At House, we pride ourselves on being the ‘go-to’ architects Wirral home owners rely on for their house extensions, and one of the most frequently asked questions we hear from our clients before embarking upon a house extension is “Do I need Planning Permission?” The answer will of course depend on the design of your extension, but there are some general guidelines that, if adhered to, should mean you don’t need formal planning permission. We’ll talk you through some of these in this article.
Once you’ve decided on your house extension design with your architect, you need to find out if you need planning permission. If planning permission is required you will need to obtain permission from your local council, so for example if you live in Wirral your local authority is probably Wirral Metropolitan Borough Council. Depending on the scale of your extension or alterations planning approval may not be required. Generally speaking, if a single storey rear extension to an attached house is not more than 6m from the back of the original house then it may fall within the permitted development rules. Other conditions specify the height of the eaves should be no more than 3m from the ground and the materials of the extension should match the existing. Two storey extensions have stricter criteria and most two storey extensions in normal semi-detached or terraced areas will require planning permission, due to the proximity to other properties. The Planning Portal have produced this handy ‘Mini Guide’ which can help to give you an idea of whether or not you require planning permission. If you live on designated land (such as a conservation area) or a Site of Special Scientific Interest some of the permitted development rules won’t apply, so it’s best to chat to an architect before engaging a builder, even if you think you don’t require permission. You can be sure the person you’re speaking with is an architect by doing a quick and simple check on the Architects Register, or checking if your architect is registered with the RIBA.
House Extensions Wirral
Most councils, including Wirral council, usually recommend that even if you don’t require full planning permission to build an extension, you should, at the least, obtain a ‘Certificate of Lawfulness’. A Certificate of Lawfulness will help you if and when you ever come to sell the property you’ve done works to. It provides your solicitor with proof that all the works fell within the permitted development rules and therefore it reassures a future buyer and prevents you from having to indemnify the future owner of the house.
If all of the works to your home are internal, i.e. there is no change to the outside, then you probably don’t need planning permission or a Certificate of Lawfulness (unless you live a listed building). In this case, you can skip the planning stage and go straight to Building Regulations! If you are making any external changes to your home, check with your House architect Wirral if you need planning permission before commissioning a builder to start any work.
At the planning stage your architect and their technical team will finalise the plans and include all the details required for the local council to come to a determination about the works to your property. You should allow up to 4 weeks for the production of the planning drawings. They will complete a Householders Planning Application on your behalf and then submit your application to the local council. The fee to the local council is currently £206, plus a £20 fee to the planning portal for online submissions. (prices correct as of January 2020.)
Your architect and their team will then manage the application process. During a typical planning application, the local authority may make 2 types of request from you, they could ask for further information, or design changes. Where they ask for further information, this may require you to commission a survey to be carried out. For example, sometimes where home owners apply to convert their loft, a bat survey is required, or perhaps a ground conditions survey may be required for a single storey extension depending on what type of land the house has been built on. If this happens and you’re asked to provide further information, either you or your architect can contact local surveyors for quotes. If you are requested by the council to provide survey information then be aware, this will add some extra time and expense to the project.
The other common request the council can make is for design changes to the proposed alterations to your home. If this is the case your architect will speak to the local council and ask what changes they would like to see to the design for them to recommend the application for approval. They will then check with you to see if you would be happy with the requested design changes. If you are happy to compromise with the council’s requests, a drawing amendment will be drafted up by your architect and submitted to your planning officer for them to review.
If you’re not happy with the changes being requested you do have options. You can wait for a refusal of your application from the local council and then apply for an appeal. If you go for an appeal you are not guaranteed to get the result you want and appeals can also take a long time, but that’s not to say it might not be worth trying! Another option is to wait for a refusal and then go back to the drawing board to produce a new design or use one of the other options your architect came up with during the design process and submit a new application with a very different design. There will usually be an extra fee to the architect for producing another set of planning drawings, but you won’t have to pay an extra fee to the local council for submitting a new application if they refused your last application (as of Jan 2020).
Once you’ve submitted a planning application it takes 10 days for the local council to validate the application and then 8 weeks from the date of validation until the determination of the application. This process can take significantly longer where the design is contentious, it’s in a conservation area, or in a listed building. There are also factors outside of your, or the architect’s control, such as council staff resources and workloads. We usually advise our clients to expect to wait 3-4 months for a planning decision in case it does take longer than expected.
Once you have navigated the planning process with the help of your Architect, and you have obtained an approval for your chosen design, the next step is then to obtain Building Regulations Approval.