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Planning Permission for British Properties - the Revolution Guide

Need planning permission for a UK property development? Our resident experts explain the ins and outs of the British planning permission system and its relation to mortgage financing agreements.

Almas Uddin
Almas Uddin

Founder and Mortgage Advisor

Almas Uddin2024-06-14
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Planning Permission for British Properties - the Revolution Guide

One of the most common issues in buying a home is needing to work out whether planning permission applies - and how much it will cost.

Let's run through what planning permission means, and when you need to think about it before buying your next property.

If you need expert help with securing a mortgage or borrowing for a property with planning permission requirements, give the independent team at Revolution Brokers a call on 0330 304 3040, or drop us a message to [email protected].

What is the Planning Permission Process, and Do I Need It?

You'll need written authorisation from the local council, or local housing authority if you want to build a property or sometimes an extension.

This permission is required for significant extensions, changing how you use a property or making alterations to the physical appearance.

Rules vary considerably in different regions and depending on the property in question. However, if you need permission, it is vital to have approval before any works begin as the local authority could legally remove your development. You could face prosecution if you fail to follow the instructions of the planning department.

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Can I Build Under Permitted Development Rights?

Permitted development means that your building works fall outside of the scope of planning permission, and you don't need formal approval to proceed.

For example, a small conservatory extension usually doesn't need planning permission, nor does a loft conversion if there are no changes to the outside appearance.

In conservation areas, planning permission rules can be much stricter than elsewhere. Likewise, if you buy a listed building, you might have much more rigorous regulations to follow.

Are There Different Types of Planning Permission?

There are indeed.

  • Full planning permission means you need to submit detailed plans, architects drawings, and information about drainage, for example.
  • Outline planning permission is a rougher plan, requiring much less detail.

The type of permission you need depends on the size and scope of your building project.

Are Building Regulations the Same Thing as Planning Permission?

They aren't, no. Building regulations apply to all work in the UK, even when planning permission isn't required.

The regulations set out standards by which contractors must complete building work for the property's safety and security.

Local councils or the appointed control board enforces building regulations, and you need to apply for Building Control Approval if you need verification that your works meet these standards.

Planning permission is different and is all about developing homes in an area in line with local guidelines. For example, protecting the natural landscape.

How Do I Apply for Planning Permission?

You can find out more information about the application process, costs, and rules in your area through the Planning Portal online.

The local authority will advise on what you need to submit and provide further advice but may levy a charge if you need a consultation meeting.

Alternatively, planning consultants can provide independent guidance, although they can charge significant fees.

Can I Check for Planning Permission Before Making an Offer on a Property?

It depends on what services are offered by your local authority. In most cases, you can see whether there is already an application on the land through your local authority website.

Sometimes, you can review rejected applications, applications in process, and reasons for the rejection, which can be useful in deciding if the investment is worthwhile.

Land that has been refused planning permission before might not necessarily be rejected next time. However, it’s worth seeing why the application was denied, as a similar application has little chance of success.

What Happens if I Buy a Property That Was Built Without Planning Permission?

This scenario is improbable, as the planning authorities would have gotten involved well before a seller built a whole house, and sold.

On very rare occasions, a conveyancing search may identify that a property was built illegally, so running checks through your solicitor in advance is vital.

What If I Buy a House with an Extension that Didn’t have Permission?

You might buy a property and later find out that there was no planning permission for an extension.

  • Usually, if the seller built the extension over four years ago, it is beyond the enforcement limitations, and the authorities will take no action.
  • Sellers can be asked to provide indemnity insurance against such a situation or reduce the sale price if they have completed unauthorised works.
  • You can buy a property with the condition that planning permission is obtained before the sale completes, but this is not a very practical solution in most cases.

If you purchase a property with a conservatory with no permissions, it probably isn't an issue since most such builds fall under permitted development.

Should it be large enough to have required planning permission, the same options apply as for an extension.

What Can I Do If I Have Bought a House Without Permission for a Loft Conversion?

Most loft conversions do not require planning permission, provided no external changes have been made to the property.

Permission is only usually required for very large lofts, those with changes to the roof, or where a dormer window is added.

Can I Apply for Planning Permission in Advance of Purchasing a Property?

You can, yes. However, the application fees are non-refundable, so if the sale falls through, you will not be able to recoup the expense.

A buyer should notify the seller that they are making an application.

Can I Buy a Plot of Land That Has no Formal Planning Permission?

You can indeed, and land without any approvals can be very affordable.

The challenge is that it might be difficult, or impossible, to secure permission and minimise the resale value.

It is usually not possible to mortgage such a parcel of land since a mortgage is generally only available against habitable properties, which excludes land without permission.

Commercial mortgages apply to business assets and usually would not cover a land purchase of this nature.

The best financing solution is likely to be development finance, which extends you credit to cover the building's cost. You can later refinance it through a standard mortgage product.

If you need development finance and have no planning permission, the process can be more difficult and expensive, as the lender's risk is much higher.

What are Options on Land Sold without Planning Rights?

Options mean that you, as the buyer, have the right to purchase the land at a fixed value by a cut off date, if you choose to do so.

This can be a solution where you want to buy the land but are waiting for the planning approvals process to complete. Note that there are legal fees involved, which you will not get back even if you do not take up the option.

Can I Get a Mortgage on Land with Planning Permission in Place?

Land with pre-existing approval is usually sold at a premium but is a much lower risk prospect.

Planning permission applies to the land and not the individual, so whatever has been approved will remain so when the land comes into your ownership.

Professional Advice with Planning Permission Applications

Planning can be complex, expensive, and time-consuming. If you need professional assistance with finding competitive lending to help with your development project, contact the business finance broker team on 0330 304 3040, or email us at [email protected].

As a whole-of-market broker with years of experience negotiating terms for our clients, we will discuss your borrowing needs, and recommend the most suitable course of action.

Almas Uddin
Almas Uddin

Founder and Mortgage Advisor

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FCA disclaimer

The content included in our articles, blogs, web pages and news publications is based on information accurate at the time of writing. Note that policies and criteria can change regularly throughout the UK mortgage lending market, and it remains essential to contact the consultation team to receive up to date guidance. The information included on the Revolution Brokers site is not bespoke to any circumstances or individual application scenarios and therefore is not intended to be used as financial advice. The content we share is designed to be informative and helpful but cannot be relied upon to provide individual advice relevant to your mortgage requirements. All Revolution team members are fully qualified, trained and experienced to provide mortgage advice of an independent nature.

We collaborate with lenders and providers who are regulated, authorised and registered with the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). Should you require specific mortgage borrowing types, some products such as buy to let mortgages may not be FCA regulated. The Revolution team can provide further information about regulated and unregulated lending as required. Please remember that a mortgage is a debt which is secured against your home or property. Your home can be at risk of repossession if you do not keep up with the repayments or encounter any other difficulties in managing your mortgage borrowing responsibly. This also applies to any remortgage or home loan secured against your property, including equity release products.

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