and help you challenge your appeal.

Should I Give up on My Renovation?

In this post, we’ve done our best to help you understand how difficult getting planning permission can be. But, we’ve also showed you what steps you should take before submitting your application to ensure you don’t have your plans refused.

Some of you will be lucky enough to not even need permission, others will be part of the 75 percent whose plans are granted. Others will have to make amendments, appeal or contest a lost appeal. No matter what category you fall into, you’ve decided to make these renovations for a reason, and you should see them through.

Thank you for reading this post, and good luck renovating your house. Feel free to leave your own experiences in the comments down below!


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