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What's the difference between planning and building control?

What's the difference between planning and building control?

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Both planning permission and building regulations approval may be needed for your work, so find out well in advance if you need either before you start on your project.

Planning permission

If required, planning permission (or planning approval) will be provided by your local council. Without a planning system everyone could construct buildings or use land in any way they wanted, no matter what effect this would have on other people who live and work in their area.

So planning is about the use of land and space locally and most new buildings or changes to buildings are likely to need permission.

Some development is permitted and you don’t normally need it for:

  • Most internal alterations
  • Some extensions
  • Some loft conversions
  • Some garages

If your home is a listed building or in a conservation area you’ll probably need listed building consent which is another type of legislation, so you should talk to the conservation officer at your local council and you’ll probably need help from an architect.

Sometimes projects are classed as permitted development which means they don’t need planning permission. Policies allowing permitted development have been widened recently and you should check with your local council – there will usually be lots of free advice on their website. (Also view What are permitted development rights?)

Some houses don’t have permitted development rights.

N.B. Planning permission will take at least eight weeks plus however long it takes to get the plans ready for submission, so allow enough time to make sure it doesn’t hold up your project.

Planning covers the location of the project, the siting, height and size of the building and the percentage of the plot that you want to build on.

The planning authority look at things like local policies, the appearance, the materials, the colour of materials, the match of the bricks and tiles, often applying conditions. You need to get all these things signed off by your local council before you build on site.

Building control

Building regulations are legal minimum standards for the design and construction of buildings to help ensure the health and safety of people in or around those buildings and it's important to understand that you'll still need experts to design and build your project.

The regulations are reviewed by building control bodies who check plans and actual work on site for compliance against the building regulations. You can use private building control firms but most people choose to use the expertise of the inspectors in your local authority building control team. They're there to help you protect yourself and your money from cowboy builders and unsafe practices.

Even if no planning permission is required for a 'permitted development' building regulations may well still apply and require an application.

Need more advice? Watch this video...