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A Guide to Planning Permission and Residential Conveyancing

A photo of Kelly Roberts
23rd January 2020

Following on from my previous blog which looked at Building Regulations, this will be a brief guide focused on Planning for existing properties being sold, this guide does not cover New Homes.

The enquiries we come across can relate to both planning and building regulations so its useful to know about both aspects and the effect it may have when you come to sell your property.

The Planning Portal website is also an extremely useful tool and which contains interactive guides, this can be found at the Government site is also helpful and that can be found at

What is Planning Permission

Its existence is to regulate development and the use of land. It is consent from your Local Authority to make changes but it is to prevent inappropriate development. Any proposed new dwelling or extensive changes to an existing property are subject to the requirement of obtaining planning permission.

As Parliament granted the responsibility for planning to Local Planning Authorities then it will be your Local Authority who you will need to contact in respect of the same.

Please be aware it is your responsibility to check if it is required before any work is started.

What is Permitted Development

Not everything requires planning and there are certain works which are allowed under “Permitted Development”, however this was subject to new regulations as of the 30th May 2019.

Permitted Development allows homeowners the right to carry out certain work without the need of applying for planning. It is important to note that permitted development for houses, may differ significantly for flats, other buildings, maisonettes and commercial buildings.

There are also areas around the Country which will be known as “designated areas” and this is where permitted development rights have been restricted. The designated areas can include properties within a Conservation area, a National Park, a World Heritage site or in Norfolk or Suffolk Broads. Within any designated area you will have to apply for planning even if the work usually does not require it.

There are also different requirements if your property is listed.

The general rule of thumb is to always check with your Local Authority before starting any work to see what applies to you and the area. Please be aware it is your responsibility to check if it is required before any work is started.

You also need to consider whether or not your property is subject to an “Article 4” direction. This means the Local Planning Authority have removed some of the permitted development rights and therefore you will have to apply for planning permission for work which does not normally require it. Article 4 directions tend to affect properties when the character of an area is of acknowledged importance.

From the 1stOctober 2010 you will also have to apply for planning for change of use from a dwelling house to a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO) where Article 4 exists.

Common areas of work

They can include but are not limited to: -

  • Extensions
  • Porches
  • Adverts & Signs
  • Change of Use
  • Some Conservatories
  • Demolition
  • Fences, Walls and Gates
  • Some loft conversions
  • Some Outbuildings
  • Trees where protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO)

Again, you will need to check with your Local Authority to check what applies to the property and the area as different rules apply, this is your responsibility.

In order to apply for planning you will have to submit an application. Nowadays this can, quite often be done all online but you would have to check with your Local Authority. A development plan may also be needed. The relevant fee will be have to be paid upon application.

When you apply, what happens next?

The decision will be made by your Local Authority as to whether or not to grant permission. In order for them to make their decision they will look as various factors such as what impact it has on other people and the surrounding area and whether the local people would want it. They will also take into account the size, layout and appearance and also what the use of it will be, amongst other things.

According to the Government site, decisions in most cases are made with 8 weeks but for large or complex applications it may take up to 13 weeks and if the decision takes longer you can appeal. You should be able to obtain further information about this from your Local Authority.

If your application is refused, you can change your plans in an effort to come to an agreement but failing that there are grounds on which you can appeal; but appeals can take time to be decided.

What if I haven’t got planning permission when it is required?

If you have carried out work which would have required planning permission but you went ahead without, you have committed a planning breach.

You can submit a retrospective application and if successful, no further action is required. However, if it fails to be successful the Local Authority can issue an Enforcement Notice and it is an offence not to comply with this. If you have concealed an unauthorised development which is discovered then action can be taken by the Local Authority. They may serve a Contravention Notice if it appears that a beach has occurred and they need to find out more information before deciding what enforcement action to take (where applicable) but this is a discretionary procedure only it is not a compulsory one that the Local Authority have to follow. If served however and you fail to complete it with the correct information and fail to return it within 21 days, it is an offence.

In most case the development becomes exempt from enforcement if no action is taken: -

  • within 4 years of (substantial) completion of operational development;
  • within 4 years for an unauthorised change of use to a single dwellinghouse;
  • within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (essentially other changes of use).

Needless to say, it is always better for a homeowner to be able to provide the correct certificates showing legislation has been complied with to their buyer but in cases where this is not possible, providing an Indemnity Policy to cover the Lack of Planning may be a consideration. If your Conveyancers believe this to be a viable option during the course of your Conveyancing transaction then they will discuss it further with you.