Architectural Design Q&As

Q – We want an extension where do we start?
A – Most people know when they have run out of space or want to use their home in a different way. Eventually, you make the decision to move house or alter/extend the one you have. But where do you start is often a question you don’t know the answer to, especially if you have never been through it before. It’s not an easy, straightforward answer. Ashley will be happy to advise you.

QHow are listed buildings different and what are the restrictions?
A – There are three grades of Listed Building in England and Wales – I; 2* & 2.
Most of the properties you will come across are 2 or 2*. All Listed buildings require special consent for most works that are not like for like replacement or direct maintenance. Alterations, whether inside or out, require Listed Building Consent.

Q Do I need planning permission and why?
A – Most external alterations to a property need planning permission but some do not and fall under what is call Permitted Development. Different properties have different rules for example Houses, Flats, offices, shops all have different rules.
Local Authorities are charged with controlling development within their area to ensure it complies with their policies and they do this via the planning process. If there was not control then development would occur in a very ad hoc manner.

Q – I want to add a room in my loft what permission do I need?
A – If you want to convert the roof to a room with rooflights then usually no planning permission is required (as long as you are not listed or the permitted development rights have not been removed). If you want to add a dormer window you may not need permission if it is on the rear and below a certain volume. You will need Building Regulation Consent for the works. If you are a semi detached property or terraced property then you may need to serve party wall notices on the neighbour.

Q – How long does planning permission generally take?
A – Most planning applications are minor in nature and the set time period is 8 weeks, although this can be extended. Major can be 13 weeks. If there are problems during the process I generally make the necessary drawing amendments very quickly and look to persuade the planning department to extend that period rather than withdraw and start again. Whilst this can be frustrating it is quicker than starting the 8 weeks again.

Q – Do I need planning permission for a conservatory or a garden office?
A – Conservatories are treated no different than an extension to a dwelling and may fall within the permitted development rights of a property and not require planning permission, especially on the rear of a dwelling. You should always check with the Local Planning Authority or a professional before embarking on any building works.

A garden office for use as a personal business is allowed and the building itself can be built, with certain size and location restrictions, without the need for planning permission. Again the rules are specific and you should check with the LPA or a professional.

With both these examples there could be further restrictions if your property is Listed or within a Conservation Area.

Q – What happens if someone disagrees with planning permission, or its not approved first time? Can I appeal?
A – During the planning process anyone can make a comment on the proposed development. Whilst this can be worrying if they object it does not always mean that the Planning Officer will need to take account of the objection. A majority of applications are dealt with by the Planning Officers, under their delegated powers from the Planning Committee. Some applications are called in by the planning committee and will be decided by the politically elected members of the District or Borough Council. Usually, the applicant, as well as objectors, can speak at that meeting before they make their decision.  Once consent is issued nothing can usually be done, by third parties, to affect this. If your application is refused you can appeal against the decision to the Planning Inspectorate. This is a Government Organisation where a specialist independent of the Local Planning Authority will review the application, hear any additional statements from the applicant and the LPA and then make a final decision.

Q – Can I enquire about extending a property I haven’t purchased yet?
A – There is nothing to stop you seeking professional advice about extending a property you are looking to purchase. You can even discuss such alterations with the Local Planning Authority. They will usually have a pre-application process, which will incur a fee, and  will give you a written view on the proposal. Time constraints may not allow this to be done and the professional advice approach may be more timely. It is a little-known fact that you can apply for planning permission on a property that you do not own but this may not be wise without some legal agreement between yourself and the owner as the value of the property will be affected by a planning decision.

Q – In what situations do I need to check for building regulations and planning consent?
A – Most alterations to your property will need building regulation consent. There are some minor alterations that will not need an application but are self-approved by a specialist – these can include Window replacement, electrical alterations, boiler installation, wood burner installations. It is best to check your contractor is certified to carry out the works you have requested. If in doubt check with your local Building Control department. Structural Alterations, conversions, extensions, drainage alterations and many other alterations or improvements require Building Regulation consent.

Planning Consent may be required for external alterations to your house, flat or business premises. If your property is Listed you will need Listed Building Consent for most alterations. If your property is in a conservation area there will be some additional restrictions above a normal property but not as stringent as if it were listed.

Q – What are the planning rules re new build properties?
A – Local Planning Policies will be different for a new build property depending on which Local Planning Authority the site is in. The information you will need to provide will be extensive and may require professional assistance for individual reports on anything from flood risk to traffic or protected species.

Always speak to a professional as submitting the wrong information could cut off other avenues for gaining consent.

Q – Can I extend a listed building and is it expensive and difficult to make alterations to one?
A – Listed Buildings have mostly been adapted and extended since they were originally constructed and the Listing is not there to prevent further changes but to protect the historic nature of the building. To extend a Listed building you will need both Planning and Listed Building Consent or in some instances just the latter. Any alterations to a Listed Building will be very carefully controlled and the detail required in the build will be much greater than that of a non-Listed Building. This can make such works more expensive than to an non-listed house.

Q – We are planning a large extension and renovation of our house we don’t know any builders or much about building work. We work in the city and won’t see the builder unless he stays on late. How can we ensure we are getting what we are paying for.
A – Employing a professional to specify the works will ensure you get an accurate and comparable price for the works. The professional will check the prices for errors etc and advise on acceptance of the right price and organise a proper contract. They will then administer that contract which will involve monitoring the works for quality, progress etc. Any queries or variations will be controlled by your professional who will liaise with you. The project will be managed to completion with all monies certified as work is complete.

Q – I want to extend my house to put a utility room on the side what permissions do I need?
A – Some extensions on the side of your house don’t need planning permission but this is quite complicated to be sure of. Always apply for a certificate of lawful development before commencing work without planning permission. You may need planning permission, you will need building regulations consent and you may need a party wall agreement if you are near to a neighbours property.

More answers here