Planning permission 'certificate'?

  WhiteTruckMan 04:10 20 Mar 07

A good few weeks ago I was listening to a special on jeremy vine on radio 2 about the complexities of planning rules & regs etc. A very complex area indeed, but I recall one of the experts they had on making a passing comment about some form a certificate or something like that (the exact wording escapes me) that you can apparently get from councils, something to do with changes of use that is supposed to be a lot cheaper and less involved-but not as definitive -as full planning approval. Does anyone recall the programme and what I am referring to? or have any direct knowledge of this, like what exactly it might be called? I've tried googling but have come up blank. I suspect because I havnt got the name right.

Sorry to be a bit vague, but I'm winging it at the moment and any pointers would be appreciated. I'm reluctant to approach my local planning department at this time unless I can arm myself with a little more information as they are not exactly a paragon of helpfullness, based on anecdotal evidence from friends and neighbours.

Any pointers would be appreciated.



  wiz-king 05:42 20 Mar 07

It is what it says 'change of use', all properties have a designated use - dwelling as in house or flat, industrial or commercial. There is a long list of bands within these headings. The use of a property can by change fairly easily if the intended use fits the councils 'plan' for the area i.e. if your road is designated for residential changing your house to a club and disco might be deemed a change too far, but if you just wanted to use one room as an office then that might be allowed. You might need to look at the 'plan' for the area to see what your properties designated area is - don't forget to look on your deeds as some properties have restrictive covenants on them ( my house is built on former church land and I cannot sell ale or beer on the property!)

  octal 07:58 20 Mar 07

I just went though to my local authority web site and one of the links were to here click here apparently you can complete your planning application on line.

there seems to be a whole list of projects that are exempt from planning permission but nearly all require building regulations.

  anskyber 09:12 20 Mar 07

Can you help with what your specific problem/issue is first? Planning law is very involved and the answer may depend on your problem.

For a change of use for example you can apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development. I retired from the planning world 3 years ago but with more information I might be able to help you.

  WhiteTruckMan 12:12 20 Mar 07

I'm looking to convert a prefabricated concrete section garage (formerly derelict) into some temporary guest accomodation. Its a detatched structure at the rear of my property and i have replaced the up and over door with a wall, and door and have fixed up and insulated the roof. Power exists to the structure from underground cable, but no water, gas or drainage.

I'm looking to do internal work to make a two room structure but I dont want to have to be forced to do things like install a disabled access toilet, as the cost for doing that alone will make the whole lot prohibitively expensive.
Ditto having to stump up something like a grand for architects plans (thats the going rate round here) for what is really a simple job.

Before FE comes along with the legal disclaimer type warning along the lines of 'PCA cannot be held liable for advice etc etc....' I'm not looking here for professional advice, merely some pointers. If anyone hasdone something like this before then maybe they might have some knowledge of possible pitfalls.

Its a spare time, low budget project that started life as SWMBO's "will you do something about that garage" into its current limbo status!


  spuds 12:22 20 Mar 07

Over the past few years I have had a number of dealings with our planning and building regulations section of the local council. On the whole I generally find that these officer's are usually very willing and obliging to have an informal chat regarding 'what is,what is not' recommended or allowed. In fact some of these informal (local knowledge)conversations have helped quite a lot, in the final application.

Building regulations and planning laws can be very complicated, and the slightest diversion can lead to some surprising events. I use a building book ( Understanding The Building Regulations by Simon Polley) which I find very informative on the basics.

One thing that I would mention, is time scale of events. Again the relevant council officer should be able to put you wise to this.It can make a difference to any decisions, and I have found this out to my disadvantage and costs recently.

  WhiteTruckMan 12:35 20 Mar 07

"time scale of events"

I dont understand.

I'm not talking about building something. The structure already exists (and has stood for over 20 years at least) and all that has been done so far is remedial work. As it stands its more like a weatherproof workshop (theres no longer vehicle access to the structure so I didnt replace the up and over door when it rotted and fell out. Merely walled it up)

There will not be any major change in the outside of the structure. Everything I'm thinking will be done inside (stud walls, plastering, wiring, etc. No loud or disturbing building works going on, contractors vehicles etc.


  anskyber 12:38 20 Mar 07

Two separate issues. Planning permission and Building Regulations Approval.

Planning permission, much depends on how the garage got there in the first place and whether there are any restrictive planning conditions preventing a conversion, probably not. Conversion of garages "within the curtilage of a dwelling house" (ie in your garden area) do not usually require planning permission for a use which is "incidental to the enjoyment of the dwelling house" Indeed there are extensive "permitted development" rights to do things without permission.

In a nutshell it will depend entirely on what has happened to the house since it was first constructed and only your own local planning authority can give you a definitive view. Talking to them is the only real answer, they should do so informally.

Building regulation approval is entirely separate and I regret to say it is in that area where you will be required to comply with construction methods or requirements to meet design standards like thermal insulation and fire protection. There are ways of doing it without full plans but it is risky and dangerous for the inexperienced since the Council has powers to make you change things after the event. It could be costly.

My advice is to speak to a Council building inspector and decide then whether the whole thing is worthwhile. Proceeding without either is highly risky and if the guest accommodation is for paying visitors you risk the potential of third party claims if you have not secured the relevant permissions.

I completely understand your worries if your Council has a poor reputation but they are the only people who can really help you and it could save you much more in the long run. good luck.

  anskyber 12:40 20 Mar 07

Time scales. You should allow 6-8 weeks for any decision on applications.

  Forum Editor 13:24 20 Mar 07

Planning consent and building regulations approval are two distict and separate things. You'll certainly need a planning consent to change a garage into habitable rooms, and whether or not you get that will depend on the local authority's area plan. All local authorities must observe the planning laws, but within that framework they'll have their own area plan.

In the main, planners are concerned with what a development will look like when it's finished, and all planning applications must by law be granted by default. A refusal can only be made on a point of planning law. The authority must give you a decision within the stated time - they'll tell you what that is when they acknowledge your application - and technically if you don't get a decision within that period you may go ahead without one. In practice that rarely hapens.

Building control approval is a different kettle of fish altogether, and it's an area where you might hit problems. You must by law notify the local authority's building control department of your intention to commence work. You can do this in one of two ways. A full plans application means just that - you submit copies of the plans for your project, together with the appropriate fee, and any necessary structural engineer's calculations. These plans must show strutural details, showing how you intend to construct the project. The authority peruses the drawings and indicates its approval for you to commence work, or makes comments regarding items that don't comply with the current regulations.

The second way of notifying the authority is via what's called a building notice. This is a document telling the authority that you intend to start work on a specified date, and must be submitted with the appropriate fee. A building control officer will visit the site on the day in question, and discuss the construction details with you. He/she will also discuss the stages at which you must notify him/her so a further inspection can be carried out.

I think you'll have serious problems getting an existing garage up to current insulation standards for one thing, and the existing foundations will almost certainly not comply with regulations. The floor, if it's a concrete slab construction will not comply with regulations, and will have to be drilled up and replaced with a new slab that has an underlying polystyrene foam slab insulating layer. You'll also have to install mains drainage, and mains water.

The regulations regarding habitable rooms are very strict, and you might find that it's easier to convert the building into a home office, using the permitted development rules.

Have a chat with your local planning office, they're usually very helpful, although they're not allowed to tell you if an application would succeed. The building control office will also be helpful, and if you call in by appointment a control officer will sit down with you and tell you how you must proceed, construction-wise.

Whatever you do, don't be tempted to go ahead without checking what permissions you need - the local authority has the power to tell you to take the whole thing down and revert it to its original state, or if you refuse, they can instruct a third-party company to do it, and then recover the cost from you.

  WhiteTruckMan 15:39 20 Mar 07

and have just come from the planning department. It was an unsettling buisness too. No reception, just an internal phone and a list of extension numbers, none of them seemed relevant to me, and no general reception or switchboard number. I picked one more or less at random, spoke to someone and briefly explained that I wanted an informal chat with a building inspector, did they know how I might do that? They put me through to someone else who admitted they were the right department, but wanted to know my name, address, who I was representing and the name of my builder/contractor/architect before they would send anyone out to speak to me. But they did offer to post me out a planning application pack.

They really didnt want to speak to me informally at all. Even when I tried explaining that what I wanted to chat about briefly was the practicality of a project. Eventually, after nearly 20 minutes of this (on the phone) someone passing overheard this and said they were a building inspector, what did I have in mind.

Basic outcome of all this is that as long as I dont install permanant sleeping accomodation I can do pretty much what I want. Putting beds in is crossing the line, in their eyes, but they said they overlook occasional use. |I have no problems with power as its already inplace. I pitched it as office/den type use. somewhere to crash out away from wife/kids etc, drink beer, watch tv, that sort of thing. I was warned I would still be subject to enviromental restrictions, i.e. noise (so no loud partys!) but other than that, go for it!

The other thing I was warned about was if I came to sell the house then not to describe it as habitable. Rather, describe as storage, or hobbyroom or some such.


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