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Planning permission for a house extension isn't just one thing as many people think. There are two parts: Town Planning and Building Regulations. Together, these are what most people think of as planning permission.
Town Planning decides how land should be used in a town. Town planners check that construction fits into its surroundings effectively and causes the minimum of disruption. For town planners, house extensions should look similar to those around it, and shouldn't, essentially, upset the neighbours.
Quite a bit of stuff you do to a house doesn't need to have any official Town Planning permission, like
• Internal changes (but check you don't need Building Regulation approval)
• Repairs and upkeep
• Changes that don't radically go beyond the current structure
• Extensions that fall within specific dimensions
Now that last one is a bit of a nuisance, isn't it? What are the specific dimensions? The government's planning portal websitehas a really clear visual guide that can also be downloaded as a pdf.
A great number of house extensions don't need approval from the town planners, but, as a courtesy, it'd be nice to get your neighbours' blessing before you go ahead. Invite the neighbours over for a bottle or two of wine and show them the plans before work starts. By the time the first bottle is done there's a rarely any opposition raised when the house extension plans come out!
Building Regulations, however, control the details of the building work. The mechanics of it all. For the majority of building work -- house extensions included -- you need to have approval from Building Regulations. Conservatories and porches under 30m on the ground floor don't need Building Regulation approval, nor do single-storey buildings under 30m not to be used as sleeping accommodation.
To apply for house extension building regulation approval you can either submit full plans or post a building notice.
Full plans submission
1. Submit full plans to the Building Control Department, where they'll be checked over against regulations, before you receive a letter asking you to clear up any queries. When you've gained approval, you'll have a regular visits from the Building Inspector, who will check foundations, damp proofing and drains. or post a building notice.
2. Submit small-scale plans, an application form and the council's fee. Builders who are familiar with the regulations and know exactly what the deal is as far as construction practices are concerned favour this approach. You'll still have regular Building Inspectors visit to check everything's going ahead safely and properly.
As the owner of the house that is going to have a swish new house extension, you need to be aware that YOU are where the buck stops. It is your responsibility to make sure that your build complies with all the regulations and has all the permission a house extension needs to be built.
If you have a building company or architect taking care of it all, make sure you see documented approval before they start.
If you're going it alone, a call to the council's planning office would be a very wise move. Even if you're convinced your build doesn't need Town Planning approval or Building Regulations permission.
Making sure you have the right permission could save you time and money. If you start your house extension build, and the permission isn't granted, you will be required to pull the extension down, at your own expense.