Most building works require permissions from various authorities to be granted before they can go ahead. Depending on the extent of the work, the location and type of the property, it may be one or more of the following: Permitted Development, Planning permission, Freeholder’s consent, Conservation Area consent, Listed Building consent, Party Wall awards, Building Regulations approval etc.
At the beginning of the project, we would always advise the Client what consents and approvals may be required. In complex cases, we would recommend applying for a pre-planning advice before submitting a full planning application.
At appropriate stages, we would prepare and submit applications on the Client’s behalf to the statutory authorities. We would monitor their progress, provide additional information and, if required, negotiate with the authorities. In complex cases, we may involve reputable planning, heritage and other specialist consultants.
The pre-planning advice is an opportunity for you to get a clear written expert advice from the planning officer before you submit a full application.
The advice will tell you whether your proposal is likely to be acceptable, can be accepted subject to amendments, or is completely unacceptable in principle; how the council will apply its policies to your proposal; which type of application you will need to submit and what supporting documentation should accompany it.
This procedure is also often an opportunity to engage the planning officer into an informal discussion and make him or her part of the decision-making process.
For domestic properties, planning permission relates to changes in the appearance or the use of buildings – such as an extension to a house, or conversion of a single dwelling into flats. Planning should not be confused with the building regulations that are entirely separate. Planning can be one of the main hurdles to clear when thinking about making changes to your home, and needs to be given consideration from the start.
A common misconception is that because other houses in the street have, for instance, roof extensions, this will automatically mean that yours will be allowed, but this is not always the case as planning policy does change over time. We will give you advice on the current planning policies that will influence the design solutions. For a successful planning application, your design will need to be taken to the level of RIBA Stage 3 (Developed Design). You will require a location plan (which we can source for a small charge) and a statutory application fee to accompany your application.
For more complex projects, additional documents may be required – we will advise you if this is the case. We will prepare and submit your planning application on your behalf. As a guide, it generally takes a minimum of 8 weeks from submission of a planning application to a decision. On some types of development, the local authority may impose additional charges and obligations.
LISTED BUILDING CONSENT
Buildings of particular architectural interest are often officially “listed” and thereby protected. Many residential buildings in London are listed Grade 2 which means that any alterations (not just those to the outside or original parts) have to be approved under a Listed Building Consent. The rules are even stricter for the buildings of particular significance listed Grade 2* and Grade 1.
Making a Listed Building Consent application is similar to making a planning application; some additional information will be required.
There is no need to worry – we have lots of experience in listed buildings and collaborate with the most reputable Heritage consultants.
CONSERVATION AREA CONSENT
Living in a conservation area usually means that changes to the external appearance of your building will be a particularly sensitive issue.
You may need to complete an application for a Conservation Area Consent alongside a Planning Application (sometimes even when the latter is not required). In some cases, large trees and rear façades not visible from the street are still considered part of the character of the conservation area.
PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT RIGHTS
For small extensions and alterations, your proposals may fall within your Permitted Development Rights, which means that planning permission will not be necessary. There are a number of limits on height, volume (in cubic meters) etc. that your proposals need to be within for permitted development rights to apply.
If your project is eligible, we would recommend that you apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development to confirm this. The application needs to be supported by suitable drawings and calculations and we can help you with this.
The Freeholder’s consent may be required for works to leasehold properties. It is a legal document usually called “Licence for works” or “Licence to alter”.
Obtaining it is a separate process, which may be quite lengthy depending on the procedures of a particular management company and the conditions of your lease. We will study the requirements for your mansion block or estate and advise you on the best course of action.
Not to be confused with planning, the building regulations are there to ensure that buildings are made to a minimum quality standard for such things as structure, fire escape, drainage, ventilation, insulation and so on. The regulations can often seem unreasonable, but they are all there for good reasons. Building regulations matters are usually handled by the Building Control Department of your local authority, but private licenced inspectors become increasingly an alternative. We usually recommend the latter route, as it is less formal and more interactive, and the inspector can even provide valuable advice in the course of the design.
There are two ways to apply for approval under the building regulations: the Full Plans method or the Building Notice method.
“Full Plans” method requires the submission up-front of detailed drawings that show a great deal of information, such as the fire escape routes, ventilation capacities, for instance. The full plans method gives you full certainty and peace of mind as all aspects of the building regulations are approved in principle in advance. At least 48 hours before work starts on site, a Building Notice form is submitted to the Building Control Department. Once the work starts, the building control officer or inspector will visit the site and make arrangements with the builder to visit at specific points through the progress of the works to check that the works are up to the minimum standard that the regulations require. He/She may also request supplementary drawings and information. When the works are complete, the building control officer or inspector will issue a certificate to confirm that everything has been done to the required level.
“Building Notice” method is for simplest and most straightforward projects, e.g. small alterations or extensions to domestic properties. You will generally not need very much in the way of specific drawings for this and your builder can look after the process on your behalf while undertaking the works.
PARTY WALL AWARDS
The Party Wall etc Act 1996 is there to prevent and resolve disputes in relation to party structures, boundary walls and excavations near neighbouring buildings.
The procedures under the Act are separate from obtaining a planning permission or a building regulations approval.
The main types of party walls are:
- a wall that stands on the land of 2 (or more) owners and forms part of a building – this wall can be part of one building only or separate buildings belonging to different owners
- a wall that stands on the land of 2 owners but does not form part of a building, such as a garden wall but not including timber fences
- a wall that is on one owner’s land but is used by 2 (or more) owners to separate their buildings
The Act also uses the expression ‘party structure’. This could be a wall or floor partition or other structure separating buildings or parts of buildings in different ownership, such as in flats.
The Act covers:
- new building on or at the boundary of 2 properties
- work to an existing party wall or party structure
- excavation near to and below the foundation level of neighbouring buildings
This may include:
- building a new wall on or at the boundary of 2 properties
- cutting into a party wall
- making a party wall taller, shorter or deeper
- removing chimney breasts from a party wall
- knocking down and rebuilding a party wall
- digging below the foundation level of a neighbour’s property
A building owner proposing to start work covered by the Act must give adjoining owners notice of their intentions. Adjoining owners can agree or disagree with what is proposed. Where they disagree, the Act provides a mechanism for resolving disputes.
Obtaining Party Wall Awards is a complicated process, best dealt with by a specialist “Party wall surveyor” who will be able to guide you through the process.
We will advise you on the need for party wall notifications and, if required, help you find and appoint a surveyor.