Be sure to play by house rules; Tackling the world of planning permissions can be a bit of a minefield and there are added complications with leasehold and listed properties. Julia Gray has the basics.
Byline: Julia Gray
PLANNING permission is needed for some building projects, such as turning a house into flats or flats into a house, but others, including extensions and loft conversions, can often be done without planning permission.
This is as long as your house has permitted development (PD) rights and you stick to the PD rules, which govern what you can and can't do.
For example, the permitted size of a loft conversion (additional roof space created) is 40 cubic metres in terraced houses and 50 cubic metres in detached and semi-detached houses. If your conversion will be larger than that, you'll need to apply for planning permission - a good architect will be able to advise how to keep your project within PD.
On 'designated land', which includes conservation areas and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the PD rules (as long as PD rights haven't been removed - see below) are different, and planning permission is required for more things. For example, side extensions and loft conversions are not PD for houses on designated land, which isn't the case for most houses not on designated land.
Sometimes PD rights have been removed from houses (an Article 4 Direction), such as those in a conservation area, meaning you need permission from the local council for most external changes. Applying for permission is usually free, but it could be a lengthy process, as it usually takes eight weeks to get a decision.
Flats and maisonettes don't have PD rights, so even things like replacing windows and erecting a garden shed require planning permission, something many homeowners are unaware of.
In any case, the freeholder of the building is usually responsible for replacing and maintaining its external and communal parts.
You may also need the freeholder's permission (or the permission of the other freeholders if you own a share of the freehold) to do alterations to your flat or maisonette, depending on what the lease says (this applies to leasehold houses too), and obtaining permission may not be straightforward.
If you're planning building work that you believe to be PD, it's advisable to apply to your local council first for a lawful development certificate to be sure that planning permission isn't needed.
There's no requirement to have a lawful development certificate, but it's certainly a good idea, especially when you come to sell your home.
With a listed building, check with your local council's conservation officers before making any alterations, as even work that seems minor can require listed building consent from the council. The process of seeking consent is similar to that of planning permission, and the conservation officers should be able to give you an idea of what they will and won't allow before you apply. In complicated cases, and ones involving certain types of work and Grade I and Grade II* listed buildings (these are the most important, but the majority have a lower, Grade II listing), the case will be referred to English Heritage or to Cadw in Wales.
Listed buildings can require planning permission even for very minor changes