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Planning Permission & Building Regulations

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What is planning permission?

Planning Permission In the UK you will need planning permission (sometimes called planning consent) if you want to build on land, or if you want to change the use of land or buildings. The requirement for planning permission was introduced in 1947 under the Town and Country Planning act. Interestingly, all buildings and land uses that existed prior to 1947 were granted planning permission, and it was only after that date that planning permission was required. The current version of the act is the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 if you decide to take a look you will need to put some time aside as it is a very lengthy and complicated document! The Local Planning Authority (LPA) is responsible for granting planning permission. The LPA is normally your local Borough or District Council who will normally have a website with all of the relevant information and forms.

Do I need planning permission?

"Paul and I would like to thank you and your team for our loft conversion. We are really pleased with the workmanship and their professionalism; even being patient when our sons constantly asked questions! Queries were dealt with promptly and efficiently and we will recommend Concept to others."

Jackie & Paul, Prestwich

The vast majority of loft conversions do not require planning permission. However, there are some situations where you may need permission such as:

• Your house is a listed building
• You live in a conservation area
• You want to build dormers that face onto the road
• You want to build a dormer that will overlook a neighbours property
• Any part of the conversion will be higher than the existing roof
• If your home has already been extended to the limit of its permitted development (15% of original size)

Development and permitted development

Planning Permission Development is defined as any building work or change of use for your property. All development needs planning permission. Initially this sounds crazy as the local planning authority would be inundated with requests every time someone planned to have some building work completed on their property. To avoid excessive paperwork certain types of work are excluded from the definition of development and are called permitted development. Permitted development includes routine maintenance of existing buildings or certain minor developments. If your development is considered to be permitted development then you are granted automatic planning permission.

The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 allows Local Authorities to create their own definitions of what is considered to be permitted development. Concept are experienced in dealing with local authorities.

Permitted Development for Loft Conversions

Under permitted development you can make alterations such as small extensions or loft conversions to your house without obtaining planning permission. Due to the rising number of householder planning applications, the Government introduced measures to remove the need for local planning authorities to approve routine loft conversions, house extensions or alterations, which are considered to have minimal impact on neighbours. The rules were updated effective from the 1st October 2008.

Permitted development is intened to reduce red tape and encourage home owners to develop their homes. The good news is that many loft conversions can be built under permitted development rights.

Allowances

Planning PermissionUnder permitted development you are given certain allowances for extending your property. If you live in a conservation area or your house is a listed building your permitted development rights may be restricted under article 4 of the GPDO, if you are unsure check with your local council (opens in new window) who will be able to advise you. Loft conversions are considered permitted development subject to the following conditions:

• A volume allowance of 40 cubic metres for terraced houses.
• A volume allowance of 50 cubic metres for detached and semi-detached houses.
• No extension beyond the plane of the existing roof slope of the principal elevation that fronts the highway.
• No extension to be higher than the highest part of the roof.
• Materials to be similar in appearance to the existing house.
• No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
• Side-facing windows to be obscure-glazed; any opening to be 1.7m above the floor.
• Roof extensions not to be permitted development in designated areas*.
• Roof extensions, apart from hip to gable ones, to be set back, as far as practicable, at least 20cm from the eaves.

*Designated areas include national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.

A new interactive section on the planning portal (opens in new window) website offers an excellent visual guide to the new rules.

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What are building regulations?

Planning PermissionIf your loft conversion is intended for use as new accommodation, for example a bedroom, study or office then you will need to make a Building Regulations application. Building regulations are used to ensure that any building or alteration work meets the set standards for the design and construction of buildings, mainly to ensure the health and safety for those living in or around the building. They are also increasingly used to ensure that the building is energy efficient and that access to the building has been considered.

The following sections outline the main areas that must be considered. Houses with more than two storeys will need to meet similiar but more extensive requirements.

Structure

Generallly the exising timbers in your roof will not be strong enough to support the new floor. New timberwork will need to be installed and most often steelwork will be required as the span is normally too great for timber beams. Calculating the size of timbers or steelwork is certainly a job best left for the professionals. Any changes to the roof such as the addition of a dormer or velux windows will need to built correctly so that they do affect the roof structure.

"I would like to thank you for the excellent standard of service and work when completing our loft conversion last year.

We first contacted you back in the spring of 2008. You were prompt in replying and arranging a visit. We then received a fully detailed quote within a couple of weeks. As you had already been recommended by a colleague, we agreed to go ahead.

The two members of your team, Howard & Chris worked very well at all times and were trustworthy, clean and reliable at all times. Dealing with you and your team, has been a pleasure, we are very pleased with the finished product and would not hesitate to recommend you in the future."

Steve & Jane, Bury


Fire Resistance, Means of Escape and Access

Planning PermissionThe floors, walls and doors in your house and loft conversion must be able to resist fire for the specified amount of time. The aim of the requirements is that that there should be a fire protected path from the conversion to the outside. Under previous requirements a low level window and ledge were to be installed in the loft as a means of escape and self closers were required on the doors. It has now been deemed that escape via the loft is too dangerous and the main escape route should now be through the house.

The main stairways should be protected by installing fire rated doors on both storeys, self closers are no longer required for most houses. Fire doors may not be required for non inhabited rooms such as bathrooms and cupboards if they are deemed a low fire risk. When installing new fire rated doors dont forget that the hinges should also be fire rated. Interlinked, mains powered smoke alarms will be needed at each level and are an essential safety item, the Direct Gov website has a good guide to smoke alarms.

Most people opt for a traditional staircase to their loft conversion, other types of space saving staircases can sometimes be used if space is restricted. Be aware that space saving stairs can be very difficult for children and the elderly to use and should only be considered once all other options have been explored.

Energy Conservation

Ensuring that your loft conversion is properly insulated will keep the loft room cool in summer, warm in winter, reduce your reduce your CO2 output and will save you money by keeping your heating bills low. Most loft conversions now use modern high performance thermal insulation boards such as those manufactured by Celotex or Kingspan. To conserve energy your loft conversion should have as low a U-value as possible.

Ventilation

Proper ventilation is essential for both the living space and the roof space. Ventilation to the living space will prevent excessive condensation and build up of stale air. Ventilation to the roof space will prevent condensation that could cause problems such as rot and timber decay.

Further Reading

The best place to find out more about building regulations is via the governments planning portal website, they have a section on building regulations for loft conversions (opens in new window).

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