Do I Need Planning Permission?

Planning permission is required for “development”. There are two forms of “development”; building work and change of use of land or buildings.

Many minor developments benefit from a “blanket” planning permission (called “permitted development”) which means that you do not need to specifically apply for planning permission. However, permitted development is subject to conditions and limitations. If your extension (for example) does not comply with all of these you may be required to demolish it!  Also, if your property is in a Conservation Area, National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, or is a Listed Building different considerations apply.

Another consideration is that where planning permission has been granted (for example, the building of a house), that planning permission may remove “permitted development” rights thus preventing the building of extensions, etc. without a further application for planning permission being made. By way of example, on 15 April 2010 Exeter City Council took enforcement action against a conservatory which had been built contrary to a planning condition which removed “permitted development” rights to build extensions (including conservatories). Had the householder taken advice prior to ordering the conservatory it would have been pointed out to them that they needed to apply for planning permission. As it is they were required to remove it.

Certain changes of use are also permitted but these have been subject to several changes in recent months and further changes are proposed

If you want the Council to make a determination as to whether your proposal requires planning permission you should consider applying for a Certificate of Proposed Lawful Use or Development.

If you want to find out whether you need planning permission, just contact me. Initial advice is free of charge!

A couple of “Danger Zones” where you should seek advice at the outset

Garage conversions

A garage conversion (and here I am not considering a new building) will generally comprise two elements in Planning terms. First, building works (for example replacing garage doors with a new wall, new windows, etc), and secondly, the use to be made of the former garage.

The building works may require planning permission, and this partly depends upon whether the garage is integral to the house or whether it is a free-standing building.

In terms of what the building could be used for, in the case of a free standing building the use it could be put to is likely to be limited to a purpose “incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house as such” which would usually exclude “primary” uses which would normally take place in the house itself (e.g. bedrooms).

However, with an integral garage, once converted it could probably be put to any use which would normally take place within a dwelling house (because it would be part of the dwelling house). However, you would not be able to use the former garage as a completely separate unit e.g. with it’s own access and no access from the remainder of the house, because then it would become a separate “planning unit” (but that’s another story)

You should also remember that there may be a condition on the original planning permission which prohibits use of the garage for any purpose other than vehicle storage.

You also need to remember that you will need Building Regulation approval, and you should check the terms of your home insurance.


Working from home

Running a business from your home could amount to a material change of use of the premises requiring planning permission. It all depends upon the circumstances of each case.

If your business involves a significant number of visits to the premises by clients; you have staff working at the premises; or you store significant amounts of stock, the more likely it is that you will need planning permission. Anything which is likely to affect the amenity of your neighbours (e.g. vehicle repairs) is likely to require planning permission.

The test is whether the business use affects the character of the premises.

Personally I have dealt with businesses which have fallen on both sides of this line.

You should also check the deeds to your property to see whether they prohibit business use of the property. This is a common restriction on housing estate developments. You should also check your household insurance and get the approval of any mortgagee.