Know your Stuff:  A Guide to Building Regulations and Planning

Following requests from clients, we have put together a simple, back to basics guide to building jargon. Hopefully, the below will help you differentiate your Building Control from Planning Permission and Permitted Development from Lawful Development…

What is Building Control?

If you are carrying out building work, it is important that you understand how the building regulatory system works as you are responsible for making sure that your scheme complies with Building Regulations.

Building Regulations essentially set the standards for the design and construction of buildings in order to ensure the safety and health for people that will be using the buildings. They also include requirements to ensure that energy is conserved and that facilities are provided for people to access and move around inside buildings. The regulations apply to nearly all building extensions and new building works, as well as the removal and insertion of internal walls and structural alterations to buildings. Building Regulations also cover the replacement of windows as these are now required to comply with strict thermal performance standards. Of note, conservatories which are less than 30m² internal floor area, separated from the main part of the building by a door and constructed at ground level, are exempt from the regulations. Please note that it is a legal requirement that all significant construction projects are registered for Building Control Certification before work starts.

For most, the builder is responsible for liaising with building control and giving the required notices. If this fails to happen, then you, as the building owner, are in contravention of the regulations. In a worst-case scenario, you may be asked to open up works and redo them to gain approval. You may also face a fine or enforcement action if Building Regulations have not been adhered to and prosecution is possible for up to two years after the completion of the work. This action will usually be taken against the person carrying out the work (i.e. the main contractor). If Building Regulation problems are not rectified, no completion certificate will be issued and this is likely to come to light through a local land search enquiry when you wish to sell your property. The local authority also has the power to undertake any corrective work itself and recover the costs of doing so from the owner.

If you do have any concerns, make sure you address your builder in the first instance and never hesitate to contact Building Control Services for advice.

On completion of your works, make sure you keep your completion certificate safe. It will be important when it comes to selling the property and without it, could affect its saleability and value. You should also keep any warranties, agreements and builder’s invoices.

A few things of note to bear in mind:

·         Building Regulation Approval does not means that building works are insured.

·         Neighbours are unable to object to plans under the Building Regulations.

What is Planning Permission?

The purpose of ‘planning’ is to guide and shape the ways our citiscape and countryside develop. This includes the use and appearance of land and buildings, as well as taking into consideration issues such as the surrounding infrastructure and environment. On receipt of an application by a Borough’s planning department, planning permission will either be granted, granted subject to certain conditions, or refused.

Factors which may affect whether you are granted planning permission include your neighbours’ opinions and the design of the build. If neighbours object to the works, or a design is not considered to be sympathetic to the existing surroundings, there is a higher chance of getting rejected. Environmental health and wildlife (for example bats and slow-worms have been given protected status) may also be taken in to consideration by a planner.

Plans that have the highest chances of success ‘sell the scheme’ to the planners. They need to look professional, be well considered and seen to enhance and/or protect the surrounding environment. Relevant planning documents should be consulted when drawing up plans, particularly those such as loss of sunlight, overlooking, loss of trees, density of housing, and the effect on any conservation area.

Please be aware that the approval of plans does not permit you to build on, or over, a boundary with neighbouring properties. For more information on building on boundaries, you will need to consider drawing up a Party Wall Award. Further information can be found here:

What is a Planning Consultant?

In order to maximise your chances of having a scheme approved, we recommend hiring a planning consultant. They will help build a positive relationship with the Boroough’s planning department as they will have experience working with planning authorities and know what schemes have the highest chance of success. They will be able to add value to your ‘pitch’, addressing any concerns from the planners and suggesting ways to improve the chances of permission being granted. A planning consultant can also monitor your application as its being processed and if a problem arises, they can liaise with the officer to help overcome any difficulties.

What is Retrospecive Planning Permission?

If you have made a change to your property that requires planning permission and you have not had approval, a local authority can request that you submit a retrospective planning application for the work that has already been carried out. A retrospective application will be treated in the same way as other applications, which means that it can be refused. If this happens, the local authority can issue an enforcement notice and this may mean that you will be required to put things back as they were.

What is a Planning Breach?

The failure to obtain planning permission, or comply with the details of a permission, is known as a 'planning breach'. This includes developments that were never granted permission, or were never applied for, or developments that have breached one or more of the conditions of the permission.

What is Permitted Development?

You can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called "permitted development rights".  Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many projects for houses, do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings. Similarly, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to dwellings. For further information check out In some areas of the country, known generally as 'designated areas', permitted development rights are more restricted.

We would recommend that in any instance, you should contact your local planning authority and discuss your proposal before work begins. They will be able to inform you of any reason why the development may not be permitted and if you need to apply for planning permission for all or part of the work.

What are Lawful Development Certificates (LDC)?

If you want to be certain that the existing use of a building is lawful for planning purposes, or that your proposal does not require planning permission, you can apply for a 'Lawful Development Certificate'. It is not compulsory to have an LDC but there may be times when you need one to confirm that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning control purposes.

In summary…

for larger works, it is common that separate permissions are required. For smaller projects, including internal alterations, it is usual that building regulations approval will probably beneeded, but not full planning permission. If in doubt, our advice is to contact your local planning authority or building control, who will be able to inform you with the relevant information for your specific project.