Top Tip 1
Check if you need permission
Most changes to a building’s outside will require planning permission. You might also need permission for internal changes to some types of buildings - you should assume you need permission until you have confirmed you do not. Whilst certain work can be done without planning permission, using ‘permitted development’ rights (read more here) even these can be subject to restrictions.
If you are changing the use of something, say the ground floor of a house into a hair salon, or an office building into a gym, you will also usually need planning permission, even if no external changes are made to the building.
You can confirm if you need planning permission by calling your local council, or by speaking to a professional planning consultant (who can also tell you your options).
Top Tip 2
Be financially prepared
There are many costs involved with doing any kind of building work. First, there are the fees of an architect and planning consultant who will investigate your needs and turn them into a design to fit your budget and likely to get planning permission.
More complicated projects which need structural or mechanical services engineers (for specialist heating, ventilation etc.) will also add to this.
Assume professional fees (architect, engineer, planner, etc.) will cost around 10-12% of the project budget. This is a good rule of thumb, but it makes sense to allow for more if the project is unusual.
Once you have a team assembled, there are also application fees to the Council and other official bodies, as well as the cost of supporting reports needed for the Council to register your planning application. Such reports can range from land surveys, wildlife assessments, or tree surveys, to heritage (for example for older buildings) and highways reports - the list can be long. These supporting reports cost money, but they are a necessary part of the planning process.
Submitting a planning application needs careful consideration, including well-prepared supporting documents. Using professional help to advise you and arrange these reports saves you time and money in the long run.
Even building a house can cost thousands of pounds per square metre
Top Tip 3
Know the power
of local politics,
and talk to your neighbours
Neighbours' objections can stop an application in its tracks, through complaints and petitions to local councillors and parish councils.
Even when a council’s planning department supports an application, neighbours' complaints can cause the councillors who sit on the local Planning Committee to refuse applications. Though it is always possible to appeal a refusal, it is an uncertain, expensive, and often avoidable process.
Always talk to your neighbours - and show them your plans - if you are making big changes. It is best to do this before you submit an application. It is also wise to approach the local community to try to get their backing for larger projects (such as a new house or houses).
Sitting with neighbours and listening to their concerns provides an opportunity for you to consider and address neighbours’ objections before they can become a reason for your application to be refused.
If you have a building or land you want to build on, take a thorough look through the site's development history. This includes an investigation of planning policies affecting it, potential constraints, and opportunities beyond what may be obvious.
It is common for people to have a good idea of what they want, and rush into make a planning application without doing thorough research. A rigorous development history check can reveal less obvious options for a house or land, which may prove more feasible, profitable, and better-suited to your needs.
Many fail to realise the effort and information that needs to be prepared before construction can begin.
Top Tip 5
Use a professional early on
This may seem obvious coming from a planning and architecture consultancy, but planning policies, guidance, and application requirements change often. This makes it very easy to lose track, or be misinformed, about what is needed to prepare a scheme with a good chance of getting planning permission.
Planning consultants know the system and work with it daily. They know (or can quickly find out) about planning permissions similar to what you want, and the legal basis for councils’ decisions. This helps them guide a development's design, and foresee planning objections before they are raised by the council. A planning consultant, (aside from the architect), should usually be the first consultant appointed to take a building project forward.
Some people wait to encounter problems, objections, or even refusal of permission before going to a professional for help. This is a false economy: they end up paying more for their project to be redesigned to get planning permission.
Top Tip 6
Check what other permissions you need after planning
Listed Building Consent, Discharge of Planning Conditions, Party Wall Notices, Building Regulations, CDM Regulations - the list can go on. There are usually plenty of hoops to jump through after you obtain planning permission.
In many cases, you will need more than just planning permission before you start building. Ignoring other permissions can be illegal and also void your planning permission. In extreme cases, councils can take action to force newly-finished buildings to be demolished.
Getting planning approval is just the start!
On all but the simplest projects, it is sensible to get professionals on board early on to get the best out of a development.
If you need help on a project, call us:
Birmingham / West Midlands
0121 744 5511
020 3837 4917
If you found this article useful, you may also be interested in our Planning Jargon Glossary.