Since October 1st 2008 there have been some quite significant changes with the Planning Regulations in relation to private dwellings. Classified as ‘permitted development’, the parameters have been broadened to allow more types of work to not require planning permission.
With projects such as loft conversions or house extensions, there are now size guidelines, within which a project would not require planning permission. The process a home owner must go through is ‘self certification’ – this boils down to the council sending out a very simple tick box questionnaire, if you answer no to every question then you do not need planning permission.
This all sounds very simple, which of course it almost is! However, in practice we have found that it is taking a while for the planning officers on the ground to fully get to grips with some of these changes. In certain instances there are situations where different sources of planning guidance are giving contradictory advice, or other instances where language is simply ambiguous.
What should be commended, however, is the conscious effort to make the planning process more transparent and accessible. Central to this is the new and improved planning portal website – www.planningportal.gov.uk. Within the ‘general public’ section of the site are some very good semi-interactive, visual guides to what will and will not require planning permission. You can even view the blog of the Director of the Planning Portal, and make your own comments and suggestions – http://portaldirector.wordpress.com/.
As part of our daily duties we use the planning portal website to submit our applications on line. This is something which greatly improves the process for us. It’s still a bit hit and miss with the Local Authorities websites. Once an application is submitted online, it is transferred to the website of the specific Local Authority. Some of these are better than others at maintaining the online process, which should involve having all of the related documents available online – sadly this isn’t always the case.
To summarise, it is fair to say that there have been some definite concessions made with regard to what a home owner can do without requiring planning permission. Combine this with the fact that the costs of employing the services of a builder are cheaper now than they have been for quite some time (there are a lot of builders with time on their hands) then there is no better time to embark upon a building project.