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Planning permission for home extensions and renovations: a simple guide

Do I need planning permission

Planning permission for home extensions and renovations: a simple guide

Planning permission. For anyone thinking of doing building work on their home, these two words can cause anxiety! There are so many rumours and misconceptions about planning permission, it’s easy to become overwhelmed. That’s why we’ve written this simple guide on the basics of planning permission, to help you get to grips with the process. We’ll take you through what to expect, what the pitfalls are, and how an architect can help with planning permission.



Do I need planning permission for an extension?


The short answer to that question is that you always need some kind of permission to build an extension.


Depending on what the extension involves and where the property is located influences the kind of permission needed. Our advice is to never simply start building. We recommend working through the finer legislative details, making sure that you have your paperwork in good order, and using the time spent on the initial planning stages to complete architectural drawings.


Having all of your ducks in a row might feel frustrating when you’re eager to get going, though it will pay off later on. What’s more, when it comes to getting on-site, you can relax and focus on the build without the worry of planning being denied or the works forced to change once they have already begun. Our blog on timelines has more on the benefits of being meticulous at the outset to save time and headaches down the line.


Don’t worry. Virtually every build needs some form of permission, it’s a normal part of the process. We’ve dealt with this stage hundreds of times before and, as this blog explains, our strategy is to inform, inform, inform. That means ourselves as well as you! We’ll communicate throughout the process, in plain English, so you know what’s happening.


We never guarantee that planning will be approved!


Here at 50 Degrees North, we have dealt with hundreds of planning applications over the years. One thing we are sure of is that we can never guarantee that planning permission will be approved. If you do hear that someone can categorically guarantee planning approval, we’d advise you to proceed with extreme caution! At least take it with a hefty pinch of salt.



The planning process


While there are general principles to follow, every architect and every practice has their own way of working. We’ve outlined our process below.


1. Contact us, give us an overview of what you’d like to do


2. We’ll look at where the building is and consider if there are any constraints. For example, is the building in a conservation area? Is the building listed? Is the property in a development or group of buildings that has a landlord? What’s the borough or parish council? Is the building in an area of outstanding natural beauty?


3. We’ll speak with you so you have a chance to explain in more depth what you’d like to achieve


4. When we’re designing, we’ll be mindful of the constraints and of the local authority that you’re in


Our planning strategy: inform, inform, inform


We take care to inform ourselves and you, the client, as much as possible. We never want to take away from the inspiration, although we want to make sure that we’re designing within constraints so that there’s a higher chance of success.


If we’re not sure whether planning is likely to be approved, we’ll go through a phase of feasibility work. We’ll do our research and figure out how to make the project viable.


If we’re not confident, or not clear on whether the strategy is sound, we’ll work with specialists such as planning consultants or building control teams. This gives a clearer idea of the likelihood of planning approval.



The influence of planning constraints on design


Our thorough approach and research will inform the brief, which will then influence the design. Sometimes what you have in mind with your extension or home renovation project is fine in principle. There are, however, other factors that can have an impact, for example: maybe a neighbour has already done something similar or some other influential factor may have an impact on your planning application.


In the UK, there are no definitive rules when it comes to planning regulations. It’s a discretionary system and means that guidance is flexible. Which on the one hand means there’s scope for possibility; on the other hand, there are no guarantees!


It’s always wise to avoid conflict and be aware of the fact that some designs are wholly led by planning constraints. As architects, there are times when we have to draw up what planners will allow us to have. This tends to be the case with listed and heritage buildings.


Essentially, when you’re thinking about approaching planning permission for an extension, you have to work with what’s available. Constraints needn’t be scary. Our blog on home extension ideas has more on constraints.


Achieving inspirational design in spite of planning


If you’re really looking for a specific design, which is at odds with local authority planning guidance, then we can work with specialists and seek their input on what is likely to be acceptable. Often, a clear argument and a clear strategy are helpful when making planning submissions. So, we’ll certainly push you to articulate your thinking and reasoning behind the brief, which will give us a stronger starting point as designers – if we know the ‘why’ we can help bring it to life.


Designing with planning constraints in mind doesn’t mean designing conservatively. Anything is possible! We wouldn’t be doing our job if we didn’t point out the need to bear planning policy in mind. Planning is simply one of those things to consider, in the same way that you would be mindful of any other constraint, such as time or budget.



How planning permission can benefit design inspiration


Like taxes, planning constraints are facts of life. Even where there is a constraint, often inspiration can be found. A constraint doesn’t necessarily spell doom and gloom for the project. It doesn’t mean that creativity is totally forgotten. Sometimes a constraint leads to more creativity and results in a more inspiring space.


A good example of this is with heritage or listed buildings. What you want to do might not be possible, though it may be that there are ways around this. For instance, using a certain material in a new way, shaping the building in a different way, or changing the use of the building so that something unique and functional is created.



Planning permission isn’t something to worry about


Rest assured that planning is a normal part of any build or extension project. Careful preparation and working with experienced professionals give your application the best chance of success. Even if your application is rejected, it doesn’t necessarily spell disaster for your home extension; planning officers can provide helpful information on how to overcome issues in a future application.


Do you have concerns about planning permission for your project? Whatever your question, get in touch. We’ve submitted hundreds of applications over the last decade and we’ve worked with clients on a wide variety of projects. We’re on 020 8744 2337 and would be happy to talk through your ideas.