It’s no secret that industry analysts are feeling hopeful toward the UK’s construction industry growth output through 2021 and 2022; believed to be reflective of everyone staying at home for prolonged periods of time throughout 2020 and 2021 and wanting to improve their living spaces to enjoy them more. Many home improvements and renovation works require planning permission, but are trends in this space also on the up and how do homeowners know when they need to make a planning application? Let us break it down…
In the UK, planning permission refers to legally granted authority to build something new, make a major change to an existing building or to change the usage of a building from one thing to another (ie. from residential to commercial, or vice versa).
If only a minor renovation or interior decoration is being carried out on a property that is neither listed nor situated in a conservation area, no planning permission will be required. However, where something major is taking place, the homeowner and/or developer should contact their Local Planning Authority (LPA) for more information. The regulations and requirements of each LPA differ and so there is no one blanket policy accessible to all properties.
Some properties are excluded entirely from planning permission requirements but some will never be granted development rights – including primarily listed buildings, buildings of historical interest and buildings situated in designated conservation or protected areas.
Permitted Development Rights are UK-wide planning grants that allow certain building works and changes of use of properties to be carried out without the need for the application for and granting of full planning permission. There are various exclusions, conditions and limitations to Permitted Development Rights, but there are many instances in which they can make the development and/or renovation of buildings considerably easier for the owner.
Community Rights are a specific planning grant that allows building projects benefiting the local community to undergo a separate planning permission process; whereby permission is granted directly from the supportive local community rather than through the LPA. Also known as Neighbourhood Planning, this can apply to development and renovation projects and allows for local communities to directly impact on the development of their local area.
When an application to an LPA for planning permission is made, the homeowner and/or developer must submit their proposed development plans along with various details of the project. The LPA will then convene and decide on whether to grant the planning permission of each submitted project separately and on its own merits. This will include the consideration of the number, size and layout of the development, the infrastructure serving it, any landscaping needs, and the impact on and opinions of the local community in the area the development is situated.
In the UK, most planning permission applications take up to 8 weeks to be analysed and a decision by the LPA made – but this can stray up to 13 weeks for large or more complex projects. If a decision takes any longer than 13 weeks, an appeal can be made.
Any planning permission appeal that has been declined can be appealed, or if it has been granted but with specific conditions the developer does not agree to. In these cases, an appeal should be launched directly with the LPA who declined the proposal – but it should be noted that appeals can take several months to be lodged, heard, and a final decision made.
Most homeowners and developers work with their LPA to adjust their proposals to fit a more acceptable bracket of development and work from a new plan rather than wait the long periods of time an appeal may take.
Through 2020, planning permission applications were steadily on the rise as bored homeowners looked to utilised their newfound free time to develop their properties. However, April 2021 was the first month to show a decline in the number of applications made – just 65,357, down from 77.289 in march. That said, figures increased again in May 2021.
The area making the most applications for planning permission in 2021 was the North East. Planning Portal notes that this is in line with the locale’s “significant increases in business generation and investment” in recent years and that it remains home to the most productive car plant in Europe; bringing in workers and commercial interests alike. Figures in the North East show up to a 67% increase in planning permission applications made.
Indeed, it also seems as though savvy home improvement firms and wisened homeowners are continuing to make planning permission applications well – with an 88% increase in the amount accepted first time.
The Gov.UK website has a specific area for information on planning permission but this does not break down into location-related requirements. The best course of policy is to either liaise directly with or through a home improvements company with the relevant LPA. Even if a project is only being planned out rhetorically and is not yet at the stage of a formal proposal being made, the LPA will be able to offer support and guidance to help ensure that if it does come to fruition, it does so successfully. Too often LPAs are thought of as just the governing body of planning permissions but their job is also to advise and nurture homeowners and developers through the process.
Developing and renovating your home can be hugely exciting and while it’s likely to be stressful at times, seeking planning permission needn’t be. Entering into the process informed is critical and will increase your chances of successful applications hugely.
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