Red Tape: What you need to know
Building Regulations apply in England & Wales and promote standards for most aspects of a building's construction, energy efficiency in buildings, the needs of all people, including those with disabilities, in accessing and moving around buildings.
Planning Portal website
The Government's Planning Portal website contains comprehensive information on the current regulations, although it is aimed at those with a familiarity with Building Regulations and the Building Control system.
Whether you are planning to extend up, out or down, it is always best to check if you need permission. The Planning Portal website has a guide to help you find out if you permission is necessary. Your local Council's planning department is responsible for deciding whether a development should go ahead.
- You are allowed to make certain minor alterations and extensions to your home without applying for planning permission, under permitted development rights.
- If planning permission is required, you can apply online through the Planning Portal
- Ask the planners if they anticipate any difficulties that could be overcome by amending your proposal at an early stage. Changes later could increase the cost of your professional fees.
- Decide what type of application to make. Usually this will be a full planning application, but if you want to see what the Council feels about your proposed work before investing in detailed drawings you may choose to submit an outline application first.
- Your application should be considered within eight weeks.
- If planning permission is refused or conditions imposed, the Council must give reasons. Ask the planning department if changing your plans would make a difference. You may be allowed to submit another application with modified plans, free of charge, within twelve months of the original decision.
- You also have the right of appeal to the Planning inspectorate within six months of the date of the Council's notice of decision.
If you build something that requires planning permission without first obtaining permission, you may be forced to put things right later at your own cost. You may even be required to remove an unauthorised building.
In England and Wales work carried out on a part of your property which adjoins your neighbours, must comply with the Party Wall Act 1996.
- This covers any wall on the boundary line of two or more properties and includes garden walls as well as the walls of buildings.
- All work which might have an effect on the structural strength or support function of the party wall or might cause damage to the neighbouring side of the wall must be officially notified to the affected neighbour.
- If in doubt, seek advice from your building control office, a party wall surveyor or an architect.
- You must serve the notice at least two months before the intended start date of the work, giving details of the work to be carried out.
- No work may start until all neighbouring parties have agreed in writing to the notice.
- It is normal practice to record the current state of neighbouring properties and inspect again for damage at the completion of the work. You are responsible for making good any damage caused by your work.
For more information, a free explanatory booklet is available from the Planning Inspectorate at GOV.UK
When it comes to building work, historic homes need special treatment. Many old buildings cost more to upkeep and renovate than new properties and keeping a period home true to its origins requires detailed research.
What is a listing?
Listing is a process of identifying and protecting our heritage. The Secretary of State has a statutory duty to maintain a list of all our buildings of special architectural or historic interest. The lists were started in 1953, they are supervised by English Heritage.
Details about all the 450,000 listed buildings in this country are at Local Authority offices and are open to public scrutiny. Listed buildings are divided into Grade I, Grade II* and Grade II.
Tips for alterations to listed buildings
- Informal discussion with your local planning department at the early stage of any project
- Beware - If unauthorised works have been carried out on a listed building, the local planning authority can prosecute you and serve a listed building enforcement notice, even if the works were done by a previous owner, although you do have the right of appeal
- There is no fee attached to a Listed Building Consent Application and they typically take eight weeks to process. Once granted, consent is usually valid for 5 years
- This is separate from planning permission, so this may also need to be applied for
- It's wise to employ a specialist builder for listed building work; they understand historical architecture, will renovate to a high standard and will identify potential problems.
- Building work can often cost 30-50% more than in contemporary buildings, due to the materials and skilled labour involved
- It's advisable to take out an insurance backed warranty, such as Build Assure, to provide you with peace of mind if things go wrong.