28 November 2016
Planning for permission: securing approval for your dream home
House prices are averaging £363,481 in the South East, with detached properties in excess of £600,000, so many homeowners are choosing the more economical route of renovating and extending their own home to give them the extra living space they crave. But there are two significant criteria that senior associate Mike Wragg urges people to consider before embarking on such a project – planning permission and building regulations.
It’s a requirement that fills some people with dread especially as it can be a slow and laborious process. You may be tempted to listen to your builder who might maintain that permission is not required for the larger kitchen you want or the transformation of your garage into another bedroom. And it’s possible that during the building works, there are no objections from neighbours and the council’s planning officers don’t pay you a visit.
You may think you’ve got away with it; until you come to sell your house and if the council did not approve your plans in the first place there could be huge problem. In theory, the thousands you spent on extra square footage should bump up your house price, but without planning permission it could mean that all the investment and inconvenience you went through was for nothing. Moreover – as it spells out very clearly on the government’s website – you could be served an ‘enforcement notice’ ordering you to undo all the changes you have made.
Regardless of what your builder says, always seek advice from a property lawyer or your local council on whether permission is required, you can proceed under permitted development or any other considerations before making any structural changes to your home.
For example, it was recently announced that London homeowners planning to create underground extensions will have to pay Britain’s first extension tax with an average fee of £8,000 to secure planning permission. The money being raised will help to pay for officials who will monitor whether construction work is in accordance with noise restrictions, the hours when building work will take place and monitor the number of truck deliveries to complete the build.
Basically if boundaries are impacted, views are impaired or there will be a huge amount of inconvenience for your neighbours, you will need approval before forging ahead with renovations.
Even if you do not need planning permission for your extension, because you are using permitted development rights, you must get building regulation approval and hiring a reputable builder will be integral to achieving that. They can be difficult to find as they don’t have to be independently certified like a gas engineer or electrician. Listen to who your friends or family recommend - word of mouth is invaluable.
Apart from new buildings such as garden sheds and some conservatories, all new building work, including alterations, must comply with the Building Regulations. This covers home extensions including loft conversions; internal structural alterations, installation of baths, showers and toilets which involve new drainage or waste plumbing, installation of new heating appliances, new chimneys or flues or altered openings for new windows.
A trustworthy builder will ensure that all public health, health and safety and structural requirements are addressed such as whether the foundations are the correct depth, the walls are properly insulated, the extension is damp proof or there is proper ventilation. A building inspector will then check the building works both during and after completion, before signing it off.
Once you’ve decided to extend your home it’s tempting to get things done as quickly as possible. But it’s vital that solid foundations are put in place both legally and physically, otherwise your new build could come crashing down around you.