These notes are designed to introduce the outline of the planning application process, with a particular focus on domestic building work.
It is in no sense legal advice, and a solicitor or an architect should be consulted as soon as you think there is some problem involving a planning application.
Thinking about building?
There are plenty of substantial building projects that don't require any planning permission. However, it is undoubtedly a good idea to consult a range of people before you consider any work.
Although an English person's home is still their castle, many of us live in close proximity to others. Your neighbours should be the first individuals you talk to. Have you thought carefully about alteration to their access to light, or a view? Such disputes are notorious for causing bad feeling. With a little consideration at an early stage, you can avoid a good deal of unpleasantness later.
If your prospective work will involve any form of structure, you may well need Building Control approval. This may be quite separate from any involvement with the planning department. While they may be quite unconcerned about your project, the building control department may wish to examine your plans. They have no other agenda than the safety of buildings and the protection of our environment. Take advantage of the free advice these departments offer, and discuss your ideas well in advance.
Your project may need to be checked and approved by other bodies too. The list below should be consulted to see if any of the categories applies to you:
There may be legal objections to any alterations to your property. A solicitor should be consulted to see if any covenants or other forms of restriction are listed in the title deeds to your property, and if any other person or party needs to be consulted before you carry out your work.
Your ability to make alterations to your property can be limited if you live in an Area Of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a National Park such as the Peak District or the Lake District or a Conservation Area. You will also need to check if your property is Listed.
Any alterations to public utilities such as drains or sewers, or changes to public access such as footpaths will require consultation with the local council. They will have to approve your plans. Even a sign on or above your property may need to be of a certain size or shape.
Some properties may also be the home of a range of protected species such as bats or owls. These animals are protected by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and the Nature Conservancy Council must give it approval to any work that may potentially disturb them.
Likewise many members of the public are extremely defensive of trees that grow where they live. Tree Preservation Orders may control the extent to which you can fell or even prune a tree, even if it is on your property. Trees in conservation areas are particularity protected, and you will need to supply at least six week's notice before working upon them