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Applying for planning permission is a mundane but vital part of undertaking a home improvement project. It is not a stage that should be skipped, especially if a project falls outside of permitted development. If you have saved up enough to invest in new windows, doors, an extension, or renovation, you will want things to go smoothly so you can enjoy the fruits of your labour. To avoid the disappointment of a rejected application, not to mention the waste of time and money associated with one, you will need to ensure your project is set up for planning approval.
Unfortunately, gaining planning permission is not as straightforward as it may initially seem. There are no fixed rules about what is and what is not allowed and gaining approval will vary from council to council. It may also depend on where you live and what you want to change or develop.
You can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called “permitted development rights”. They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Government. It is also important to point out that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes, or other buildings. Likewise, commercial properties have different permitted development rights to houses.
In some areas of the country, known as ‘designated areas,’ permitted development rights are more restricted. For example, if you live in:
You will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which do not need an application in other areas. There are also different requirements and further restrictions if the property is a Listed Building.
Our general advice is that you should contact your Local Planning Authority and discuss your proposed project before any work commences. They will inform you of any reason work may not be allowed and if you need to apply for planning permission for all or part of the work. Trust us when we say it is not worth risking starting works without checking, even if you feel certain that your development falls within permitted development rights. Bear in mind that what you can and cannot do will also vary from council to council, so if you own two properties in different areas, works may be granted in one property, but not the other. It is always worth checking first.
An article 4 direction provides additional planning control in a particular location. It allows the council to remove permitted development rights over some alterations, such as replacement windows and doors, new porches, exterior painting. It also includes changes of use from an area or property in certain limited situations where it is necessary to protect the local area.
Even though there are more restrictions associated with planning permission for properties within Conservation Areas, Listed Buildings, or properties on designated land, the guidance available on council websites regarding what you can and cannot do in each of these areas can be vague. For example, a council may say “if you are in a conservation area but not in an article 4 and your building is not listed, you can replace your windows as long as they are like for like.”
However, what does ‘’like for like’’ mean? Does it mean simply making sure they look the same and they are made of the same material? Or does it mean if they are currently single glazed, they need to remain as single glazed units? “Like for like” is an ambiguous term which we believe the council uses to encourage you to submit a planning application to ensure correct procedures are followed. Don’t forget, the council benefit financially from each application submitted too.
Similarly, if you have ever called the council to ask for advice, it is highly likely that their advice would be to apply for approval. We cannot stress enough the importance of seeking permission before commencing work. If you conduct work that does not fall within permitted development rights, it could lead to a host of costs further down the line. For example, we have seen house sales fall through because of unsought permission for works.
Enlist the help of a professional. If you do not have time, or you are worried that you will not be able to manage the planning process confidently, a professional building contractor will be able to do this for you.
At Wandsworth Sash Windows, we have a resolute planning team who manage all our applications and have done a wide array of applications for varying types of works in Listed Buildings and properties within heritage and conservation areas. We have submitted approximately 300 planning applications to date for projects within conservation areas and, to date, a council has never refused an application we have made.
Planning for Listed buildings can be particularly time consuming, as there is generally lots of tweaking and resubmitting, until we find a solution that the customer and the planning department are happy with.
There is no stress, hassle or chasing involved for the customer, we will manage your entire project for you, including the planning process, from beginning until completion.
As mentioned previously, at Wandsworth Sash Windows, we can manage the whole planning process for you, and we charge £785+VAT. This includes:
Our experience and knowledge with conservation areas means we very rarely need to make a subsequent application. However, if it is necessary for us to tweak the application and resubmit, we will not charge for any subsequent application that is made.
To prepare an application for a property within a conservation area, it usually takes us between two and three weeks to gather all the information, prepare, and submit it. This is where our control ends, which makes giving a precise approval time to customers very tricky.
Once the application has been submitted, the council must provide a decision within eight weeks. However, the eight-week period only starts once the application has been validated (‘validated’ simply means the council have checked to make sure everything they need has been included in the application before it is passed up the ranks for approval consideration). If the council have a backlog of requests, it is common for them to delay validating an application to buy themselves time. It is a clever tactic that ensures that statistically they remain on target. Remember, it is only once the application is validated that the clock starts ticking.
It is not unusual for the council planning department to contact us on the day a decision should be provided, to request additional information, despite not having heard from them for eight weeks. For example, the council may ask for more evidential photos to be submitted and if you are unable to provide them within the timeframe requested, they may ask us to agree on a 14-day extension of the decision date. Obviously, if we do not comply, they will refuse the application.
It takes us around three weeks to prepare and submit a Listed Building planning application. However, the Listed Building Consent process can take quite a long time, usually at least 12-18 weeks from you asking us to start but can often take longer. This is because listed properties have weighty restrictions associated with them, which often mean more than one application ends up being submitted to get a positive eventual outcome. For example, we recently applied for alterations to be made to a Grade II Listed Building in Camden and, from the point it was submitted to the council, it took nine months to get a decision. More on approval for Listed Buildings shortly.
In brief, the time it takes for a project to be approved really varies from council to council – some put more money into planning services than others. And it can also vary by the planner, so as soon as you submit your application, it will be allocated to a Duty Planning Officer, and we have had it before where they have gone off long-term sick and they do not reallocate it to anyone else.
It is important to note that it does not matter how simplistic the work is that you are having done, the process is the same. Whether, you are replacing one single window or extending the entire ground floor of your property, your application will sit in a queue for the Planning Officer to deal with in turn.
With Listed Buildings, your rights on what you can and cannot get planning for are further reduced due to preservation requirements, which makes gaining approval more challenging. With applications for Listed Buildings there tends to be a lot more information to gather and there is often a lot more back and forth with the council. We will often submit approval for our best-case scenario project and work down the list until we are granted approval.
For example, if a customer wants double glazing to be installed within their listed property, we will initially apply for double glazing. However, if this is not approved, we will apply for Fineo glazing (slim double glazing). If that is not approved, we will apply for single glazing. In this type of scenario, we would always discuss with the customer what they would like us to apply for initially and set the expectation with what is likely to be approved.
The entire Listed Building consent process is outlined in our detailed guide to Listed Building services. Our guide will navigate you through the consent process for works in a Listed Building. There are four options, each with their pros and cons. We guide you through each of the options, the pros and cons, whether an application to the council is necessary, and the likelihood of approval.
As we mentioned earlier, Listed Buildings often require more back and forth with the council, so we do charge slightly more in this scenario. However, we only charge £300+VAT for subsequent LBC applications for the same property. The Listed Building Consent process is explained clearly in this guide. Our fixed cost for a Listed Building planning application is £1300+VAT. This includes:
The planning process has become more complicated in recent years. For example, Planning Officers previously accepted photos of the elevations rather than architectural drawings to make the planning process more accessible to those who cannot afford an architect’s services. For example, if you wanted to replace your property’s front windows yourself, you were able to simply take photos of the front of your house and submit them.
Nowadays, you are required to submit detailed technical drawings of the windows in various scales etc. Customers are not always aware of what is required and will try to apply themselves. When they realise they cannot provide the information needed, they come to us. By which time they will have already paid an application fee to the council on top of other costs, and will have to pay again to submit new drawings. Enlisting the help of a professional from the get-go will save time and money overall.
*statistic last updated October 2022
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