Looking to Develop? Know Your Planning Rights

Jun 02, 2015

It is very rare that the buyer of a house will not intend to make any additions or alterations whatsoever to the property during their ownership, with increasing numbers of homeowners looking to improve their home in some way especially since the improvement of the economy in recent months. However, whenever changes are proposed it is extremely important to carefully consider the planning implications and requirements that must be complied with. If this is not done, then the work carried out could be in breach of planning law.

The basis of planning law is contained in the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and essentially provides that any ‘operations’ involving additions, alterations or extensions will require express planning permission from the local authority before being carried out. Similar express permission is also required for material changes of use to a property, such as changing the use of the property as a home to an office or a shop.

This rule is very strict because it requires that all work is carried out with such permission. As a result, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 was introduced to give certain types of work an implied, or deemed permission. This removed the requirement for express permission from the local authority. Examples of permitted developments are extensions within certain size limits or the erection of a garage within the curtilage of a house. The Order was amended in 2013 to increase these size limits and exceptions, although this will be reviewed again on 30 May 2016.

Another way that work can be carried out without express permission is through a Neighbourhood Development Order, which was introduced under the Localism Act 2011. The government implemented this Act with the idea that local communities should have the chance to be involved in the planning process themselves, arguably making the process less confrontational. The provisions allow a parish council or neighbourhood association, meeting specified criteria, to initiate the planning process for a proposed development. A local authority has a duty to make the order where a referendum has taken place and over 50 percent of voters in the community are in favour of the order.     

Separate from planning permission, Building Regulations approval is also necessary wherever building works are to be undertaken and this may be required even if planning permission is not necessary for the particular work. These regulate the health and safety aspects of certain work, including the methods and materials used. The most recent standards are contained in the Building Regulations 2010, which came into force on 1 October 2010. Such approval is required for many types of work, including the removal of walls, the insertion of windows and doors, boiler installations and electrical tests to name just a few. Local authorities have powers in exceptional circumstances to bring court proceedings to require defective work that is dangerous to be rectified at any time regardless of when the work was done, and if any work has been undertaken without Building Regulations approval then there is also a risk whether the work has been done to appropriate standards.

Planning law is often considered to be a legal minefield because there are numerous rules and regulations that often overlap each other, and this is only a brief explanation of what is a very detailed area of law. It is clearly extremely important that the provisions are carefully considered before any work is carried out to a property.

If you have any concerns about proposed work and wish to speak to someone for advice, please contact myself or a colleague at Nockolds on 01279 755777. 

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