Planning Permission and Building Regulations.

NOTE: These notes are specific to England only. However they do not apply in England to properties in Conservation Areas, National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Norfolk & Suffolk Broads; or to Listed Buildings, or properties other than single dwellings (such as flats).

Please use the information on this page as guidance only, your local Planning Office will generally be please to give you detailed guidance or check the Planning Portal to find up-to-date rules.

April 2002 - changes to UK Building Control Regulations.

On the 1st April 2002, the regulations were changed, and our attempt to outline the changes, are given on this related page.

Planning Permission and Building Regulation are often confused and misunderstood. Both are the responsibility of the Local Authority and basically while Planning Permission is permission to erect/extend a building, Building Regulations define how the new building must be constructed.

In addition to the need for these approvals, the deeds of some properties include covenants which defines what can be erected or requires the owner to get separate approval for changes from previous owners of the land, ground landlords or other bodies. These approvals are not covered in the following notes so check your deeds or obtain specific advice if you are not sure.

Planning Permission.

Local Authorities are concerned with the visual aspect of any development, and how appropriate is its intended use. Any person can make the planning application even if they do not own the land or have any interest in the land. A notice of the application will be published in the local Press and notices displayed at the property. Neighbours and anybody with an opinion are able to view the plans and make comments which the Local Authority will have to take into account.

The Local Authority will have a written policy which contains guidelines for what sort of buildings may be built in any area and, possibly, also define the building style. Whether an application is approved or refused will depend largely on the local guidelines.

The Authority's Highway Department will become involved where the application requires vehicle access or increased road traffic.

It is general government policy that development is permitted unless there are good reasons to refuse Planning Permission. Planning Permission is officially granted by a Planning Committee, (elected members of the council), which is normally open to the public. However; the Council Officers (non-elected, paid employees of the Council) will make recommendations to the committee; if the matter is routine, the committee will normally accept the official's recommendations. It is always worth consulting the officials before an application is made and again before the application goes to the committee; it is then often possible to make small last minute changes to the plans so that they will be accepted.

Even if permission is refused, there is a right of appeal - first to the council, and then to the Secretary of State. While probably not worth while for a small application, big developers have an army of specialists they call upon so that they finally get their wishes, even if they have to make some modifications.

Where Planning Permission is given for a new building or alteration, Building Regulation approval is normally also required.

Building Regulations.

These define how a new building or alteration is to be built so that the building is structurally safe, protected from risk of fire, energy efficient and has adequate ventilation for its purpose. An application for Building Regulations approval is not advertised and only the person applying and the Local Authority are involved.

Building Regulations approval may be required even if Planning Permission is not.

Building Regulations approval is granted by the building control officers of local authorities, they are generally separate from the planning officials. Once approval has been given and work started, the local building Inspector will attend the site at specific stages to inspect the work, and they may change the requirements as the work progresses. The most common change is probably at the foundation stage when the Inspector will see the subsoil before the concrete is poured. If the inspector deems that the planned depth is insufficient, they can demand that the foundations be deepened before the concrete is laid (and you have to pay for the extra concrete).


Applications for either approval involves a fee, normally related in some way to the value of the development.

Where the development is more than just a simple extension, it is worth considering employing an architect to draw up the plans, submit them to the Local Authority, obtain the approval and then to oversee the work. A professional architect will have professional insurance in case anything should go wrong and should know the Local Officials and their particular foibles.

Every application for Planning Permission or Building Regulations is, to an extent, unique. While the following are general rules, it is impossible to define all the regulations applying to a specific development - Local Authorities have some thick books of rules rather than just these few pages. It is always good advice to consult your local planning/building control officers early to avoid any costly abortive work. If work is carried out without the necessary approvals, the local authority can issue an enforcement notice requiring (at best) retrospective approval or (at worst) demolition of the work completed.

Although the functions of Planning Officials and Building Inspector are separate, the two will often be found in the same building; they are normally very helpful and offer authoritative guidance.

For the following the following definitions apply:
  • Highway - all public roads, footpaths and bridleways.
  • Original building - the building as it was first built


With effect of 1st January 2005, new rules were introduced into the English and Welsh Building Regulations regarding the installation and modification of electrical wiring. These regulations have subsequently been revised and these notes reflect the 2013 edition.

Most work is now classed as 'non-notifiable', and this work can be carried out by a non-certified individual without notification although, obviously, the individual does need to be competent.

All electrical work is conditional upon the use of suitable cable and fittings for the application, that the circuit protective measures are unaffected and suitable for protecting the new circuit, and that all work complies with all other appropriate regulations.

Notifiable electrical work must either be carried out and/or certified by a certified individual/company or notified to the local Building Control before work begins. Notifiable work is (by the 2013 edition):

  • Installation of a new mains electrical circuit;
  • Replacement of a consumer unit;
  • Any addition or modification to an existing circuit within a 'special location'*.

* A 'special location' is defined as:

  • Within a room containing a bath or shower, the space surround the bath or shower - vertically to 2.25 metres or the height of the shower head if greater - and horizontally 0.6 metre from each edge of the bath/ shower tray in all directions, or 1.2 metres from the centre line of the shower head where no shower tray is fitted.
  • Within a room containing a swimming pool or sauna heater.

If in doubt, check with a registered individual/ company or the local Building Control.

These rules DO apply to DIY activities, anyone carrying out DIY changes which are notifiable will have to either arrange for a third part to certify the work or submit a building notice to the local authority before starting work and pay the fee to have the work inspected and tested.

Problems may be encountered when trying to sell a property which has had notifiable electrical work carried out but for which the appropriate certificate cannot be produced.


These rules have changed, October 2008 - see this page.

With the exception of Listed Buildings, properties in Conservation Areas, or properties other than single dwellings (such as flats) (see below for these types of property), extensions are permitted without Planning Permission provided that all the following apply:

  • The area of the land covered with buildings will be less than half the area of the plot.
  • The new building is at least 20m from any highway or no nearer to any highway than the original building.
  • No part of the extension is higher than 4 metres and will not project above any part of the original building (normally the roof) and will not be within 2 metres of a boundary.
  • For a terraced house, the volume of the extension is less than 50m3 or 10 per cent of the volume of the original building, whichever is the greater; with an absolute maximum of 115m3.
  • For a semi-detached or detached house the volume of the extension is less than 70m3 or 15 per cent of the volume of the original building whichever is the greater subject - with an absolute limit of 115m3.

Note, the percentages are of the original building, this is not necessarily the same as the current building as extensions may already have been added.

All extensions of habitable rooms require Building Regulations approval to ensure that the building is structurally safe. In practice, this means:

  • That any new or existing foundations are adequate for the extension.
  • That drains and rainwater are handled in a safe manner.
  • That stairs, balconies etc. meet the safety requirements.
  • That the regulations covering ventilation, thermal insulation and fire safety are met.
  • That suitable smoke detectors are installed - this should not impact upon extensions unless an escape route is lengthened.

Listed Buildings, properties in Conservation Areas and properties other than single dwellings (such as flats), have special planning requirements, so any proposed changes should be discussed with the local Planning Authority as early as possible to ensure that any complications can be caught as early as possible.

Change of use

Every existing building has a defined use, i.e. as a house, a number of flats, shop, office or factory etc. Planning Permission is required if it is intended to change from one use to another or to sub-divide the building. Planning Permission will also be required if a habitable room is to be added into the building without extending the building (such as changing a garage into another room).

Building Regulations Approval are also required to ensure that the regulations applicable to the new use are met. If you convert a conservatory (see definition below) to an extension, building regulation approval will be required.

Garages & car ports

A garage is considered to be an extension if the garage is located within 5m of the original building, so the same rules for planning permission apply. Where the garage is positioned more than 5m from the existing house, a garage is considered to be as a shed (see sheds).

If a garage adjoins the house, Building Regulations approval is required.

A detached garage is exempt from Building Regulations provided:
  • The floor area is less than 30 sq metres.
  • It is more than 1m from a boundary, or it is a single storey and constructed of wholly non-combustible material.
  • It contains no sleeping accommodation.
Building Regulations do not apply to a carport provided the carport is open on at least two sides AND the floor area does not exceed 30 square metres. .

Loft Conversions

These rules have changed, October 2008 - see this page.

Planning Permission requirements for a loft conversion are subject to the same limits on volume, etc., as an extension. However, only the additional volumes to the existing loft will count towards your quota. In most cases, this will be a fairly small amount even if new dormer windows are installed, and none at all if roof lights are used.

The same height/roof line rules apply to the maximum permitted height of any dormers.

Building regulations are required; the structural requirements for any extension will apply. The biggest problems are likely to be the headroom and size of floor joists in the existing loft. Additional regulations cover:

  • Normal access via internal stairways will need to conform. These rules are quite involved, but the main ones define the minimum width, slope and headroom of the stairway.
  • If a loft conversion forms a third or higher floor, there must be an adequate means of escape in case of fire. This can be achieved by providing:

    A safe internal route by enclosing the stairway and any landing in material with a rated fire resistance of 30 minutes, or a rated fire resistance of one hour for basements, fourth or higher floors, and flats,


    An independent route to safety (i.e. windows with ladders). In this case, the size and access through the windows will be defined.

Antennas (Aerials & Satellite Dishes)

Television and radio aerials, and satellite dishes do not require Planning Permission provided that property is not with a designated area and:

For buildings up to 15 metres high:

  • There are no more than two Antenna on the property - one no larger than 100cm in any dimension, the other no bigger than 60cm in any dimension (the dimension not including any feed element, reinforcing rim, mounting or brackets). The cubic capacity of each antenna is no more than 35 litres.
  • An Antenna fitted to a chimney stack is no larger than 60cm in any dimension and does not project above the chimney.
  • An Antenna mounted on the roof does not project above the highest point of the roof unless there is a chimney stack, in which case, the Antenna must not project more than 60cm above the highest point of the roof or above the highest part of the Chimney stack, whichever is the lower.

For buildings 15 metres or higher:

  • There are more than four on the property - the size of any antenna being no larger than 130cm in any dimension, (the dimension not including any feed element, reinforcing rim, mounting or brackets). The cubic capacity of each antenna is no more than 35 litres.
  • An Antenna fitted to a chimney stack does not have a dimension greater than 60cm.
  • An Antenna mounted on the building does not project above the highest part of the building by more than 300cm.


  • Where these rules refer to 'the property', this includes all buildings and the garden of the property - not just the main building.
  • These requirements apply to individual buildings, i.e. with a block of flats, the limits apply to the building as a whole, not to the individual flats.

For further information refer to the "Antennas mini guide"

Building Regulations approval is not required.

Swimming Pools

A swimming pool is generally exempt from Planning Permission, unless you live within a conservation zone.

Building Regulations do not apply.

The local Water Supply Company must be notified, and water rates will usually rise.


First of all, what is classed as a conservatory? One definition is 'A building that is attached to a building and which has more than 75 per cent of the roof and more than 50 per cent of the wall areas as translucent material'.

A conservatory does not need planning permission subject to the same limits on volume, height, etc. as for an extension.

A conservatory is not classed as a 'habitable room' so Building Regulations do not apply provided the floor area does not exceed 30 sq m. However, you may have problems later if you try to convert the conservatory into a habitable room if you cannot prove that the foundations etc. were built to the required standard.

Gates, walls and fences

Gates, walls and fences do not require Planning Permission or Building Regulation approval if:

They are no more than 2m high.
If they adjoin a highway, no more than 1m high.

Although Building Regulations do not apply, remember that you may be liable if members of the public suffer damage from the structure. So the structure must be structurally sound and maintained. Barbed wire below 2 metres is not a good idea adjacent to a highway, nor are spikes or broken glass embedded along the top of a wall.

Hedges are not covered by planning permission. However, the local Highways Authorities do place the responsibility on property owners to ensure that hedges and trees do not overhang public walk or road ways or obstruct street lights. There should be nothing overhanging a walkway or pavement adjacent to the boundary of a property, to a height of 2.3m (7ft 6in), and for a carriageway, and the area immediately adjacent for a distance of 0.45m (1ft 6 in), there must be not vegetation below 5.2m (17ft).


Planning permission is not required if:

  • The total area (measured externally) is not greater than 3 sq m.
  • It is not more than 3m high.
  • It is at least 2m from the road.

Building Regulations do not apply to a porch or covered way provided that the total floor area is not greater than 30 sq m.

Sheds and Outbuildings

Planning Permission is not required for a shed or outbuilding in the garden of a house provided that :

  • It do not cover more than half of the area of the property; not including the area occupied by the original house (or as it was July 1948 if built earlier).
  • It is not more than 2.5m high at the eaves and with the overall height not more than 4m with a double ridged roof or 3m with any other type of roof.
  • Where the shed, enclosure or container is within 2m of a boundary, the maximum height is no more than 2.5m.
  • No part projects beyond any wall of the house that faces a road.
  • Does not include any verandas, balconies or raised platforms.

Building Regulation approval is required if the shed/outbuilding includes any sleeping accommodation if the floor area exceeds 15 square metres.

Building Regulations do state that structures built of combustible material (i.e. a wooden shed) must be at least 2 metres from the main house.