Planning Permission and Building Regulations for Home Improvements
Rules and Regulations
Most minor repairs and interior decoration are not subject to any specific rules and regulations with the force of law, although you should follow your own self-imposed rules concerning safe practice and sound construction. Areas where you will need to conform with legal standards and follow the correct procedures for gaining approval are those which involve major and/or alteration to the external appearance or structure of the building.
Most alterations to floors and stairs will not require, but it is best to check before starting or you may have to undo all your hard work. Any major construction, including laying floors and altering staircases, is subject to enforced by local authorities.
The phrase ‘planning permission’ refers to the legal permission that needs to be sought from a local authority before any significant alterations to the structure of a property may be undertaken. Although it is unlikely that you will need to seek planning permission for most alterations to floors and stairs, you do need to be aware of your responsibility under the planning regulations. The following short guide will help you assess whether you need to apply for planning permission, how to go about it and what is entailed in the process:
- Planning rules and regulations are designed to ensure that any new building or alterations to existing buildings are suitable for the surrounding area and will not impact adversely on neighbouring properties.
- You are generally free to carry out renovation projects in the home without planning permission, although there are exceptions, especially where major changes are involved. For example, the installation of an additional stairway to an attic as part of a conversion project designed to create more living accommodation may fall into this category. If your home is in a conservation area or on the register, you are much more, likely to need planning permission for even minor alterations.
- All local authorities have planning officers who are responsible for overseeing the running and implementation of planning regulations. Your local planning officer will be able to inform you whether any work you intend to carry out will require planning consent.
- Many authorities publish booklets detailing the ins and outs of planning regulations and these may prove helpful in determining whether you require approval. Such booklets should be available free of charge from local libraries.
- Where planning consent is required you will need to pay a fee and submit plans, which you must file with the local authority along with an application form.
- You can submit the application yourself or you might prefer to employ an architect or architectural technician for this job. The advantage of doing this is that they are familiar with the process, know what is required and will be able to prepare any necessary drawings.
- Once the application has been made, by law the local authority must give you a decision within 8 weeks. You must not start any work until your application has been approved or you risk penalties.
- Planning consent is valid for 5 years — if you do not start the work within this time then you will have to make another application.
are concerned with local and national building codes and specify essential requirements that must be complied with. Any major alterations to your home will be subject to and significant aIterations to a staircase or the replacement of a floor would fall into this category.
- A Officer (BCO) employed by the local authority has responsibility for enforcing building regulations. If you are planning any structural changes to your home then you will need to make an appointment with the BCO at the planning stages to discuss your ideas.
- As well as checking that your plans conform to regulations, BCOs can also be consulted on the project in general, so you should not be afraid to ask their advice. Although they cannot recommend a builder they may offer one or two ideas that you could incorporate into your scheme.
- If you are employing a professional builder it will normally be their responsibility to ascertain whether approval is required for whatever job they are undertaking and if so, to gain permission before work commences.
- Once work has started it is more than likely that the BCO will visit the site to ensure that everything is being carried out in accordance with the necessary regulations.
- If the project is particularly extensive the BCO will need to visit the site at specific phases of the project. It is your responsibility to notify the BCO at the correct time.
- Once the job is finished the BCO will then sign a completion certificate to certify that the work has been carried out in accordance with building regulations.
- If any work contravenes building regulations or planning laws you could be faced with a large bill to put things right. Worse still you could be forced to reinstate the building to its original condition.
- You need not be daunted by all these regulations — get in touch with your local planning office and ask their advice. They would much rather be contacted at an early stage as this could save work on both sides.
Tips of the Trade
When you speak to an officer at your local council they will be unfamiliar with your property. Take a few pictures of the building, in particular of the areas that you want to alter, and bring these along to the meeting. With this visual aid it will be easier to understand what the job entails and so a decision whether or not approval is required will be reached more quickly.