Tips on how to gain successful planning permission

Westbury’s guide to navigating your way through the red tape.

For those embarking on their first extension project, the prospect of seeking and gaining planning permission can be a daunting prospect. In the case of listed buildings, or when undertaking building work within an area of outstanding natural beauty or a conservation area, the rules and regulations will be much stricter.

Planning permission is essentially gaining permission from your local authority to erect or to alter a building, on the proviso that the building/alteration adheres to the rigorous regulations surrounding building work in the UK.

Researching local planning policies is a really good idea to get a feel for what may or may not be accepted and to guide the direction of your own scheme in terms of materials, sizing and scale.

Use local planning policies to find out:

  • What the maximum dimensions are for extensions as a proportion of the house
  • Where your building/extension can and cannot be located
  • How close to the boundary line you can go

Look into why other plans are commonly rejected:

  • Does it obstruct the views/light of neighbours?
  • Does it encroach on the privacy of neighbours?
  • Does it significantly upset the balance of the neighbourhood from a visual perspective, particularly with regards to conservation areas and listed buildings?
  • Does it impact parking/traffic or highway safety?
  • Is there a noise issue?
  • Does it conflict with government policy?
  • Are you compliant with policies on building layout and density, design appearance and materials?
  • Does it comply with regulations on access for disability?
  • How does it impact on the local development plan?
  • What are the implications of previous planning decisions and modifications?

A side elevation should be no more than half your house's width

What can I get away with? – aka Permitted Development

Indeed not all building work will require planning permission at all – under the Permitted Development regulations (at time of writing):

  • You can add up to an 8-metre single storey extension to a detached house or a 6-metre single storey extension to a semi-detached or terraced property (change is coming though)
  • Under Permitted Development a single storey rear extension must be no higher than 4 metres, but if your proposed new extension is within 2 metres of a boundary the height of the eaves is limited to 3 metres
  • A 2-storey extension can project out up to 3 metres from the original rear wall as long as it is at least 7 metres from the rear boundary
  • Extensions cannot project beyond what is deemed the front of the house. A side extension should not make up more than half your house’s width
  • With the exception of conservatories, new extensions must be built in similar materials to that of the original house
  • Glazed extensions should not cover more than half of the land surrounding the original house
  • Some new-build properties have had their permitted development rights removed

Knowing what you’re up against is therefore the best way to ensure that your application meets with success – as we like to say at Westbury – understanding is power!

Gaining planning permission – the process

Gaining pre-application advice is a definite advantage to gauge whether your plans are realistic or not, and this can be gained either through your local authority or from a building professional such as an architect, building design service or chartered surveyor. They will also be able to advise you on whether you need to run a special survey or gain a warrant in support of your application.

When making your application, you will need to provide:

  • An application form
  • Ownership certificate
  • Location & block plan
  • Before and after elevation plans
  • A design and access statement justifying your scheme
  • The correct fees

You can apply through your local authority or through planningportal.co.uk, which for an extension project will cost £206 in England (at the time of writing), but prices vary throughout the rest of the UK.

gaining planning permission - glazed extension plans

Monitor your application’s progress

Once the authorities have received your application they will check they have received everything they need to proceed and let you know whether you are required to submit anything further. Over the course of the time it takes to process your application the local authority will notify statutory consultees such as your neighbours, the highways department and the parish council. Although all of these can object, their reasons will only be taken into consideration if they are based on material considerations.

You can keep up to date on the progress of your application by phoning the planning office or visiting the local planning authority online. If you sense during the process that your application is unlikely to be approved, you can withdraw your application, modify it accordingly and then resubmit it for free. This is advisable as once refused, it is more difficult to gain planning permission even after appeal.

Successful planning applications

If you strike gold and get planning permission for your project, then be sure to adhere to the conditions, or design amendments that you may be given. Once you have met those conditions you will need to have them signed off. Failure to do so will invalidate the approval. Amendments can be resubmitted under the minor amendments route, which should take 28 days. In the event that your project has been turned down, another full planning application must be submitted, but will be free of charge if put forward within a year of the original submission.

Unsuccessful planning applications

If your application has been rejected because it is in breach of the local planning policy, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board. However, if the decision seems to be somewhat arbitrary then you may choose to appeal it.

Rejected applications means back to the drawing board

Smart people hire smarter people

Planning applications are a headache and so the best course of action is to ensure that you are working with professionals at the design stage, who have significant experience of navigating these waters, and who will manage the application process for you. Relying on the expertise and experience of others can give you the peace of mind you need to truly enjoy the creative process, with less of the red tape that comes with it. Whatever you decide, good luck!