Many homeowners short on space may choose to renovate or extend their properties, as they can add up to 10% to the value by doing up their kitchen, installing en-suite bathrooms or attaching a conservatory. Before you start, you'll need to get a few practicalities out of the way: like planning permission and building regulations approval. These legal requirements will need to be agreed prior to work commencing, otherwise your local council may have the right to undo the work you've done at your expense.
What is planning permission?
Planning permission factors in appearance, road accessibility, and any environmental impact.
Before you apply for planning permission, seek advice from both your builder and your local council, as they can point out issues you may have overlooked. One example is accessibility, as if you're extending to house more people and there's a lack of off-street parking to accommodate them, planning permission may be refused.
Once you've sent off your plans, they'll be published in the Planning Register. Your neighbours will be notified and will also be given the chance to have their say. A committee will then be appointed to make a decision, and a senior planning officer may be enlisted for more advice. Any misgivings will be taken into account before permission is granted, and you may find that your plans will have to change before you can commence with the build. All of this can take at least eight weeks, and once you receive the go-ahead for the works, they must be carried out within five years.
Some projects, such as a garage conversion that doesn't alter your home's boundaries, might not need planning permission, but it's always worth checking with your local council just to be sure.
What are building regulations?
Building regulations cover almost every aspect of any major construction work, from damp-proofing and ventilation to fire safety. The aim here is to ensure that the build is both safe and up to the required standard, especially in areas like hygiene, drainage and energy-efficiency. You can download detailed information about all the regulations from the government's planning portal.
How to apply for building regulations
For minor works, such as replacement windows or a new driveway, you'll need to fill out a Building Notice form. This will require you to include a scaled diagram showing location, planned works, boundaries and, if applicable, appropriate drainage.
For larger projects such as an extension, you'll need to submit a full plans application, which will cover an estimate of costs and timeframe, detailed drawings of your plan and a site location drawing. It will also include structural calculations and evidence that all appropriate building regulations have been covered while carrying out the project – from emergency exits to signage. Most homeowners choose to enlist the help of an architect or surveyor to submit a full plans application, as they will likely be more familiar with the proceedings. Once it's sent off, the council aim to send their response within two weeks. You can start working two days after approval is given.
One final thing to remember is that failing to comply with building regulations is actually a criminal offence. Do not underestimate how important it is to have all permissions in place before you commence with your project.
Before you apply for planning permission, seek advice from both your builder and your local council