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What is the difference between Planning and Building Regulations?

The terms “Planning Permission” and “Building Regulations” are often used incorrectly to describe the same activity.

Planning Permission is required in order to carry out development as defined in the Town and Country Planning Act. In general this means that if you want to build something you will need planning permission before you start. There are however some exception to this statement. Some domestic extensions do not require planning permission – the exact limitation being found in the Permitted Development rights.

Planning is concerned with the appearance, access, landscaping, layout and siting of a development. This typically includes matters of design and materials used. It also includes examination of proposed access, especially with regards to road safety. It is not especially about technical matters of construction.

When planning permission is required, an application will need to be prepared and submitted to the local Planning Authority. They are currently the only body able to make decisions on whether or not planning permission will be granted. The only exception to this occurs when a planning application is refused and appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, the government body responsible for determining planning appeals. If the Inspectorate find the application successful, they can grant approval, subject to conditions if required, and this has the power of overturning the local authorities decision.

In contrast with Planning Permission, Building Regulation approval is almost always required. To confuse matters further, there are three different types of application and the applications do not have to be made to the Local Authority!

The Building Regulations are a government prescribed document, set down in Approved Documents, for subjects which include structural safety, fire safety, hygene, ventilation and sound resistance. All building works must comply with these documents, which themselves make reference to British standards and Codes of practice. The Building Regs allow for 3 possible forms of application.

The different application types are “Full Plans” – not to be confused with Planning, “Building Notice” and “Regularisation”. “Full plans” is probably the commonest type of application, suitable for all but the most straightforward project. Plans are prepared, together with structural calculations and submitted to the Inspection body. The information submitted is checked for compliance with the Building Regulations and the Inspectors may ask for further information or amendments to the submitted information. Once approved, the applicant can have a high degree of confidence that

as long as the building is constructed in accordance with the plans, a completion certificate will be issued on completion.

A “Building Notice” is an option for simpler work, though only permissible where the  Local Authority is the inspection body. An application is submitted to The Local Authority not less than 48 hours before the intended start date, describing the works. Inspections are made as the work progresses. If any part of the work is found to contravene Building Regs, the Inspector will require alterations to be made. If the works are completed satisfactorily a completion certificate will be issued. The danger occurs where a problem arises later in the construction which requires an alteration to competed work to be made.

Finally, there are occasions where building work is carried out without approval and this factor comes to the attention of the Local Authority. In such circumstances a “Regularisation” Application is required. If the building is found to be in contravention with the Regulations in any place, then remedial works will be required to bring up to standard. This type of application may involve uncovering works that have been completed. Examples include excavating to show drainage, exposing areas of wall to show insulation, etc.

Building Control is often carried out by the Local Authority but can also be undertaken by Approved Inspectors (AI’s). AI’s are usually ex Local Authority Building Inspectors now operating as private organisations.

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