Ask a Builder – Do I need Planning Permission?

I’d like to make some major changes to my home, do I need planning permission?

Depending on the work you’re doing you might need to get planning permission, almost certainly Building Regulations Approval (aka Building Regs) and/or both.

Firstly, it is entirely your (the person looking to have the work done) responsibility to find out what permission approval may be needed.

Planning permission is largely subjective and governs whether you can build at all. Whereas Building Regulations are largely objective and confine themselves to the structural aspects of the build. Both will be explored in more detail.

In brief, (and this should only be used as a rule of thumb) You will need to obtain planning permission if you intend to:

  • Build something entirely new
  • Make a major structural change to an existing building
  • Change the use of a building. E.G from a Cafe to a residential dwelling.

You will need to obtain Building Regs approval to check the work being carried out adheres to certain safety aspects and energy efficiency standards. It also allows the governing body to check the standard of workmanship.

You will need to obtain Building Regs to complete most major building works in your home, some include but not restricted to:

  • New Build
  • Extensions
  • Loft conversions
  • Alterations to structure of the building
  • Home improvements including, new boiler, new radiators, bathrooms, new consumer units, electric windows, doors and roofing.

Planning Permission 

Planning permission can be complex and vary from council to council. It is best to use the interactive guide on the Planning Portal found here. Your architect or planning adviser can assist with the process and they may also offer this service when they carry out their designs.

Permitted Development

Here’s where it gets more convoluted. You don’t always need planning permission for some building works. Works that fall under this category are called Permitted Development.

It’s important to note that permitted development rights only apply to houses. If you live in a flat, maisonette or a house above a basement flat it’s very likely you’ll need planning permission to make any alterations.

Until May 2019 you can build a larger scale single storey extension under permitted development providing you do not live in a conservation area. The size of the extension will depend on the property:

  • Attached house: 3 – 6 metres
  • Detached house: 4 – 8 metres

Building Regs

When is Approval Required? – As a rule of thumb any structural work, alterations to your house, drainage or electrical work requires Building Regulation Approval. Chances are, (due to the scale of the work we do) if you have employed Creo to carry out work in your home, Building Regs will be required.

Who administers the process? – Building regs can be approved either by the local building control authority (Department of your local Council) or a private company acting as an approved inspector. In our experience the team at Bristol City Council Building Control are fantastic even in times of budgetary constraints.

Inspection Process – Building Control will want to inspect after the following stages of your project if applicable:

  • Excavation of foundations
  • Foundations concrete
  • Oversite
  • Damp proof course
  • Foul water trenches open
  • Surface water trenches open
  • Occupation prior to completion (second fix)
  • Completion

Don’t worry if this sounds a bit technical. Any reputable builder can advise when to contact Building Control or you may want your builder to contact them themselves. This is an option. It’s as simple as making a call and requesting a site visit. Or you can make a request online here.

On Completion  – When all work is complete and the building control inspector is satisfied a Completion Certificate will be issued. It’s important to keep this in a safe place with any written planning permission as it’s an important document for when you come to sell your house.

Applying for Planning Permission and Building Regs

After recognising the need for planning permission you can apply here. You will need a set of plans to submit.

Building Regs applications can be made here. Once a Building Regs application has been lodged work can commence on site within 48 hours. This does vary around the country so please seek advice if unsure.

Fees vary and can change. The most recent breakdown can be found here.

Summary and Useful Information

  • Planning permission is complex and needs thorough research
  • Building Regulation approval is almost always needed

The Planning Portal

Bristol City Council Planning 

South Gloucestershire Planning

North Somerset Planning

DISCLAIMER – All information provided above is specific to our clients in Bristol. Planning laws are complex and can change around the country. Please use this only as a rough guide. This blog should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional in your locality.


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