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Spotlight on The Party Wall Act 1996

by Sarah Halloran

If you are thinking about doing some major renovations in your home that require a sledgehammer and a party wall, then it might be wise to know a little bit about the Party Wall Act and the legislation that determines what you can and can’t do within your home.

The Party Wall Act 1996 actually came into force in 1997 and comes into effect if somebody is planning on completing works on a relevant structure.  The term ‘party wall’ doesn’t always mean the wall between two semi-detached properties.  It covers the following instances:

A wall forming part of only one building but which is on the boundary line between two (or more) properties.

A wall which is common to two (or more) properties, this includes where someone built a wall and a neighbour subsequent built something butting up to it.

A garden wall, where the wall is astride the boundary line (or butts up against it) and is used to separate the properties but is not part of any building.

Floors and ceilings of flats etc.

Excavation near to a neighbouring property.

As with any DIY or major projects that might affect your neighbours, the polite thing to do is to let them know what you plan to do in the hope of reaching a friendly and amicable agreement.  Resorting to mentioning or enforcing the law should be the last thing on your mind in the early stages of planning.  Even if the work requires a notice to be served, it’s always best to informally discuss what you intend to do and to consider any comments or reservations your neighbours might have.  Friendly discussions at this stage might cause you to rethink your plans and amend them before serving a notice.

What party wall works don’t need permission?

There are many minor works that can be carried out to party walls without any notice being served or permission being granted.  Typically, this type of work includes:

Putting up shelves and wall units

Replastering works

Electrical rewiring works

What party wall works do need permission?

The Party Wall Act was enforced to ensure that all work that might have an effect on the structural support and strength of a party wall or that might cause damage to a neighbouring property, be notified.  A good rule of thumb if you are not sure what effect works might have is to seek advice from your local Building Control Office or a professional architect or surveyor.

You must serve a notice if you plan to carry out any of the following works:

To demolish and/or rebuild a party wall

To increase the height or thickness of a party wall

Insertion of a damp proof coarse (either chemical injection or a physical dpc)

Cutting into the party wall to take load bearing beams

Underpinning a party wall

Excavations within 3 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building

Excavations within 6 metres of a neighbouring building where the excavation will go below a line drawn 45° downwards from the bottom of the foundations of the neighbouring building

Serving a Notice

Once you are sure that the work you intend to carry out falls under the Party Wall Act, it’s time to arrange a notice to be served.  This must be issued to all affected neighbouring parties.  The notice must include the following information:

The owners of the property undertaking the work

The address of the property

The names of all the owners of the adjoining property

A description of the proposed work, usually a single line giving a brief description

The proposed start date for the work

A clear statement that the notice is being served under The Party Wall etc Act 1996

The date the notice is being served

If the notice is for excavation work, then a drawing showing the position and depth of the excavation must be included

The process of serving a notice under the Party Wall Act is as follows:

The person intending to complete the works must serve a written notice on the neighbours or owners of the adjoining property no less than two month before the intended work is due to comments.  All neighbouring parties must be informed.  Each neighbouring party then has 14 days to respond in writing giving consent or showing dissent – if a party chooses to do nothing within 14 days then the notice will be automatically put into dispute.  No work may commence until all neighbouring parties have agreed in writing.

So, if you’re planning on knocking down a party wall or arranging underpinning, you’ll need to consider the Party Wall Act and everything it contains.  Being on side with your neighbours is going to help a great deal with the notice process and will hopefully help you to achieve project completion with no problems.

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Can’t Move? Improve!

by Sarah Halloran

Research released by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors is showing that more and more homeowners are choosing to improve their homes rather than face the uncertainty of putting their home on the market.  The studies revealed that 48% of chartered surveyor estate agents reported that the current slump in the housing market is causing homeowners to carry out renovations and DIY projects to their existing homes.  Adding extra bedrooms or a new bathroom or kitchen were popular renovations of choice as was the restoration of period features.

However, RICS does warn that the cost of improvements is not necessarily going to be covered by any increase in the property’s value.  Homeowners are advised to avoid over-valuing any improvements made or to expect high returns.  It’s important, especially in the case of extensions for example, to ensure that the new accommodation is balanced and in keeping with the rest of the property.  Most areas have a ceiling price to consider too.  Basically this means improving a poor property in a good location could give better returns than improving a good property in a poor location.  RICS advises checking out prices of houses with additional bedrooms before you go ahead with any renovations so you know exactly how much value you could be adding.

So, which improvements add the most value?  Well, before you consider monetary worth, it’s a good idea to consider how the accommodation will benefit you seeing as you could be staying put for a long time to come.  Think about what you would want from a new property and whether you could carry out suitable renovations to your current property. Obviously, extending the garden is usually out of the question, but there are lots of other improvements you can make.

Adding bedrooms is by far the best way to increase the value of your home and could increase the current value by up to 11%.  When considering an extension to your property it’s a good idea to consider the proportions of your home and to avoid cramming in more bedrooms for the sake of it.  Remember, you will also lose a great deal of outdoor space and renovation works will usually take a long time and cause a great deal of disruption, but the returns could far outweigh any inconvenience caused.

Opening up space within your home could also be a good move.  Kitchen-diners are just one of the ways you could improve the interior of your home and more and more buyers are looking for practical uses of space that allow more natural light in.  Just don’t get carried away and start knocking down walls as you could potentially lower the value of your home with one swing of the hammer!

Fitting central heating is not the most exciting of improvements, but it could add a whopping to 13% to the value of your property.  Central heating is also going to benefit you hugely if you are to be staying in the property for a while.  Investment in a high-efficiency boiler is also a good idea and will attract ‘green’ buyers in the future and also look good on your home energy report when you come to sell.

If you have a limited budget then there are other improvements you can make that won’t break the bank.  For example, creating off-road parking could add thousands onto the value of your property, but could cost you as little as £650. Kitchen and bathroom improvements are also ways you can increase the value of your property and there are ways you can carry out these works on a budget or with DIY projects.

David Dalby, Professional Groups Director at RICS said “Most properties provide some potential for expansion and improvement, but we would advise people to think about how much they are investing and their key motivator before undertaking major projects. It is important to think about the style and age of the property before undertaking any works – remember, what appeals to some people may not appeal to others. Costly disappointments can be avoided by prior planning and research. RICS advise that whatever you decide to do with your home you should seek professional advice and ensure all works are carried out by qualified contractors.”

It can be a struggle to sell a property, improvements or not.  If you really believe your home to be unsellable, Channel 4 would like to hear from you.  A new series is in production that aims to solve common property problems and get the nation moving.  Why not get in touch?  You’ll have access to property experts who will bring in genuine buyers and more interest in your property than you ever thought possible!

Interested?  Contact  – 0141 427 6081 or – 0141 427 6074.

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Demolition – do you need planning permission?

by Ian Butter

Q       I want to knock down a building on my property. Do I need planning permission?

A Until recently demolition of a building or structure (other than a residential building) did not usually require planning permission. In effect it was treated as Permitted Development.

For a residential property (and its associated buildings) it remains necessary to give the local council prior notification of the intention to demolish and to seek their prior approval, so that they can make requirements for the method of demolition and restoration of the site. However, even this does not constitute a planning application.

Six weeks notice under Section 80 of the Building Act 1984 is required for all demolition proposals, so that any building matters (shoring up a neighbours’ property for example) can be addressed.

Then there would need to be Listed Building Consent if the property is a Listed Building and Conservation Area Consent if it is in a Conservation Area.

Following a recent court case (R (Save Britain’s Heritage) v. SSCLG [2011]) planning         permission for demolition may now be required where the scale and nature of the           proposal is such that an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required.

The prior notification procedure now seems to apply to a far wider range of properties than previously and screening for an EIA could be required. This may mean that if an EIA is      required the proposal is no longer considered to be permitted development and an express planning permission to demolish will be required.

Leave to appeal was denied, but the change could still be subject to challenge.

However, for the time being it may be better to assume that demolition proposals           should be notified to and checked with your local council for EIA screening purposes before you take a sledge hammer or JCB to the job.

Ian P Butter BSc (Hons) FRICS MRTPI is a professionally qualified Chartered Surveyor and Town Planner and has worked in the rural sector for over 30 years.  Ian runs an online planning aid service at (now in its tenth year) where he regularly provides answers to a wide range of planning issues.

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Do I Need Planning Permission to Work from Home?

by Ian Butter

In this series of articles, planning expert Ian Butter answers some of the most commonly asked planning questions.  This week concerning home working – with more and more of us working from home or starting home businesses –  when does a building with residential use cross the line to business use?

Q. Do I Need Planning Permission to Work from Home?

A. Not necessarily.

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the following, then planning permission will probably be needed:

1.  Will your home no longer be used primarily as a private residence?

2.  Will your business result in a noticeable rise in traffic or people visiting the home?

3.  Will your business involve any activities not normally to be found in a residential area?

4.  Will your business disturb your neighbours at unreasonable hours or create other forms of nuisance such as noise or smells?

Working from the kitchen table or spare bedroom shouldn’t normally require consent, but convert the lounge or garage to an office and you may be edging toward problems.

The Council’s enforcement officer will become particularly interested if you carry out un-neighbourly activities. For example, pick-ups and drop-offs of products, or employing staff who work from the property, may cause parking or disturbance problems. Regular visits by members of the public or direct sales from the premises really will be tempting fate.

In essence, working from home means just that. When your home becomes a workplace first, home second, then the balance of probability will be that a change of use has taken place.

You can apply to your council for a Certificate of Lawful Use for the proposed activity to be certain that you’re working-from-home activities are not a change of use. Be careful also in sensitive areas such as Conservation Areas or in Listed Buildings.

Even if planning permission is not required, Building Regulation and/or Listed Building approval might be.

For further advice go to

Ian P Butter BSc (Hons) FRICS MRTPI is a professionally qualified Chartered Surveyor and Town Planner and has worked in the rural sector for over 30 years.  Ian runs an online planning aid service at (now in its tenth year) where he regularly provides answers to a wide range of planning issues.


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Ten Things You need to know about the Town Planning System

by Ian Butter

The British town planning system is a complex beasty at the best of times, but if you are considering development proposals or changing the use of land or buildings you may need to bear in mind one or more of the following key elements:

1    Check to see if you need planning permission. You may not!
•    Does your existing permission already allow your intended use? It’s always     worth checking
•    Is there an outstanding consent that can be implemented
•    There are certain Permitted Development Rights available for minor activities and land uses
•    There are also specific Use Classes for development between which you can change without the need for planning permission

2    Development in the Green Belt is rarely allowed.
•    Very special circumstances have to be argued
•    Generally avoid high environmental and ecological areas (SSSI’s, AONB etc)

3    Always arrange a Pre-application meeting with the Council
•    It can save you a huge amount of time and money

4    Work through the Validation Checklist and make sure you have all the  relevant information.
•    There is nothing worse than putting your application in and then finding     you need to submit more information; that you don’t have!

5    Statutory Planning Fees are chargeable, based on area and/or type of     application

•    Careful attention to the exact application boundary can save money
•    Householder applications are separate and generally cheaper

6    Development related to Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas will normally require additional permissions

7    Securing your planning permission is just the start. Make sure you satisfy all the conditions (and don’t forget Building Regulations either)

8    Advertisement Consent may be required for both illuminated and non-    illuminated signs etc
•    The regulations are complex and you will need to take care in erecting signs without permission

9    Local Authorities have extensive Enforcement powers. They can and do take action against unlawful development.

•    But always check to see if you can obtain a Lawful Development Certificate     for works or uses that meet the relevant time limits

10    Do your research, take advice, ensure you have all the information required and allow plenty of time.
•    You can rush planning but all that tends to happen is that you receive a refusal and have to start all over again

Next Time: Making Applications via the Planning Portal

Planning information supplied by Ian Butter FRICS MRTPI
From: The Rural and Urban Planning Consultancy

twitter:         @THEPLANNERMAN

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Do you need planning permission for your shed?

by admin

A friend recently asked me for advice about his neighbour’s shed. When I say shed, I mean minature house in the back garden.  This building is red-brick, single storey with a pitched and tiled roof and double glazed.  You could live in there easily.  Well I could.

So I decided to refresh my memory of the Planning Law on this subject.  A quick google search led to the excellent national Planning Portal which not only sets out the rules in as clear a manner as possible but also has a 3-D demo!  It wasn’t like this when I studied Town and Country Planning I can tell you.

In brief, outbuildings are now (since October 2008) covered by permitted development rights – a type of planning classification which says that you have automatic planning permission without application subject to certain restrictions.

The main general restrictions are that the house is not listed and that you’re outside ‘Designated land’, which includes national parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.

So if you’re not in one of those, you qualify for permitted development rights.  The specific restrictions for an outbuilding (such as a shed, dog kennels, garage or study) are:

Does your shed need planning permission?

  • No outbuilding on land forward of a wall forming the principal elevation. (that means not in front of the house).
  • Outbuildings and garages to be single storey with maximum eaves height of 2.5 metres and maximum overall height of four metres with a dual pitched roof or three metres for any other roof.
  • Maximum height of 2.5 metres in the case of a building, enclosure or container  within two metres of a boundary of the curtilage of the dwellinghouse (that means the boundary of the whole plot).
  • No verandas, balconies or raised platforms (where are we Australia? It’s too cold for a veranda anyway, surely!).
  • No more than half the area of land around the “original house” would be covered by additions or other buildings.

You can see the visual demonstration of the rules by clicking here.

Unfortunately for my friend, his neighbour’s ‘outhouse’ was within the height, area and location requirements and so qualified for permitted development and so can be deemed to have planning permission.  If you’re planning to build an outhouse an are still unsure of the rules, don’t be afraid to phone up your local council planning department and ask for advice – after all they’re there to help you.

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