Do I need planning and building regs approval for my DIY project?
Three in four homeowners have planned or are carrying out DIY projects during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent survey. Whether you are considering some DIY yourself, or plan to get a tradesperson in, you should check whether the work needs local authority approval.
This article takes a look at how planning permission and building regulations could impact the work you have planned.
Am I affected by the changes to planning law?
It has been widely reported that a major overhaul is underway in planning law. For homeowners, the scope of “permitted development” is being expanded to include more major alterations to property, like two-storey extensions to existing post-war homes.
Permitted development, or PD, covers the changes you are allowed to make to your property without planning permission. PD includes smaller structural works like loft and garage conversions, small extensions and internal remodelling.
Building regulations approval will still be required in line with existing regulations. You may also find that conservation area restrictions mean that you need approval for work that would otherwise be permitted, such as installing a rooflight.
Do I need building regulations approval?
Works that involve changes to a property’s structure must comply with applicable building regulations. Building regulations also cover new outbuildings, and a range of smaller changes to a property, such as the installation of new windows.
You may need approval even if the changes to the structure are only temporary, while work is being carried out.
There are different types of building regulations approval. Several on-site inspections may be required, to ensure the work remains compliant. Depending on the work being carried out, the local authority or an approved inspector will need to approve the work. In some cases, using a “competent person” means you won’t need to arrange for separate third-party approval.
Should I use a “competent person”?
Some work can be self-certified by a registered “competent person”. Competent person schemes mean that a tradesperson registered with an approved body can sign-off their own work, without an inspection.
There are schemes for a wide range of work, from cavity wall installation to plumbing. For example, a FENSA-registered company can install or replace sash windows and self-certify the work if required. The self-certification process is faster and easier than arranging for the local authority to sign off the work.
You can check a tradesperson’s or company’s status online on the Competent Persons Register.
Extensions and other major works
While planning restrictions on extensions have been relaxed in recent years, approval is still required for most large and multi-storey extensions. Small outbuildings, such as home offices or gyms, are allowed under PD, but structures taller than 4m or that cover 50% of the land around your house will still need approval.
You will also need planning approval when partitioning a single home into flats or combining multiple flats into a single dwelling.
Doors and windows
You do not normally need approval for the replacement or repair of existing windows and doors, provided that the new window or door is similar in appearance to that being replaced.
You can also install additional doors and windows provided that they are in-keeping with the property’s appearance. Depending on the position of upper-floor windows, there may be additional restrictions, such as a requirement for the new window to be non-opening.
Standard skylights and roof lights do not require planning permission in principle, but restrictions on these are common in conservation areas. You can usually still install these windows, but will need sign-off from the local planning department. Larger roof lights may also require planning permission.
New windows and doors will usually require building regulations approval. If the installation is carried out by a FENSA-registered company, however, the work can usually be self-certified, saving time and paperwork.
Internal DIY and work that doesn’t alter the structure or external appearance of the property is unlikely to need planning permission. Building regulations approval may be needed, depending on the nature of the job.
For example, very minor changes to electrics will not need approval, but the installation of new circuits in rooms or the wiring of a new extension will require building regs approval. Again, an NICEIC-registered “competent person” could complete the work and sign it off themselves.
Flats and maisonettes
Planning permission will usually be required for work on flats and maisonettes that would be considered permitted development on a detached, semi-detached or terraced home. This is because the work will have a greater impact on other homes within the same building.
An extension of any size to a ground floor flat or maisonette will require planning permission, as would a loft conversion on a top floor flat.
Non-structural internal work will not usually require planning permission, but building regulations will apply as with a larger home.
How should I proceed?
As a general rule, if you have any questions or concerns about planning or building regulations, you should contact your local authority. You could also contact the Planning Portal for more information.
Chris Salmon, director of Quittance, said, “Depending on the scope of the work you have planned, there are benefits to using a registered “competent person” rather than carrying out the work yourself. Best practices will be followed during the job, and the work will be completed safely.”
“A competent person’s right to self-certify the job also means you avoid the hassle of arranging a building regulations officer to inspect the work.”
Whether you have started the work yourself or are still in the planning stages, it is never too early to investigate your legal obligations regarding planning permission and building regs approval. Fines for breaches can run into £1,000s, and councils can force homeowners who have breached the rules to “undo” the alterations they have made.
Getting clear answers from your local council or a registered tradesperson, before the work starts, will give you peace of mind and will help to ensure the work is carried out to a safe and legally-compliant standard.