If you’re thinking of developing your home, it’s important to make sure that you do so on a solid legal basis. Laws can and do change over time. They can also vary according to your local area and the type of property you have. With that said, there are some guiding principles that can be applied to any proposed development.
Research what laws apply to you
Planning permission relates to what you are allowed to do on your property. Whether or not you need it will depend on the nature of your development. Building regulations relate to how you implement the development. They will apply regardless of whether or not you need planning permission.
Your property may also be subject to legal agreements with your neighbours. For example, you may have a party wall agreement. If so, you will either need to make sure that your development sticks within this agreement or negotiate a new agreement.
Assume you need planning permission
It’s generally best to work on the assumption that you’re going to need planning permission unless it is 100% crystal clear that you don’t. If you are in any doubt, then the best approach is to request planning permission. This does run the risk of refusal. It does, however, eliminate the risk of spending money on a project only to have to spend more money dismantling it.
For completeness, you may be able to apply for retrospective planning permission. This could be a solution if you believe that your work is permitted development but your local authority thinks otherwise. Effectively, however, it is a gamble and could be an expensive one. If your application is refused then you would have to take down the structure.
Understand why planning permission is refused
You want to avoid giving planning officers a clear reason to turn down your application. This means you need to think about any objections they may have and preemptively address them. For example, do your plans cause any of the following?
- Loss of natural light, views or privacy to other properties
- Increased noise or smells
- Increased traffic (pedestrian or vehicular)
- Overcrowding and/or excess demands on local infrastructure
- Damage to the local environment/neighbourhood character
Remember that planning officials need to think about what could be done with the structure, not just about what you say you want to do with it. Your plans might change or you might sell the property to someone else who uses the structure differently.
Ask your neighbours for support
There are lots of good reasons for staying on good terms with your neighbours. One of them is that it can help prevent planning applications from being derailed by objections. Even if the objection is, ultimately, not sustained, it can still slow down the process.
It can therefore be advisable to consult with your neighbours at an early stage in the process. Ideally, you’ll incorporate their feedback into your plans so you come up with a design that suits everybody. At the very least, you should try to minimise issues to which your neighbours might object and have an explanation for why you need to keep any points of contention.
Get professional help
If you want to maximise your chances of speeding through the application process for planning permission on the first attempt, then it can be very useful to get professional help.
Working with someone who regularly deals with planning officials can help to ensure that your design ticks the necessary boxes and is presented to the right people in the right way. This can work out much quicker, more convenient and more affordable than having to make additional applications until you finally (hopefully) get one accepted.