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Self Build: Planning Permission and Legal Consents
When you plan to build, extend or alter the use of a property you will generally need to consider 2 separate legal issues - Planning Permission and Building Regulations (or Building Control).

All self builds and the majority of building projects which involve conversions or extensions will require planning permission. Planning Permission consists of national regulations (ie England and Wales have one set of regulations, Scotland another) but are administered by local authorities or in the national parks by the Park Authorities.

However unlike building regulations, the application of planning permission differs significantly from area to area due to differing local development plans, local interpretation of the regulations and the significant degree of subjectivity involved in the process. For example permission may depend on an appropriate design, which is of course an area very much open to debate!

Therefore while National planning guidance will give you an indication of whether you need planning permission or not and which minor works you can carry out without permission, it is essential that you contact your local planning authority as early in the process as possible to obtain local guidance and advice.

There are two levels of planning permission, and you will encounter building plots with either of these.
  • Self Build - Outline Planning Permission
    Outline planning permission (OPP) is simply permission for the principle of development on a site, for example a 4 bed house. This means that the details of the size, dimensions, materials and access can be decided at a later date. If a plot is granted OPP, you will still need to make a supplementary application for full planning permission at a later date and no building work can be undertaken on OPP alone. OPP status is usually valid for three years at which point reapplication will need to be made.

  • Self Build - Detailed Planning Permission/Full Planing Permission
    Detailed (or full) planning permission (FPP) outlines exactly what is going to be built including dimensions, room layouts and building materials. As soon as FPP is granted building work may commence. Sometimes conditions of approval will be attached and these must be complied with during the project. Detailed planning permission is valid for three years.

The Planning Process
The precise process will depend on your Local Authority (LA), but the general process is as follows:

  • LA receives planning application and checked to see if correct. If any mistakes are identified, the application is usually returned.
  • Once the application is verified, it will be entered on a statutory register. At this point an 8 week period begins in which the application should be considered.
  • Allocation of application to either a planning officer or for committee consideration. Usually simple planning applications never go to a planning committee but are decided at officer level.
  • There then follows a period of public consultation about the application. The extent of this will depend on the impact of the development and the type of area but it will always include local neighbours. This process normally last 3 weeks.
  • Once the LA has received all the necessary reponses, the Planning Officer will assess the proposal against the LA planning policies. The Planning Officer will then make a decision regarding the application or a recommendation for the planning committee.
  • If there is a problem with your application, the Planning Officer may contact you to try and resolve it. It is more likly though that it will be refused. You will then need to re-submit an amended proposal or appeal against the decision.

    Finally if you plan changes to an existing property you may need to consider other regulations and consents including the following:

  • Conservation Areas (protection of property and fences, walls etc)
  • Tree Protection Orders (protection from removal and alteration)
  • Rights of Way (protection for rights of way from development)
  • Listed Building Consent (consent to demolish, extend or alter)
  • Protection of Wildlife (eg protection of bats living in roof)


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