FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Planning permission is normally required for all forms of ‘development’ which includes the erection of new buildings, extensions and alterations to existing buildings and all material changes of use of buildings or land.

Development or building work which does not require planning permission is termed ‘permitted development’ and under the Town & Country Planning Act development which is thereby ‘permitted’ does not require formal planning consent.

For commercial and industrial projects, the extent of works which constitute ‘permitted development’ is relatively small, and is usually limited to internal alterations, very small extensions or a minor change of the use of the building.

For residential projects however there is a much wider category of work which constitutes ‘permitted development’ and certain extensions, external alterations and erection of outbuildings etc. can be undertaken without the need to apply for or obtain planning permission.

The Town & Country Planning (General Permitted Development)(England) Order 2015 sets out the rules concerning Permitted Development.

The ‘Department for Communities & Local Government also provides a Technical Guidance Document ‘Permitted Development Rights for Householders’ which provides further details of what extensions, improvements and alterations a householder can make to their property without planning permission.

Reference to the above Documents is advisable at an early stage when considering your proposals. In addition, a number of interactive ‘Mini-Guides’ explaining the rules governing permitted development for householders can be found on the Planning Portal website. www.planningportal.gov.uk/england/public

Despite this available access to the above Guidance, the legislation surrounding permitted development is still relatively complicated, and Householders with little or no prior knowledge of planning matters may find interpreting the legislation difficult.

It is advisable therefore to contact your local authority to discuss your project at the outset to ascertain whether planning approval will be required. Alternatively, you should seek professional advice from an experienced Architect, Architectural Designer or Planning Consultant, who can advise you regarding what approvals will be relevant to your particular project.

PLEASE NOTE however that although an extension or alteration to your property may constitute ‘permitted development’ under the relevant planning legislation, your proposal is highly likely to require approval under the Building Regulations, and an application to the local authority for Building Regulation approval will therefore be required

All development or material changes of use requiring consent under the Town & Country Planning Act should only be undertaken AFTER the receipt of the necessary planning approval. However, occasions do arise whereby a development or use has been implemented without the necessary planning consent having been obtained, and as such the development constitutes an ‘unauthorized development or use’.

In some instances, this failure to obtain planning approval may have been intentional, where perhaps the owner of the property has hoped the development or use would go un-noticed by the authority. Or perhaps, they feared refusal of their proposals, should an application have been submitted in the proper manner.

However, most cases of ‘unauthorized development or use’ have usually been carried out un-intentionally, where the property owner or developer has been un-aware that formal permission was necessary for the particular development or use.

In such cases, it may be possible to regularize the resulting breach of planning consent by submitting a retrospective planning application for the retention of the development or use which has previously been undertaken.

Applications for retrospective planning approval are submitted and determined by much the same process as would be adopted for applications submitted prior to development, and subsequent approval of the application would result in retrospective permission being granted for the development or use.

However retrospective applications are by no means certain to receive approval, and if an application for retrospective permission is ultimately refused, the development or use will continue to remain unauthorised, and enforcement action by the local auth

Building Regulation approval is normally required for all forms of ‘building work’ and includes the erection of new buildings, extensions to existing buildings, structural alterations to existing buildings, replacement of services to buildings and material changes of use of existing buildings.

For commercial and industrial projects there is very little development which does not require Building Regulation approval apart from perhaps very minor non-structural alterations to existing buildings or the replacement of certain existing services.

For residential projects, certain types of extension, non-structural internal alterations, erection of small detached outbuildings and the installation of some services do not constitute ‘building work’ as defined in Regulation 3 of the Building Regulations, and as such do not require Building Regulation approval.

However most forms of extension to a dwelling, loft conversions, replacement of roof coverings, replacement of windows, erection of attached garages, erection of large detached garages and outbuildings, structural alterations, replacement of services and alterations to the drainage system of a property do require Building Regulation approval.

It is advisable therefore to contact your local authority to discuss your project or to seek professional advice from an experienced Architect or Architectural Designer, in order to ascertain whether Building Regulation approval is required for your project.

Further details and an explanation of the Building Regulations can also be found on the Planning Portal website. www.planningportal.gov.uk/england/public

PLEASE NOTE however that although an addition or alteration to your property, or the erection of an outbuilding may not require Building Regulation approval, it may still require approval under the Town & Country Planning Act and an application to the local authority for Planning permission will therefore be required.

All applications for Planning and Building Regulation approval are subject to prescribed application fees charged by the relevant authority. These fees will be payable in addition to any fees charged by your architectural designer for their professional design services.

PLANNING FEES.
Planning Fees are payable for most applications involving any form of development or change of use of a building or land. The fees are payable on deposit of the relevant application. Planning Fees are set nationally, i.e. all local authorities administer the same fee scales. In addition to the prescribed planning application fee, applications submitted electronically via the National Planning Portal will be subject to an additional application levy. The levy will be payable on all applications submitted after 10th September 2018.

Planning Fees for a particular application vary dependant on the type or scale of the development proposed. Generally, fixed fees are charged for most residential projects, including erection of dwellings and alterations to existing dwelling houses. Fees for commercial and industrial developments usually vary dependant on the floor area of the proposals or the category of development being proposed.

Planning Fees are payable in full on deposit of the relevant application. Once a planning application has been validated and registered, the fees paid are non-refundable regardless of the outcome of the authority’s decision on the application, i.e. whether the application is approved or refused.

Details of all fee scales can usually be found by visiting the National Planning Portal, or the relevant local authority website.

BUILDING REGULATION FEES.
Building Regulation Fees are payable to the relevant local authority or Approved Inspector dependant on the appointed Building Control Provider. All Building Control Fees are now set independently by the relevant local authority or Approved Inspector.

Whilst a few local authorities still publicise their prescribed Building Control Fees, many authorities and all Approved Inspectors assess their fees individually for each particular application submitted, and will usually provide a fixed price fee quotation on assessment of the project drawings.

Some local authorities and Approved Inspectors charge an initial ‘Plan Fee’ on deposit of the application, followed by a further ‘Inspection Fee’ payable on commencement of the building works on site. Other authorities and Approved Inspectors will simply charge a ‘one-off’ fee, payable on commencement of the building works on site.

Fees for a ‘Building Notice’ applications are generally identical to those charged for a ‘Full Plans application.

As with the Planning Fees above, Building Regulation Fees paid are non-refundable once building works have been commenced. Local authorities and Approved Inspectors can also levy additional Inspection Fees for any additional or abortive site visits during the construction stage of the project.

APPOINTING A PROFESSIONAL ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER.

Most large building and construction projects invariably proceed under the direction of an Architect, Architectural Designer or similar professional Design Consultant appointed to plan, design, supervise and project manage the scheme on behalf of the Client. The appointed Architectural Designer will usually assume ultimate reposibility for every aspect of the building project from the initial concept or idea right through to the handover of the completed project to the client or the end user of the building or facility.

However, as the size and value of a building project reduces, then the extent to which the appointed Architectural Designer takes on ultimate responsibility for the schemes may also reduce, with a corresponding increase in resposibility and control being undertaken by the client and other professional consultants involved in the various aspects of the project.

Ultimately, many small building projects, and particulalrly those being undertaken by private householders and small property developers, are often undertaken with relatively limited input by a professional designer. Some householders and developers may even decide to undertake both the design and project management elements of the scheme themselves, without engaging a professional designer at all, or alternatively, they may entrust these aspects of the scheme to their appointed building contractor as part of a ‘package deal’ or ‘design & build’ contract.

The decision whether or not to appoint an Architectural Designer to a project may be made purely in an effort to save costs, or perhaps because of a notion that smaller schemes do not warrant appointing a professional consultant. Also, in those situations where an Architectural Designer is employed, the client’s decision to do so may have been taken solely because the project requires Planning and/or Building Regulation approval, and some form of plans or drawings need to be prepared in order to apply for these approvals.

However, deciding whether or not to appoint an Architectural Designer, and also the choice of that appointment, will have a significant influence on the overall success of the construction project.

Regardless of the size and value of your proposed building project, obtaining sound professional advice and guidance at the outset, together with securing the assistance of a professional designer to prepare accurate design drawings for the scheme is of vital importance to ensure a succesful outcome for the scheme.

In recent years, the legislation and protocol surrounding the Planning and Building Regulation processes have become significantly more complex. In addition, contruction methods and specifications are changing constantly, as are the requirements of the Building Regulations, which are now far more stringent in line with European Standards. As a result , the need to appoint an experienced industry professional to administer and oversee the design and construction process for the project has increased accordingly.

Furthermore, professional architectural designers can provide much more valuable input to the project, other than just that of preparing plans and drawings, and will often be involved with many other aspects of the project including the contractual, financial and logistical elements of the scheme.

Despite these factors, the project drawings and the costs associated with obtaining them are often seen by the client purely as an ‘unavoidable necessity’ which has to be undergone before building work can proceed.

As a result, clients often look for the cheapest option available to them in terms of apointing their Architectural Designer. The appointment of the Architectural Designer is therefore decided purely on cost, and a desire to commission a minimal design service, for the sole purpose of securing the necessary local authority approvals. Some clients may even consider preparing their own plans and drawings in order to dispense with engaging a professional designer altogether.

However, appointing the right Architectural Designer is often the most significant factor governing the success, or failure, of any building project. In addition to the prepration of plans and drawings, there are many other factors which should be considered and which should confirm the need to appoint a professional designer to assist you with your scheme. For example:-

• A professional designer will take your original ideas and concept and convert these into reality with an innovative, practical and economic design.
• A professional designer is able to take your design brief and adapt this as necessary to ensure that the final scheme design not only meets or exceeds all of your initial requirements, but also meets all current Planning and Building Regulation legislation.
• A professional designer will devise a well-designed project which will ultimately maximise and enhance the building and its accommodation and increase the long-term value of your property.
• A professional designer can actually reduce your building costs by providing detailed, accurate and concise drawings for the project, identifying and solving potential problems at design stage rather than have them materialise into costly unforseen issues during construction, and enabling you to obtain comprehensive and comparable estimates for the building work.
• A professional designer can also save you time and money during the Planning & Building Regulation application stage of the project by ensuring that all correct and necessary information is provided and submitted as part of the relevant applications, and liaising directly with the local authority on your behalf on a professional basis thereby streamlining the application process.

CHOOSING YOUR ARCHITECTURAL DESIGNER

The success of any building project often depends on the quality of the initial planning and design for the scheme, and whether you are constructing a new building or simply extending or altering an existing property, it is highly advisable to engage a professional architectural designer to assist you with your project.

There are many companies and individuals providing architectural design services and also numerous advertising headings and listings under which these services are offered. These listings may include Architects, Architectural Technologists and Technicians, Architectural Designers, Architectural Services, Building Consultants, Building Design Services, Planning Services and Plan Drawing Services.

For anyone seeking to appoint an architectural designer for their project, the list of potential designers advertising in any of the above categories is extensive. Furthermore, the quality of service, qualifications, level of technical expertise and the fees charged for the service provided, varies immensely from one provider to another.

Finding and appointing the right Architectural Designer is therefore of the utmost importance to ensure the success of your building project.

The following 10-point checklist of recommendations may prove helpful when choosing and appointing your Architectural Designer.

  1. Research your chosen Architectural Designer carefully before appointing them to your project. Establish that they are trading legitimately and professionally, and check the web and other advertising outlets for supporting references to them.
  2. Ensure that the Designer carries relevant architectural Professional Indemnity for their design work and if necessary, insist on seeing evidence of their Professional Indemnity Insurance Policy.
  3. Ask them to provide you with details of their previous projects and designs and also ask to see samples of their plans and drawings so that you can assess the quality and technical content of the work they produce.
  4. Ensure that the work they produce is CAD-based, i.e. not hand-drawn, and also that they submit all drawings and local authority applications electronically via the Planning Portal or via the relevant authority’s electronic submission facility. (Many local authorities are now moving towards a ‘paperless office’ environment and paper submissions of Planning & Building Regulation applications and drawings are rapidly being phased out).
  5. Ensure that you receive a detailed written quotation or estimate from the Architectural Designer clearly itemising the extent and scope of the design service included in the quotation or estimate.
  6. Do not be guided purely by the price of the quotation or estimate, look carefully at the extent of the service being offered and precisely what the Designer has included in, or more importantly excluded from, their quotation. Make sure the extent and level of service being offered is adequate for your requirements.
  7. Obtain a recommendation for your chosen Architectural Designer from previous clients, or better still from your local authority or other professionals within the industry. Also, establish the Architectural Designer’s terms of payment for their fees etc. before accepting the quotation or estimate, and if possible agree a timescale for the delivery of the design service and the production of drawings and documents etc.
  8. Avoid Designers who offer a ‘planning only’ service, i.e to prepare drawings for planning permission, but not for Building Regulation approval. A service is usually offered on this basis purely because the Designer has insufficient experience and technical knowledge of the Building Regulations and construction processes. Designing any building even at a preliminary stage without having adequate regard to its eventual construction is an extremely dangerous practice which will inevitably lead to significant and costly issues when the project reaches construction stage.
  9. If the Architectural Designer is being instructed, or contracted to the project by your chosen builder or a prospective builder, perhaps as part of a ‘design & build’ package, do still ascertain full details of the Architectural Designer being employed by the builder and then research the Designer separately.
  10. Finally, check your local authority planning website and research the list of planning applications to ascertain that the Designer is actively and regularly submitting valid applications on behalf of his clients.

The Planning Portal is the UK Government’s online Planning and Building Regulation resource. It provides advice and services for the public, professionals and local government. It provides a valuable service for anyone wanting to find out about the planning system in England and Wales. Of particular interest to homeowners and developers are Technical Guidance Documents and a number of interactive ‘Mini-Guides’ explaining the rules governing permitted development for residential properties.

Further details and can be found on the Planning Portal website by clicking on the link below

www.planningportal.gov.uk/england/public

Whatever the size of your building project an early professional appraisal is advisable to assess the feasibility of your proposals and ideas.

A professional project appraisal is also invaluable, not only to ensure that all necessary approvals for the project are applied for and subsequently obtained, but also to ensure that design costs are not wasted pursuing consent for a project which has little or no chance of receiving planning approval.

My Project Appraisal service would include an initial site visit to assess your proposals. During this visit I would be able to confirm the requirements for Planning and Building Regulation approval for the scheme. Also at this stage, I would give you an indication as to whether your proposals would accord with current local authority planning guidance and therefore be likely to receive favorable consideration by the local planning authority when the relevant application is submitted.

If you would like to arrange an appraisal of your project and an initial consultation to discuss your ideas, please refer to the How to Proceed section.