UK planning legislation can be somewhat daunting for self-builders approaching it for the first time, with numerous pieces of legislation to navigate.
To help simplify this guidance and aid you in obtaining that all-important permission for your project, we've put together this guide on the various national and local laws that could impact on your plans.
Lay of the Land
Britain's planning system forms part of English land law, which deals with property ownership and usage. It seeks to promote sustainable economic development and a better environment.
Planning laws are devolved each country in the UK, meaning that you'll have to abide by different rules depending on where you're planning to situate your self-build project.
The main pieces of legislation affecting self-build planning include:
England and Wales
Just to make things a bit more confusing, many other disparate regulations and acts of parliament may also impact on self-build planning and some laws apply nation-wide.
Although steps have been taken to simplify the process in recent years, there is still myriad legislation to take into account when applying for planning permission and it can be downright mystifying for non-professionals.
When is planning permission required?
In terms of residential self-build projects, planning permission is needed for all new residences, as well as many kinds of alterations to existing properties. And although planning permission can place constraints on how residences are constructed, it shouldn't be confused with Building Regulations, which is a completely separate consideration.
Local and national government's use of planning legislation seeks to regulate the impact of new builds on the local area and its infrastructure, as well as their aesthetics.
Neighbourhood and Local Plans
There's a balance between the roles of central and local government when it comes to planning and the passing of the Localism Act (2011) marked a major change in this equilibrium.
It abolished regional strategies in favour of devolving decision-making powers into the hands of the communities and councils that would be affected by them – introducing neighbourhood planning and the community right to build to facilitate these aims.
The act sought to involve communities in the planning process through the creation of Neighbourhood Plans, which provide a framework for the types of development that are permitted in a given area.
These can deal with wide-range of issues, such as housing, heritage and transport, as well as myriad factors relating to the development of land and the relevant economic, social and environmental issues.
Neighbourhood Plans don't give local authorities a free hand in all things planning, however, and they must undergo public consultation and pass independent examination to ensure they're compliant with pertinent legislation (or require any amendments to ensure compliance) before being subject to a referendum conducted by residents in the area.
The plan must receive approval from at least 50 per cent of those voting in the referendum before the local authority is able to legally enforce it.
Local plans follow a similar path, but are typically prepared by the local authority's planning body. These are then submitted for consultation ahead of examination by independent inspectors from the Planning Inspectorate and if successful, are adopted, with a freely-available copy published online.
Again – local authorities are not given free reign with the contents of their plans and they must be verified as being:
• Positively prepared
• Consistent with National Policy, including the National Planning Policy Framework.