Obtaining Planning Permission
Many people see obtaining planning permission as a tricky task, and of course it sometimes can be. But in most cases it is straightforward as long as you understand the role of the planning officers and the rules they work to.
Planning officers work to local and regional plans which are refreshed every so often and describe the nature and amount of development that is permitted in a given region. The planners' job is to make sure that developers, both private and commercial, stick to that plan. So the best thing to do, if you are planning something that might be controversial, is to find out what the plans contain and how they might affect what you intend doing. The plans will be available at your local library or planning offices, which are usually at the county council offices.
Of course the first point is to work out whether or not you'll need permission in the first place, because it obviously makes life easier if you don't. Generally speaking, for an extension to an existing property, as long as it is no nearer the highway at the front of the house and doesn't exceed certain volume restrictions, usually between 50 to 70 cubic metres, then planning permission will not be needed. Most planning offices will grant a free consultation before you submit a planning application to determine whether or not permission will be required and what pitfalls you might need to watch out for.
Outline and Detailed Permissions
Assuming that you do, then there are two stages, outline and detailed planning permission. Outline planning permission is cheaper and easier to process and is usually obtained before people sell a property with development potential to bump the price up. Architect-standard drawings are required and a number of forms that can be obtained from the planning portal (see below) or the planning office. Once outline planning permission is obtained, you can go to all the expense of getting full architectural drawings made up in the knowledge that, unless you depart a great deal from the outline planning permission, then detailed permission is likely to be granted.
There is no need to apply for outline planning permission, however, it is perfectly permissible to go straight for detailed planning permission, and this will obviously save time and money if you are reasonably confident that your application is straightforward. Make sure you discuss your plans with your neighbours though, as they are far more likely to object if the first they know about them is the appearance of planning notices on lampposts near the house. The planners are obliged to wait for eight weeks after those notices are posted to ensure there are no objections and, assuming there are none, permission will then be granted within a few more weeks.
Use the Web
The internet is a valuable resource that can help in all these deliberations. For Wales and England there is a planning site, www.planningportal.gov.uk which brings all the building control and planning regulations together with sections aimed at both property professionals and members of the public. The relevant authorities in both Northern Ireland and Scotland have similar websites and most county councils now have excellent websites that can be very helpful in finding out the information that you need.
But remember, research the local plan and talk to planners before you begin, those are the key steps to getting permission without trauma.