Planning Permission and Building Regulations: How to ensure building works go according to plan

When considering an extension or an alteration to your property, it is important to be aware of the relevant rules in order to avoid falling foul of legislation and facing possible enforcement action.

Certain works are permitted without the need to obtain approval. However, most major works require consent (planning permission) from your Local Planning Authority (LPA). If planning permission is granted, it may be subject to certain conditions which will need to be complied with. Planning permission will be refused if the LPA believes the proposed works will have an unacceptable impact on the amenity of the area.

Building Regulations ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings by setting standards for design and construction. They can apply to the erection of an extension to a building or to the installation of services within a building. Building Regulations compliance and enforcement is usually carried out by your local authority’s Building Control (BC) department.

There are two stages to obtaining Building Regulations approval. Firstly, plans should be submitted to the relevant BC department for approval. Once approval is given (or no objection is made within the relevant time period), the second stage is to obtain a building regulations completion certificate. This is a certificate given by the local authority’s building inspector which confirms that the work complies with building regulations.

Any work of a structural nature (such as the removal of a chimney breast, repairs to or replacement of a roof or the removal of a load bearing wall) would require building regulations approval, as would replacement windows and gas and electrical installations.

For many types of building work, separate permission under both regimes will be required. However, certain works (such as internal alterations) will probably need Building Regulations approval but may not need planning permission. If you are unsure, you should contact your Local Planning Authority or a Building Control body.

When considering whether approval is required, a good tool to use is the Planning Portal website (http://www.planningportal.gov.uk), which is the online planning and building regulations resource for England and Wales. The website provides useful interactive house and terrace guides, which contain information on many householder projects and whether approval is required.

As owner of a property, you are responsible for ensuring that planning rules and building regulations are complied with. Failure to comply with the rules may result in you being liable for any remedial action and you should therefore always discuss proposals with your Local Planning Authority and Building Control body before starting work.

Breach of planning control

A breach of planning control is defined in legislation as:

  • the carrying out of development without the required planning permission; or
  • failing to comply with any condition or limitation subject to which planning permission has been granted.

Local Planning Authorities have wide powers of enforcement in relation to breaches of planning control. These powers include:

  • Service of a planning contravention notice to obtain information about a breach or suspected breach.
  • Service of a breach of condition notice to require compliance with a condition or limitation attached to a planning permission. If the breach has not been rectified in the time specified by the notice, an offence has been committed.
  • Service of an enforcement notice to ensure compliance with planning controls. Non-compliance is a criminal offence. If the notice has not been complied with in the time specified by the notice, the LPA may also enter the land and take the steps required by the notice.
  • Service of a stop notice prohibiting activity in contravention of an enforcement notice. Stop notices bring activities in breach of planning control immediately to an end (unlike enforcement notices which do not take effect earlier than 28 days after they are served).
  • Apply to the Court for an injunction to restrain any breach or anticipated breach of planning control. Failure to comply with an injunction is a prosecutable offence.

 

Enforcement action can only be taken by the LPA if the relevant time limit has not expired. Where the breach of planning control consists of an operational development carried out without planning permission, or a change of use of a building to a single dwelling house, enforcement action must be taken within 4 years of the date on which the operations were substantially completed or the change of use occurred.

 

In relation to other breaches (such as any material change of use other than to use as a single dwelling house, or any breach of condition or limitation attached to a planning permission), enforcement action must be taken within 10 years of the date of the breach.

Breach of building regulations 

If building work is carried out in contravention of Building Regulations, local authority Building Control departments have a range of enforcement powers including:

  • Service of an enforcement notice requiring alteration to or removal of non-compliant works. An Enforcement Notice must be served within 12 months of the date of completion of the offending works.
  • Apply to the Court for an injunction which, if granted, will prevent the property from being used. There is no time limit on the local authority applying for an injunction. However, in practice no local authority has yet to apply for an injunction in relation to a breach of building regulations and it is unlikely that this route would be taken unless there was a risk of serious danger to health and safety.
  • Prosecution. The time limit for bringing prosecutions for all breaches of building regulations committed on or after 22nd September 2008 is two years from the date of completion of the offending building work. The two year limit is subject to a requirement that any prosecution must be brought within six months of the date when the local authority discovered the offending work.

ORJ is a Legal 500 Top Tier firm and is a leading Staffordshire law firm for conveyancing services. Contact Jade Dubil (jade.dubil@orj.co.uk) or Louise Palmer (louise.palmer@orj.co.uk).