Self-Build Expert Self-Build Expert - Practical Advice For Self-Builders


Statutory Consents

When building a new house there are two primary statutory (legal) consents you need to obtain before starting any work on site – planning permission and building regulation approval.

Both are governed by acts of Parliament and there are separate acts applicable to building in England & Wales and Scotland. They are administered by Local Authorities (Councils) or, in the case of national parks, by Park Authorities.

Unlike building regulations, planning permission can differ significantly from area to area due to differing local development plans and the significant degree of subjectivity involved in the process. For example permission may depend on an appropriate design, which is of course an area very much open to debate!

Therefore while National planning guidance will give you an indication of whether you need pp or not and which minor works you can carry out without permission, it is essential that you contact your local planning authority as early in the process as possible to obtain local guidance and advice.

There are two categories of planning permission:

  1. Outline Planning Permission (England & Wales)
    Outline Planning Permission (OPP) establishes the principle of developing the site e.g. for a 3-bed detached single storey house with garage. The actual site layout, house design, dimensions, materials and access can be decided at a later date. If a plot is granted OPP, you will still need to make an application for Full Planning Permission (FPP) at a later date. OPP status is usually valid for three years at which point a re-application will be required. In Scotland this is known as Planning In Principle (PIP) but the process is essentially the same.
  2. Full (Detailed) Planning Permission
    Full (Detailed) Planning Permission (FPP) establishes the detail of what is to be built including floor layouts (plans), appearance (elevations), dimensions and building materials. As soon as FPP is granted building work may commence, subject to all other consents being in place. Sometimes conditions of approval will be attached and these must be complied with during the project. FPP is valid for three years.

Planning Process

The actual process may vary from one Local Authority (LA) to another, but in general the process is as follows:

The LA receives your planning application and checks it is correct. If mistakes are found, the application is usually returned.

When the application has been verified (and the appropriate fee paid) it will be entered on a statutory register. At this point an 8 week period begins in which the application should be considered and a decision notice issued.

The application will be allocated a planning officer who will either determine it under delegated powers or, for ‘contentious’ applications, refer it to the LA’s planning committee comprising
local councillors.

Initially, there is a period of public consultation regarding the application. The extent of this will depend on the site location and the impact of the development but it will always include local neighbours. This process normally lasts 3 weeks.

When the LA has received all the necessary responses, the planning officer will assess the proposal against the LA’s planning policies. The planning officer will then make a decision regarding the application or provide a recommendation to the planning committee.

If there is a problem with your application, the planning officer may contact you in an attempt resolve it. More likely it will simply be refused. You will then need to re-submit an amended proposal or appeal the decision.

Having received full (detailed) planning permission, you will then need to seek building regulation approval.

Building Regulations (England & Wales) / Standards (Scotland)

The building regulations / standards govern the technical aspects of your house. These cover structural, fire, health, safety, access and energy considerations.
In England & Wales they are governed by Approved Documents administered by either the LA’s Building Control (LABC) service or independent approved inspectors. In Scotland they are governed by a Domestic Technical Handbook administered by the LABC service.

Building Regulation Approval (England & Wales) Building Warrant (Scotland) is obtained by completing and submitting the appropriate application together with fee and all necessary drawings, certificates and other documents. The application will then be assessed for compliance with any clarification or additional information required being requested as necessary.

Once the Building Control Officer is satisfied with your plans you will receive Building Control Approval (or Warrant). This process usually takes approx. 6-8 weeks. Once the building work is completed, it is likely that the Building Control Officer will want to inspect the work to ensure that it complies with the approval granted. They will then issue the required Completion Certificate.

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