There are lots of websites which provide very basic answers to whether you need planning permission for a loft conversion. With this post, I wanted to provide information on more specific examples about when and if you can complete a loft conversion under permitted development and when a planning application is required.
If planning permission is required a householder planning application will need to be submitted for the loft conversion. This will require a location and block plan to be included which detail the precise location of your property. You will also need to submit scaled drawings which show the elevations and floor plans of the property.
Permitted Development (PD) Loft Conversions
For the moment, let’s presume your home benefits from permitted development rights (more on that below). With a loft conversion, you want to increase natural light and head height within the roof space. You can potentially do this under Class B and Class C PD rules.
PD Class B Roof Extensions
Under PD the amount of space you can add depends on if your property is a terraced or detached property. The following rules around volume increase and permitted development rights apply:
Terraced Properties – Volume Increase of up to 40m3
Semi and Detached Properties – Volume Increase of up to 50m3
Important Note on Class B Roof Extensions
The above information is where most websites who provide details on loft conversions leave it. However, the applicable volume increases for loft conversions under PD are based on the original dwelling, not the existing dwelling.
The point being, the roof space of the dwelling may have been previously extended with dormers. For instance, that increase in volume needs to be deducted from the volume of any additional roof extensions. Therefore, before you plan the additional space you wish to add for your loft conversion you need to understand your properties planning history.
Other PD Rules For Class B Roof Extensions
So we have covered the additional volume which can be added for a loft conversion under PR rules. However, as you probably suspected there are more rules which you must follow to comply with PD, which include:
Roof extensions to be no higher than the ridgeline of the existing property.
No roof extensions above the principle elevation of the property (typically the wall which faces the highway).
Dormer roof extensions to be set back at least 20cm from the eaves of the roof.
The roof extension must not extend beyond the outside face of the wall of the property.
No verandas, balconies or raised platforms.
Any side windows must be obscurely glazed and non-opening.
Materials must be of a ‘Similar Appearance’
Under permitted development the materials your roof extension use must be of a ‘similar appearance’. That means, in most instances, you should choose ‘like for like’. For instance, that means using the same roof tiles where possible, and similar glazing materials.
Now, the PD criteria for using materials of a ‘similar appearance’ is not a ‘hard and fast’ rule. If it was single-storey conservatoryrear extensions wouldn’t be possible under PD, hence an exception was made. The government’s technical guidance on PD and roof extensions under Class B states:
“the materials used should be of similar visual appearance to those in the existing house, but does not mean that they need to be the same materialsor match exactly. The visual impacts of the materials used will the most important consideration.” – DCLG
The requirement of roof materials similar to the existing property is to protect the visual amenity of the area. Furthermore, to reduce the loft conversions impact on local character.
Flat Roof Extensions
Let’s say for instance you wish to install a flat-roofed dormer as part of your loft conversion. If the property does not already have a flat-roofed dormer, you may be wondering what materials are acceptable? Well, government guidance states that flat-roofed extensions will not normally have a visual impact, so most conventional flat roofing systems would be applicable under PD. This could mean felt, lead, zinc, even rubber. Personally, after going through the process of looking at flat roof technologies I would advise on fibreglass. A properly installed fibreglass flat roof will last longer than the other methods and is easily maintained.
Hip to Gable Extensions
Besides adding a rear or side dormer under PD as part of your loft conversion there is also the option of a Hip to Gable extension. The video from Attic Designs shows the complete works involved going from a hipped roof to a side gable. In this example, they have also added a rear flat-roofed dormer as part of the loft conversion.
With hip to gable roof extensions it very important that the additional volume is calculated correctly. There are several cases where an LDC has been refused and then dismissed on appeal as the volume of a pyramid has been calculated incorrectly. A good architect should not have a problem with this however and should be able to inform you if the hip to gable extension is beyond PD rules on volume. However, you need to remember the volume figures are based on the original dwelling and not the existing dwelling which may have had its roof previously extended.
Planning Portal Volume Calculator
The planning portalhas a volume calculator which can be useful when you’re planning your loft extension on what you can potentially achieve under PD rules. It does have a separate volume calculator for dormers, but no specific volume calculator for the hip to gable roof extensions. There is a workaround though. You can first use the Gable End calculator to give you a volume figure for the completed hip to gable extension. Then use the ‘One Hip End’ calculator to get the volume of the existing property. Minus the ‘One Hip End’ volume results from the Gable End volume figure. The resulting figure is the volume of the hip to gable conversion.
No Roof Extensions under PD on Article 2(3) Land
Article 2(3) land includes National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, World Heritage Sites and Conservation Areas. Therefore, before you proceed with a loft conversion under PD you need to be completely confident your property is not located within Article 2(3) land. You can conduct a planning search through your local planning authorities website. Most local authorities today have interactive planning maps which you can view to see if your property in within Article 2(3) land. It’s worth noting if you do live within one of these areas there may also be an Article 4 Direction placing a further restriction on permitted development. Please note, the Green Belt is not Article 2(3) land, and all domestic PD rights apply, even the larger home extension.
Checking your Loft Conversion complies with PD
Before you proceed with a loft conversion under permitted development in most cases I recommend a lawful development certificate (LDC) for proposed works is secured from your local authority. While determining the LDC the local planning officer will review the planning history of the property and any pervious roof extensions to the original dwelling. If they believe the proposed loft conversion complies with PD rules, they will issue a certificate. You will therefore not have to be concerned about a visit from an enforcement officer after completing your loft conversion.
In some instances, the local planning officer may have the perception that the loft conversion cannot be completed under PD, based on the planning history evidence available to them. It is in these circumstances where a planning consultant such as myself can review old plans and maps to potentially clarify the planning history of the property.
Class C – Roof Lights
A roof extension under Class B PD rights will provide you with additional space and head height for your loft conversion. However, under Class C you can also add roof lights (Velux being an example) to provide additional natural light. The only significant restriction with Class C and roof lights are that they must not protrude beyond the roof surface by more than 15cm or be higher than the ridgeline of the house. You can even add roof lights on properties located in Article 2(3) land.
Conclusion on Loft Conversions and Planning Permission
If your proposed works for your loft conversion do not come under the PD criteria above then you will need to submit a householder planning application to secure permission. It’s also important to note, not all properties have PD development rights intact. In some instances, the conditions attached to previous planning permissions remove PD rights. Therefore its very important to review the planning history and previous planning conditions a property is subject to. A lawful development certificate can, therefore, be useful to confirm the status of the properties PD rights.
If you require assistance with preparing and submitting a lawful development certificate or planning application for your loft conversion please get in touch. 🙂
If you have read any of my previous posts on permitted development rights, you may have come across several references to the Article 4 Direction. With this post, I will discuss what an Article 4 Direction is and why it’s important.
Under permitted development (PD) rights many dwellings can be modified and extended. However, it is important to conduct a planning history review for a property to check PD rights have not been previously removed. In some cases, for instance, a local planning authority with the approval of planning permission for works may remove some PD rights.
What is an Article 4 Direction?
In many cases, you can carry out works to a dwelling under permitted development rights without having to apply for planning permission. Such works could include:
The above is just a small sample of the potential works which can be completed under the General Permitted Development Order 2015 (GPDO). However, there is a scenario where much of the works above would not come under permitted development. They would require a planning application, typically a householder planning application. That is if the area in which the property is located is subject to an Article 4 Direction. The direction can do the following:
Cover a specific geographic area or wider local area
Remove specific PD rights for development or change of use
PD rights may be removed with either permanent or temporary effect
What is its Purpose of an Article 4 Direction?
The purpose is to either protect the historic character or to preserve the local amenity and wellbeing of an area. To increase the protection of designated and non-designated heritage assets. Article 4 directions give the local planning authority the ability to control development which could be inappropriate in a specific area.
Does an A4 Direction mean the restricted works are automatically inappropriate?
Not necessarily, the Article 4 direction just means the works themselves cannot be completed without a formal planning application. Therefore, it gives the local planning authority more control over development. Any proposals need to show that they are appropriate and sympathetic to the character of the conservation area.
What areas come under an A4 Direction?
As Article 4 Directions are designed to control works in areas of acknowledged importance. Therefore the area must be recognised in some form. If an area is protected as a Conservation Area, this designation means an Article 4 Direction can be placed on that geographic area. For instance, an Article 4 Direction can remove demolition rights which are currently granted under the GDPO (Part 11). To typically maintain and protect the historic character of the conservation area.
Listed buildings and scheduled accident moments do not require protection under an Article 4 Direction. The reason being that these heritage assets are already protected via Listed Building Consent and scheduled Accident Moment Concent respectively.
Conservation Areas – Article 2 (3) Land
Under the GDPO conservation areas are classified as Article 2 (3) land. Article 2 (3) land also includes areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), National Parks and World Heritage Sites. Due to Article 2 (3) classification, there are works which cannot be completed under PD even without a specific Article 4 Direction, which include:
Electric car charging points on the front elevation
Additional restrictions on outbuildings
There are also scenarios where the rules are different for domestic and none domestic properties within Article 2 (3) land. For instance, a domestic property can install solar PV panels on its front elevation under PD where a none-domestic property cannot. However, as with most PD rights, the above is only applicable to buildings deemed to be within the curtilage of the dwelling.
How to check if your property is subject to an A4 Direction?
Most local planning authorities now provide a considerable range of online services to review planning applications and planning policies. Most provide an interactive planning map where you can enter your postcode and view the local planning policies that apply. You can normally turn on an Article 4 Direction filter which will show the geographic area covered by a particular Article 4 direction.
You should be able to click on a link to open up the specific documents which state the specific criteria of the Article 4 Direction. It’s always important to read the terms thoroughly as each Article 4 Direction is different. Some are a sweeping removal of PD rights, where others are more selective.
Can the Restrictions Change?
Yes, due to changes in national planning policy and the GDPO the local planning authority may choose to amend the restrictions. This would be done by cancelling the existing restriction and placing a new one. Typically the directions are permanent unless stated otherwise. Though the government encourages local planning authorities to review the restriction. If deemed not necessary they should be cancelled.
Can an Article 4 Direction remove all PD rights?
While an Article 4 Direction can remove all of the more significant development works under PD rights, they cannot remove PD rights in their entirety. For instance, under article 4(1) and (3) of the GDPO certain safety and maintenance works remain for all properties. When it comes to maintenance and repair original features such as doors and windows must be kept and maintained or replaced like for like.
Do you have to pay a fee for a householder application to cover works restricted under an Article 4 Direction otherwise allowed under PD?
Official government guidance states yes, you have to pay for the householder application covering the proposed works. However, some local authorities (West Suffolk) state a fee is not required. I believe in most cases your local authority will expect a fee to be paid for the householder application. As of this moment (July, 2019), the fee is £206.
Article 4 Directions and HMO’s
HMO is a house of multiple occupation. There is a lot of debate and controversy around HMO’s and poor living standards. There are permitted development rules which allow for change of use applications to HMO’s. This has led to some council (Manchester is an example) to issue Article 4 directions over their geographic areas to remove HMO permitted development rights.
Conclusion on Article 4 Directions
If your property is located in a conservation area and subject to an article 4 direction you have to be careful proceeding with works under PD. If you believe you may be able to carry our some works under PD without a planning application you could consider a lawful development certificate (LDC).
Please get in touch if you require assistance in preparing or submitting an LDC. Also, if you wish to discuss works to your property for which a planning application would be required.
So you’ve decided you need to add more space to your home. In most cases, it’s the rear of the property where there is available space to expand. Therefore, the first question many people have is “do you need planning permission for a rear extension?” The answer will depend on several variables which include:
Are you looking for a single or two storey rear extension?
Has the rear of the property been previously extended?
Does the property still hold Permitted Development Rights?
Is the property located in a National Park, Conservation Area or similar?
I think the most logical place to start is whether you are considering a single or two storey rear extension. If you are planning either a single or two storey rear extension there is a possibility it can come under permitted development rules (PD). That is provided that the size of the rear extension complies with the PD rules. Furthermore, it needs to be determined if the property can benefit from PD rules. In some cases, PD rights have been removed from a property.
It is also possible in some cases to construct a two storey rear extension without planning permission under PD rules. However, the PD rules for two storey rear extensions are far more limited than that of single-storey rear extensions.
General PD Rear Extension Criteria
I’ve now written several posts on permitted development rules. Therefore, I’m not going to repeat myself too much with this post. I want to keep this post focused on when planning permission may be required for rear extensions. If you click the links within the information below you will be able to find out more about PD rules. The general PD rules which apply to all rear extensions are:
The permitted development rules around single-storey rear extensions are by far the most generous. Before 2013 the largest single storey rear extensions allowed under PD was 3-4m. However, in 2013 a new rule was introduced called the larger home extension scheme. That allowed rear extensions under PD up to 6m for semi-detached properties and up to 8m for detached properties. That right was set to end in 2019, however, it has now been made a permanent right.
Therefore without planning permission under PD rules, it is possible to construct significant rear single-storey extensions. This could typically include a conservatory. You do have to submit a prior approval application to your local council or a larger home rear extension. There are also specific rules for single-storey rear extensions under PD:
Single storey rear extension max height of 4m.
Eaves height of the rear extension must be no higher than the existing property.
Materials to be similar to existing property (conservatories are an exception to this rule.)
Larger home rear extensions are not allowed on Article 2 (3) land, which includes National Parks and Conservation Areas.
If you are planning a rear extension and it does not fall under these rules you will need planning permission.
Two Storey Rear Extensions under PD Rules
As stated previously, unfortunately, the PD rules for two storey rear extensions are not quite as generous. First, if your property is on Article 2 (3) land such as a National Park or a Conservation Area, unfortunately, you cannot construct a two-storey rear extension under PD rules. Therefore, if your property is located on Article 2(3) land, you will need planning permission for a two-storey rear extension.
For other properties under PD rules, a two storey rear extension may be possible, but it can only project beyond the rear wall of the original dwelling by 3m. Again there are other PD rules to comply with:
Two storey rear extensions must not have an eave or ridge height above the existing property.
A two storey rear extension cannot be within 7m of the rear property boundary.
Upper floor side windows to be obscurely glazed.
Any upper floor opening must be at least 1.7m above the floor.
The additional PD restrictions on two-storey rear extensions such as the 7m rule are to protect neighbour amenity, such a loss of light and privacy. It’s important to note that to comply with PD, your rear extension must follow all of the rules. So for instance, you may be ok on the 50% development rule but your two storey rear extension is within 7m of the rear boundary, it cannot, therefore, come under PD rules.
How to confirm if a Rear Extension comes under PD?
With some proposals it’s pretty easy to work out if a rear extension can be constructed under PD rules, however, in other cases, it can get very, very complicated. These are the various steps you need to go through to confirm if your rear extension ideas can be completed under PD rights without the need for planning permission:
Planning History Check: A planning search needs to be undertaken to see if any previous planning permissions have removed PD rights. Furthermore, the size of the curtilage and the size of the original building need to be understood.
Lawful Development Certificate (LDC): If you are absolutely confident you can construct your rear extension under PD rules without planning permission a LDC is not strictly required. However, it does serve as a piece of mind that a planning enforcement officer is not going to come knocking telling you to demolish your new rear extension. An LDC can also help to sell your property in the future as evidence your extension was completed in line with PD rules.
LDC Appeals for Rear Extensions
Now, the local planning authority may refuse your LDC application stating the proposals do not conform to PD rules. In general, the decision will be correct and you would be directed to submit a householder planning application for your rear extension.
However, that’s not always the case. The planning officer may have not been aware of the full details of the properties planning history and size of the original dwelling or curtilage. If that’s the case a planning consultant such as myself can appeal against the refusal of the LDC to the Planning Inspectorate, also know as PINS. However, its best to get a planning consultant involved before the LDC certificate is determined, as providing that additional evidence before a determination may have turned that refusal into an approval, with no need to appeal.
Householder Planning Applications for Rear Extensions
So if your sure you rear extension ideas do not come under PD rules or your LDC certificate has been refused then a householder application will be required. However, that doesn’t mean the PD rights for your property are completely irrelevant. A smart planning consultant will be using applicable PD rules to demonstrate a ‘fallback’ position based on the available PD rights.
The ‘fallback’ position is what development you could carry out under PD rules if the householder planning application was refused. The applicable development that can be carried out to a property under PD rules is a ‘material consideration’ in the determination of a householder planning application. However, to effectively demonstrate the fallback position a prior notification (larger home extension) or lawful development certificate would likely be required as evidence.
What about Rear Extensions in the Green Belt?
As there are PD restrictions on rear extensions for properties located in National Parks and Conservation Areas, you would be forgiven for thinking there are similar restrictions on properties located in the Green Belt. However, for rear extensions under PD in the Green Belt, there are no additional rules or restrictions. You can even go for the single storey larger home rear extension up to 8m.
However, with a planning application, the rules around Green Belt development become more complicated. The applicable local plan may state what is a ‘reasonable’ increase for a rear extension in the Green Belt. Some local plans will actually state a percentage (typically 30%). Others just leave it up to the discretion of the planning officer.
When it comes to discussions over percentages, it’s very important that the size of the original dwelling is properly understood. For instance, if the property is older than July 1st 1948 then any previous rear extensions should be regarded as part of the original dwelling. Therefore, those rear extensions should not be included in the percentage increase calculations.
In some cases, Green Belt very special circumstances may need to be demonstrated. Part of those very special circumstances can include relevant permitted development rights, hence the ‘fallback’ position.
Do you need Planning Permission for a Rear Dormer Extension?
In many cases, a rear dormer extension can be added to a dwelling without planning permission under PD rules. However, as you would expect there are several conditions that need to be met:
A rear dormer extension cannot be higher than the existing ridgeline of the dwelling.
It must be set back from the eaves by 20cm.
Volume < 40m3 for a terraced dwelling.
Volume < 50m3 for semi/detached dwelling.
There are other conditions for rear dormer extensions completed under PD which can be read on the Planning Portal.
Conclusions on Rear Extensions and Planning Permission
Permitted development rights are a powerful tool for rear extensions, especially single-storey rear extensions. Therefore, it’s worth exploring if the size of the rear extension you require could be completed under PD rules. Even if you believe the rear extension you desire can be completed under PD, its best to secure a Lawful Development Certificate to make sure.
If the proposals cannot be completed under PD rules, these rights can help to demonstrate the proposals under a planning application are a reasonable form of development. Demonstrating lawful development under PD rules can help similar development just outside of the rules to appear less significant.
If you’re considering a rear extension and require some guidance around PD rules, submitting a lawful development certificate or householder planning application please get in touch.
If your property is located within the Green Belt you may have a tough planning test to pass. To secure permission on householder and full planning applications it is sometimes necessary to demonstrate very special circumstances. The question is, “what are Green Belt very special circumstances?”
When does a Proposal located in the Green Belt need to demonstrate Very Special Circumstances?
I’m not going to go into detail about what and where the Green Belt is with this post, I’ve covered that previously. But briefly, the key aim of the Green Belt is to protect the area from urban sprawl and maintain openness. Proposals which do not fall under the exemption criteria as stated in the NPPF will be considered ‘inappropriate development’. For instance, new buildings are typically considered inappropriate development in the Green Belt. This is where there will be a need to demonstrate very special circumstances in order to secure approval for proposals. More specifically, the NPPF states:
“substantial weight is given to any harm to the Green Belt. ‘Very special circumstances’ will not exist unless the potential harm to the Green Belt by reason of inappropriateness, and any other harm resulting from the proposal, is clearly outweighed by other considerations.”NPPF (144)
Therefore, very special circumstances have to carry significant benefits to overcome the fact that the development is by default inappropriate.
What might be Considered to be Very Special Circumstances?
It will probably not surprise you for me to state this. There are no set definitions of what constitutes a very special circumstance. Each proposal will be judged by the local authority and Planning Inspectorate on its own merits. The weight in the planning balance given to each consideration is a matter of judgement for the decision maker. Therefore, there is a lot of individual interpretation of what material considerations carry weight as a very special circumstance.
Single or Multiple Very Special Circumstances?
It is worth noting, there can be multiple factors which form very special circumstances. Instead of putting all your eggs into one basket, it may be possible to demonstrate multiple benefits. Collectively they may carry sufficient weight as a very special circumstance to secure approval.
Local Planning Authorities (LPA) approach determinations for planning applications located in the Green Belt on the ‘Wednesbury Principles‘. The Wednesbury Principles is based on a legal case from 1948. To make a public authority act ‘reasonably’ in their determination of a decision.
Following the Wednesbury Process
First, the LPA will consider if a single material consideration on its own is sufficient to be considered a very special circumstance and outweigh the harm to the Green Belt. Secondly, they will consider if there are other material considerations collectively which can outweigh the harm. While none of the individual factors on their own may be considered ‘special’, collectively they can potentially be regarded as very special circumstances.
Examples of Potential Very Special Circumstances
As my work is focused on small scale and householder proposals I’ll provide examples which are relevant to those applications. Please remember, these are just potential very special circumstances. There are no set rules of what will be sufficient to receive approval.
Permitted Development Rights
When it comes to permitted development rules (PD) there are no separate conditions for properties located in the Green Belt. For this example, lets set the scene. Let’s presume the owner of the property wants to complete an extension. The extension does not fall under PD and is located in the Green Belt. Let’s also presume the property still holds its PD rights.
PD rights can be a material consideration and a potential very special circumstance as a ‘fall back’ position. The fallback position is development the applicant could legally carry out without planning permission. For instance, now the larger home rear extension PD right has been made permanent, this can be a powerful tool.
Essentially, the potential PD rights need to be effectively demonstrated. This will often mean securing prior approval for the larger home rear extension or securing a lawful development certificate for proposed works. These can then be used as evidence as a potential fall back position and very special circumstance. Without this evidence, PD rights as a fallback position, even if they exist may not be considered as a very special circumstance for properties in the Green Belt. It is worth noting, that if the planning application is approved a condition will likely be attached to remove relevant PD rights.
One of the key purposes of the planning system is to support the public good. Therefore if it can be adequately demonstrated that the proposals will have public benefits, they could also potentially be considered very special circumstances.
For instance, do the proposals relate to a community facility, support local employment or help to improve the sustainability of local tourism? The weight which will be given to these benefits is specific to the proposal. Furthermore, so is the potential harm to the Green Belt. For instance, a new structure in a very prominent and open location would have to have very significant public benefits to outweigh the harm to the Green Belt.
Design and Sustainability
The amended NPPF in 2018 placed greater weight on good design in the decision-making process. For instance:
“131. In determining applications, great weight should be given to outstanding or innovative designs which promote high levels of sustainability, or help raise the standard of design more generally in an area, so long as they fit in with the overall form and layout of their surroundings”. NPPF (131)
Now, design on its own is generally not going to be sufficient to form a very special circumstance if there is deemed to be significant harm to the Green Belt. For instance, if the proposals are deemed to be significant in scale and in a very prominent/open location. However, if the harm to the Green Belt is deemed to be moderate or less its potentially possible that a high-quality design using sustainable principles and technologies could change the balance from refusal to approval.
Renewable Energy Projects
When it comes to solar and onshore wind projects in the UK there has been a shift in the planning balance exercise over the last decade. With regards to renewable energy projects in the Green Belt and very special circumstances, the NPPF states the following:
“147. When located in the Green Belt, elements of many renewable energy projects will comprise inappropriate development. In such cases, developers will need to demonstrate very special circumstances if projects are to proceed. Such very special circumstances may include the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources.“NPPF (147)
So, the production of energy from renewable sources may be considered as a very special circumstance. When it comes to onshore wind power before 2015 renewable energy generation was often cited as a sufficient very special circumstance to receive approval. However, after the 2015 WMS, Planning Policy Guidance now states to secure approval:
“planning impacts identified by affected local communities have been fully addressed and therefore the proposal has their backing.”PPG
Therefore, even if the impact on the openness of the Green Belt of an onshore turbine was deemed to be outweighed by the benefits of renewable energy generation, it would still need to receive the backing of the local community. With solar projects, there can frequently be issues with their prominence in the landscape and impact on Green Belt openness.
Conclusions on Very Special Circumstances and the Green Belt
In conclusion, examples of very special circumstances can include existing permitted development rights, a high-quality design, public benefits or energy from renewable sources. It’s important to remember that a collection of factors together while not ‘special’ on their own can combine to constitute very special circumstances.
However, its also highly dependant on the perceived harm to the Green Belt from the proposals. But an improved design, for instance, can simultaneously reduce the harm to the Green Belt and constitute a benefit of the scheme as a very special circumstance.
If you have a property located in the Green Belt and you need to demonstrate very special circumstances to secure approval please get in touch. I’ll review your proposals a make suggestions on what features could be changed or emphasised as a very special circumstance to try and secure approval.
Being told by the local planning authority (LPA) that your planning application has been refused is very frustrating, especially if the planning process has been a long and protracted one. However, there are still usually several means to try and secure approval. One of the most important tips is to remain calm and to try and keep your emotions under control. This is obviously easier said than done. However, the best way to plan a strategy on how to proceed is to approach the issue as logically as possible.
First, we’ll discuss some of the reasons why a planning application may be refused. I’ll then discuss the various options you can take to ultimately try and secure permission for your proposal.
Why might a Planning Application be Rejected?
There could be several reasons why a planning application is refused, or it could be one issue that is so significant it leads to refusal on its own. Decisions are either made by a planning officer (delegated decision) or by a local planning committee. In either case, there should be a report from the planning officer detailing the reasons for refusal. This report needs to be read thoroughly and the reasons for refusal fully explored.
The Planning Balance
Planning decisions are made based on the ‘material considerations’ present at that time. Materials considerations can include the following:
National Planning Policy (NPPF)
Local Planning Policy
Amenity Impact (loss of light/privacy on neighbours)
Impact on the Character/Landscape of the local area
Design considerations including material choices
Environmental or Ecological concerns
There are many different factors which can be considered a material consideration. Some will weigh in favour of a proposal, others may weight against a proposal. Each of the material considerations will be given weight in the planning balance. Some considerations are given significant weight, such as protection of the Green Belt for instance. Once all the material considerations have been weighed up, the balance will either tip in favour or refusal of the proposals.
However, it’s important to note that the weight given to material considerations is subjective. Therefore this is where the local authorities interpretations of planning policy can be challenged. It is possible in some cases to tip the planning balance from refusal to approval.
Planning Committee Decisions
When a planning officer makes a delegated decision, they also get support from the head of the planning department. A decision is made on the opinions on planning professionals. Delegated decisions are only refused if the LPA believe they can defend that decision if an appeal is made. However, when it comes to decisions made at the local planning committee, the process is different.
First, a planning officer will prepare a report and provide their recommendation of either approval or refusal. They will then attend the planning committee and present their report. The planning committee is made up of local elected officials. The planning committee has no requirement to follow the advice of the planning officer. However, if the planning committee refuses a planning application they have to support their decision based on material planning considerations.
Personally, when I see a planning officer write a report recommending approval for an application which is later refused at the planning committee it draws my attention.
Resubmit or Appeal?
Once the material considerations and reasons for refusal are understood you normally have the option to either resubmit a revised application or submit an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate to challenge the decision.
Resubmitting a Planning Application
You can actually submit a revision of the application to the LPA free of charge within 12 months of the decision. However, the application would need to be the first revision of the proposals and be of the same ‘character and description’. So for instance, the red outline on the location/site plan would need to remain the same and the general description of proposed works to be broadly similar. This free revised application applies to a determined and withdrawn application.
When to Resubmit an Application?
If you believe you can amend the design or materials of the proposals to still meet your own needs a resubmission may be the best means to proceed. The planning officers report should provide clues on how to change the design or materials.
Appealing a Planning Application
If after reviewing the officers report you feel that local or national planning policy has not been followed you could consider an appeal. Planning appeals are not made to the LPA, they are made to the Planning Inspectorate, also known as PINS. The Planning Inspectorate is an executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).
How long do you have to submit an Appeal?
This depends on the type of application or planning scenario involved, more details on time limits below:
The date from which time limits are based is the date stated on the decision notice for the application.
The Importance of Being Reasonable
It’s important to note that a planning appeal should be treated seriously and only submitted based on ‘reasonable’ grounds to challenge the decision. It’s not sufficient to challenge a refusal of planning permission on appeal just because you don’t like the decision. A reasoned argument has to be made in a Grounds of Appeal report on why the appellant (you) believes relevant material considerations should support approval of the proposal. PINS can actually award costs against either the appellant or local authority if they believe either side has acted unreasonably.
For instance, an appeal could include challenging how local and national planning policy was interpreted to make the decision. It can also include referencing other relevant local decisions and appeals as supporting evidence. Therefore, before any appeal is considered it’s wise to thoroughly research local decisions and appeals.
It’s important to remember however, every application is judged on its own merits. Therefore an appeal decision in favour of one application does not necessarily mean it should lead to approval of a different application. However, decisions have to interpret policies consistently. Therefore other decisions and appeals can serve as a reference to how certain planning policies have been previously applied.
Conclusions on how to approach a Planning Application Refusal
First and foremost you need to have a good understanding of local and national planning policy. If that’s not the case then you should consider bringing on board a planning consultant such as my self to assist with your project. In terms of the process of how to deal with a planning application refusal I advise following the steps below:
1. Thoroughly read the planning officers report and highlight the material considerations stated for refusal and the weight attributed to them (more or less than significant).
2. If you believe you can amend the design/materials to address the reasons for refusal then consider resubmitting a free revised application within 12 months.
3. Considered appealing the refusal of permission to the Planning Inspectorate if you believe you can demonstrate the planning balance was wrongly applied and relevant material considerations support approval.
For a planning appeal to succeed logical and reasoned arguments have to be presented in a concise and rational manner. Personal attacks and emotional rhetoric are not material considerations in planning decisions. If you have a planning application which has been refused and you need assistance to discuss your options please get in touch. We can discuss if the best way to proceed after the refusal is a resubmission or appeal.
As a planning consultant, my role is to guide planning applications through the decision making the process. There are various stages involved. Therefore with this post, I thought I would provide an overview of the planning application process.
There are a series of stages which need to be successfully navigated to secure permission for proposals from the Local Planning Authority (LPA). Before a planning application is submitted its often a good idea to do a local planning application search. This will provide some important insight into how the LPA is currently interpreting local and national planning policy to make decisions. You may learn for instance that your property is located in the Green Belt. This would need to shape your strategy towards securing planning permission.
Do you actually need to submit a Planning Application?
In order to maximise PD rights its very important to understand how the original property stud as of July 1st 1948. However, with PD is often sensible to apply for a lawful development certificate to the LPA to confirm if they agree that the works are PD. They may refuse the lawful development certificate and indicate the works require a planning application. Before you proceed to submit a planning application you may wish to consider pre-application feedback from the LPA.
If you do need to submit a planning application I’ve described the various aspects of the process below. However, as this is a rather long post I’ve provided a series of quick links to the subheading of each step below:
This type of application is submitted for works proposed within the curtilage of a dwelling. Generally, extensions and modifications which cannot be completed under permitted development rights. However, it excludes the creation of another dwelling or residential annexe within the same curtilage. If a second dwelling or a separate residential annexe is proposed, that will require a full planning application.
Anything which does not come under a householder planning application will require a full planning application. This could include home extensions not covered under PD, but it could also include such works as a dropped kerb. Applications for new dwellings can be submitted in one go as a full planning application. However, proposed new dwellings are often submitted as an outline planning application first.
An outline planning application is really just to find out if the principle of the proposal can secure approval. With the outline planning application route a further application is required in the future to approve reserved matters. So with an outline application very little design detail is supplied. For instance with new dwellings it will often just include ‘indicative’ plans, to show what the properties might look like. However, a suitable means of access is normally decided as highway safety is a significant consideration.
An example of when a retrospective planning application may be required is if the LPA enforcement department has been in contact. For instance, a homeowner may complete an extension or outbuilding under the impression they have complied with PD rules. However, the LPA may state the completed works do not comply with PD rights. Before an enforcement notice is served it may be possible to submit a retrospective planning application to seek approval for the works. Retrospective applications can be submitted for either a householder or full planning application.
Step 1: How to Submit a Planning Application
First, you need to know who your local planning authority is. The Planning Portal provides a tool to find who your LPA building control department is. Now, planning is separate from building control, however, this tool will inform you which LPA you need to submit a planning application to. However, there is an exception to this rule, and that’s if your property is located in a National Park. In that case, the National Park authority will handle your planning application.
Avoid submitting Planning Applications via Post
You can still submit planning applications via post, however, the process is not recommended. Firstly, you have to send multiple copies of all the required documentation which can have a significant printing cost. Secondly, the planning application process can involve multiple conversations with the planning officer to make small amendments to the proposals. Submitting new plans via post is a very inefficient and slow process.
Submitting Planning Applications Online
The most efficient means to submit a planning application is online through the Planning Portal. You can upload all the required documentation and pay for the application which is then forwarded to the LPA. Not every type of application as yet can be completed through the Planning Portal. Prior Notification for a Larger Home Extension been on example. However, they still provide downloads of those forms which can be completed and emailed directly to the LPA.
Step 2: What Documents are Required?
Every application will need to include the following:
Completed application form
Location Plan (usually of 1:1,2500 Scale)
Block/Site Plan (usually of either 1:200 or 1:500 Scale)
Existing Floorplans and Elevations
Proposed Floorplans and Elevations
Depending on the type of property and proposed development, additional documents may be required. For instance, a property which is Listed or located in a Conservation Area will require a Heritage Statement. A flood risk assessment, ecological assessment or structural report may be required. There are several other types of documents which may be requested. Which documents you need to include with the planning application will depend on the national and local validation lists. These are contained on the LPAs website.
The required documents will need to be uploaded to the Planning Portal. Then once the application is paid form the information will be forwarded to the LPA for validation. The planning application process can now continue.
Step 3: Planning ApplicationValidation
Once the LPA receives the documents they will seek to validate the application. This involves, for instance, checking that on the location plan and site plan there is a red line around the site of the proposals. It will also include checking the submitted drawings that they are produced at the stated scale. During validation, they will also check you have submitted all the required evidence and reports. If anything is missing the application will be declared as invalid until all of the required documents are sent to the LPA.
The 8-week determination date will not be set until the planning application is validated. Therefore getting through the validation process as quickly as possible should be a priority. Once validated a planning officer will be assigned to your application.
Step 4: The Consultation Process
The LPA will now make the public (including your neighbours) and various other public institutions aware of the planning application. Over 21 days from when the application was validated the LPA will invite comments to be made, which may include objections. This will include comments from Highways as well as groups such as the Parish Council.
It’s important to note not all of the comments made will be a ‘material planning consideration‘. The assigned planning officer will determine which comments around amenity and landscape, for instance, are relevant. The planning officer will then decide how much weight to place to those comments in ‘the planning balance’ to reach their decision.
Step 5: Planning Officers Recommendation or Determination
Towards the end of the 8 week determination period, the planning officer will either write a recommendation report or determination report. If the proposals are considered controversial or are considered to have a significant impact on the public they may be decided at the planning committee. In this case, the planning officer will write a report on their recommendation for approval or refusal. I’ll discuss more about the planning committee process at a later date.
For this post, let’s presume the planning officer is making the final decision. In that case, they will write a determination report. This report will precede the decision notice, which will be signed by the head of the planning department.
Step 6: Decision Notice and Conditions
The Decision Notice will indicate if the LPA has provided approval or refusal of your proposals. If you have secured approval, congratulations! However, it’s always important to pay close attention to any conditions attached to the planning approval. As some of these conditions may need to be discharged, or you are not properly complying with the planning approval.
If the Decision Notice states the LPA has decided to refuse your planning application there are various options available to you. Within a 12 month period is usually possible to submit amended plans to the LPA with no additional charge. Before revised plans are submitted it’s important to carefully read the officers report. Their report should specifically state the reasons for refusal. You can then try to re-design your proposals to suit.
In most cases, you also have the option to appeal against the decision to the Planning Inspectorate. The decision to appeal should not be taken lightly. If the Inspectorate determines the appeal is unreasonable they can award costs against you to the LPA. I’ll discuss more about planning appeals in later posts.
Conclusions on the Planning Application Process
As you may have guessed, there is actually a lot more detail to the planning application process than stated above. Each application is different and presents different challenges. If you are choosing not to use an agent or planning consultant you need to be confident you can consult with the LPA effectively. However, if you would like assistance to navigate your project through the planning application process, please get in touch. 🙂
Under the 2015 General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) a right was provided (Schedule 2/Part3/Class Q) for farmers to convert agricultural buildings into residential dwellings. However, with most things in planning, the PD rules have seen quite a few changes and amendments over the years. Furthermore, what is and isn’t allowed under the PD Class Q rights has been contested on several occasions. With this post, I’m going to try and provide the core information of what you need to know. I’m going to profile agricultural to residential conversions under PD as concisely as possible.
Where Agricultural to Residential Use Permitted Development Rules Don’t Apply
So not to waste your time, lets first look at which locations the PD rules for agricultural to residential use are not allowed. These PD rules do not apply in National Parks, Conservation Areas, Areas of Outstanding National Beauty, World Heritage Sites or Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Furthermore, if the agricultural building is Listed or within the area of a Scheduled Ancient Monument PD Class Q rules don’t apply. However, they do apply to agricultural buildings located in the Green Belt.
How many Dwellings can be created?
Under the Class Q PD rules, there are two categories of dwelling:
Smaller Homes (up to 100m2 in floor area)
Larger Homes (over 100m2 in floor area)
The floor area will be measured up to the interior face of the external walls, covering all floors of the dwelling. This is based on the RICS standard, so discounts the thickness of external walls. The agricultural buildings of a single agricultural unit can be converted into the following number of dwellings:
Up to 3 larger homes (up to a total max of 465m2)
Up to 5 smaller homes (each home a max of 100m2)
A mixture of both larger and smaller homes, with no more than 3 larger homes.
The original 2015 GDPO only allowed for the conversion of up to 3 separate dwelling houses. However, in March 2018 the Housing Minister via press release announced changes to provide a ‘boost for rural families’. Part of this ‘boost’ was to change the Class Q permitted development rules to allow a maximum of 5 instead of 3 dwelling conversions for agricultural buildings.
Maximum Potential Development
As stated on the excellent Planning Law Blog by Martin Goodhall, the theoretical maximum development of 5 dwellings is:
4 x Smaller Homes (100m2 each) = 400m2
1 x Larger Home (of 465m2) = 465m2
Maxium Development Floorspace = 865m2
There are many different ways the mix of 5 dwellings of different sizes could work out, but 865m2 is the absolute maximumpossible.
What other Restrictions are there on Agricultural to Residential conversions under PD rights?
So as you would expect as with other permitted development rights there are quite a few restrictions you need to adhere to. These include:
The building must have been used for purely Agricultural Use
To comply with Class Q rules the building in question must have been part of an agricultural unit on the 20th March 2013 or some date before. Between prior approval application and the 20th March 2013, there should have been no other use than agricultural. If the agricultural use started after the 20th of March 2013 then the agricultural use must be continuous for a period of 10 years. If requested by the local planning authority (LPA) to provide evidence of agricultural use, it needs to be thorough.
Also, the agricultural use needs to be of a commercial context, to have generated sufficient income to be regarded as a business. If the use was regarded as ‘hobby farming’ by the LPA, they will refuse the prior approval application. However, there is no requirement to prove the agricultural business was the applicant’s main source of income.
No Building Extensions are Permissible
The rules state that under Class Q rules, no extensions are allowed to the ‘external dimensions of the existing building’. Therefore if you are proposing even small additions, you would be required to submit a full planning application. For instance, Herefordshire Council in their guidance on Agricultural to Residential PD conversions state:
“This will inherently preclude the provision of external features, no matter how small or seemingly incidental, such as chimneys, flues, external cladding or steps.”
What type of Repair and Maintenance is allowed under Class Q PD Rules?
While you are not allowed to extend the footprint of the existing building under Class Q rules, certain works are allowed. Importantly, the local planning authority must deem the works ‘reasonably necessary‘.
What can be considered reasonable includes new windows, doors and some works to the roof or external walls. Furthermore, it can also include water and electrical connections, drainage, gas or other services (phone/broadband etc). Partial demolition to carry out such works is also potentially allowed, however, it all comes down to be works been seen as reasonably required. More details below.
What about Structural Works as part of the Conversion?
The information below is a good example of where planning policy and guidance change. Furthermore, why planning advice and feedback are only relevant to a specific point in time. Internal structural works have been potentially allowed under Class Q since the original 2015 GDPO. However, that was not the case with more significant structural works.
With the original Class Q PD rights, there was a decision in the High Court with regards to the interpretation of ‘conversion’. The court determined that while a planning judgement for a case officer, significant demolition and rebuild were not part of a conversion. Therefore, while partial demolition is permissible, it has to be reasonably necessary as part of a conversion. National Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) then reflected this judgement stating:
“It is not the intention of the permitted development right to include the construction of new structural elements for the building. Therefore it is only where the existing building is structurally strong enough to take the loading which comes with the external works to provide for residential use that the building would be considered to have the permitted development right.”
However, when the government changed the GDPO in 2018 and amended the rules around Class Q rights, it also removed the above statement with regards to ‘structural elements’ from the PPG. Therefore, as long the works (potentially a new roof) were agreed to be ‘reasonably necessary‘, they can now come under Class Q agricultural to residential use PD rights.
Landlords and Agricultural Tenants
If the agricultural unit currently has a tenant in place, then express consent is required from both the landlord and tenant as part of the prior approval process. Both the landlord and tenant must state the site is no longer required for agricultural use. In other words, you cannot remove a tenant to carry out the agricultural to residential conversion. If a tenant was previously in place, at least 1 year must have passed after the tenant left before a prior approval application can be made.
How to Secure Prior Approval for Agricultural to Residential Use
So the important thing to note is that Class Q permitted development rights always require a prior approval application first. You cannot receive retrospective permission for the works under PD. As part of the prior approval application, similar submission information is required when compared to a full planning application. Location and Block/Site Plans will be required, along with Floorplans and Elevations of the existing and proposed development.
However, unlike a full planning application for the works and change of use, certain details will not be requested. Under Class Q PD rules, the ecological and biodiversity impacts of the proposal are not a material consideration. Therefore the LPA will not request a bat survey for instance. Although, it is important to note the law around protected species still applies and it is a criminal offence to breach the law.
What will the LPA consider when making their Decision on Prior Approval?
Firstly, they will obviously consider if the core aspects of the Class Q rights are met. As we now know these include prior agricultural use, no extensions and reasonable repair/structural works. However, there are other material considerations which they will consider:
I’m aware I’ve noted this point above, but it can’t be overemphasised. All proposed works to the exterior of the agricultural building must be deemed to be reasonable. The LPA will want the proposal to maintain the agricultural and rural character of the existing structure. The LPA will not want to see the domestication of the countryside. Therefore the use of materials needs to be deemed appropriate. Making large openings for additional glazing is likely to receive negative feedback from the LPA, potentially even refusal.
Furthermore, when proposing outdoor amenity space (gardens) for the conversion, keep within the existing curtilage of the agricultural building. Proposing new garden space which stretches into nearby agricultural land will also likely receive negative feedback from the LPA.
Highways and Transport Impacts
Depending on the number of new dwellings proposed on the agricultural unit (maximum 5), the LPA will consider the highways impacts. This will include, for instance, is there sufficient parking and turning space on site for cars? Different local authorities have different parking standards. Depending on the size of the dwelling the recommendation maybe between 2-3 cars. With regards to turning space, for highways safety you want to be able to state that cars will be able to leave the site in a forward gear.
Depending on the existing access you may be required to provide details on visibility splays. Essentially this is where the sides of the site entrance are lowered and curved to provide, you guessed it, visibility. How much modification of the entrance will be required will depend on the speed of the road. Furthermore, such works may require removal of kerbs. You will also likely require some form of permission from the highways agency (right to dig) to carry out the required works.
Noise and other Amenity Impacts
The LPA will consider the potential noise impacts on the future residents of the dwellings. For instance, are the proposed dwellings very close to a major road? When it comes to agricultural to residential conversions, remaining agricultural activities will be considered. For instance, if farming will continue close to the proposed dwellings what impact will that have? Will there be noise at unsocial hours or will there be a significant smell from keeping livestock nearby?
Risk of Land Contamination
The LPA will also consider if land contamination is a potential issue. They may require additional reports to investigate such risks if deemed likely. They may also require suitable mitigation measures to be taken to address land contamination.
Flooding Risk on the Site
The LPA will look into the flooding risk on the site, whether the agricultural unit is located in a Flood Zone 2 or 3 as determined by the Environment Agency. If located in a Flood Zone 2 or 3 the LPA will expect a Flood Risk Assessment to be submitted with the prior approval notification. You can easily check what flood zone the agricultural unit is located in via the Governments Flood Map.
Is the Development Impractical or Undesirable?
Under a normal full planning application for a change of use from agricultural to residential, the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) is a material consideration. The NPPF is heavily focused on encouraging sustainable development. Under a full planning application, sustainable development would have good access to local services and public transportation. A prior approval application under Class Q PD rights does not have to pass the same tests. For the obvious reason, most conversions will be in isolated countryside. Therefore if the tests of sustainability in the NPPF were applied, very few prior approval applications would be approved. However, the LPA can consider if the proposals are impractical or undesirable.
You may be thinking, well what does that mean? Well, Planning Policy Guidance (PPG) does provide some instructions on this. Firstly, it states the LPA should start from a position that the Class Q rights mean the change of use is appropriate. But the LPA can consider if the dwellings would be impractical ( “not be sensible or realistic”) or undesirable (“harmful or objectionable”). So the factors stated above which the LPA will consider (Traffic, Noise etc) could be impractical or undesirable.
This is where the role of your agent or planning consultant comes in. To work with the case officer to address any concerns to secure approval. For instance, as mentioned above there may be agricultural use surrounding the site which may continue. Restrictions on other agricultural buildings may be required for purely storage use. This would avoid potential amenity impacts with keeping livestock/poultry in those buildings for instance.
Conclusions on Agricultural to Residential Conversions under Class Q PD Rights
As I’m sure you can appreciate from the above information, Class Q PD rights are one of the more complicated aspects of the GDPO. However, with the current rules allowing for up to 5 dwellings, the rules can be a real benefit to farmers where the viability of their buildings for continued agricultural use is questionable. There is a debate whether its better to go for prior approval under Class Q PD apposed to a full planning application. Farmers Weekly published an article on this discussion.
While securing prior approval can be challenging, there is an important distinction between Class Q rights and full planning permission. Under full planning permission, the NPPF and sustainability is a material consideration. Therefore as previously referenced in this post, isolated dwellings in the countryside rarely secure approval. Remember, before submitting an application it’s often a good idea to a planning search or even request pre-application advice. If you need assistance to prepare your prior approval notification application please get in touch. 🙂
I’m going to guess that you have found this page by researching the permitted development rights for outbuildings. You may have learnt there are various restrictions on outbuildings. Such as how tall outbuildings can be, and that development must not exceed the 50% rule of the properties curtilage. However, there is a specific rule associated with the use of outbuildings, they must be incidental and not ancillary to the host dwelling. Therefore, before you carry out the construction of any outbuildings you need to be confident it falls under an incidental use. Otherwise, you may get a visit from the local planning enforcement officer.
First, what are the Definitions of Incidental and Ancillary?
The Oxford Dictionary definition of incidental is “happening as a minor accompaniment to something else“. The definition of ancillary is “in addition to something else, but not as important“. From reading the above definitions its easy to understand why incidental and ancillary uses would appear very similar. However, when it comes to planning and the General Permitted Development Order 2015 there is a big difference.
The 2015 General Permitted Development Order states the following:
(a) any building or enclosure, swimming or other pool required for a purpose incidental to the enjoyment of the dwellinghouse as such, or the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of such a building or enclosure.
The Governments technical guidance on the GDPO also states the following:
“A purpose incidental to a house would not, however, cover normal residential uses, such as separate self-contained accommodation nor the use of an outbuilding for primary living accommodation such as a bedroom, bathroom, or kitchen.”
Residential Annexes are Not an Incidental Use
Therefore residential or ‘granny’ annexes are not a use permitted for outbuildings under the GDPO. To receive approval for such a use you would be required to submit a planning application. This is something I have personal experience of. My own dwelling is an ancillary residential annexe of my parent’s dwelling. Both properties are located within the same curtilage. My home is located within the Green Belt. Therefore, I volunteered a planning condition to restrict the use of the building as a ‘family annexe’ to secure approval.
An incidental use for outbuildings allowed for under GDPO can typically include garden sheds and greenhouses. However, as noted above it can even include a swimming pool. Lawful development certificates (LDC) for proposed development are submitted for various outbuilding uses. However, upon appeal, not all of these uses are deemed to be incidental as they are not ‘reasonably’ required. Let’s look at some examples.
Example 1: Swimming Pools and Social Rooms
This example is an appeal decision on a LDC in April 2019 ( APP/K3605/X/18/3209784). The appeal concerned a quite significant outbuilding of 225m2 for use as a swimming pool, steam room, sauna and social room. Both the council and Planning Inspector agreed that the outbuilding complied with the GDPO in terms of the size of the curtilage and the size of the building.
The Inspector stated that the incidental use of the outbuilding must be reasonably required, and “not rest on the unrestrained whim of a householder”. Furthermore, the use of the outbuilding is used for subordinate activities to the host dwelling. Both the council and Inspector found that the swimming pool, steam room and sauna were an incidental use.
However, the issue was around the size of the social room (which also contained a bar). The Inspector concluded that the size of the social area and the potential number of people using that space at one time would not make it incidental to the main dwelling and dismissed the appeal.
Example 2: Too much Garage Space?
In December 2018 an appeal decision(APP/H2265/X/18/3198695) was determined on a LDC for a four-car garage of 99m2. The appeal was set to fail as the structure did not comply with GDPO rules around for the size of the building. Furthermore, the Class E rights for outbuildings were removed from the dwelling in the year 2000. However, for this example were are more interested in the Inspectors comments on if the development was incidental. The Inspector stated the following:
“I note that the proposed garage would provide spaces for four cars, while the present Ahremee building already provides garaging for four cars. A total of 8 garage spaces for a two bedroom flat suggests the likelihood of a vehicle use not incidental to use of the dwellinghouse.”
Conclusions on the Difference between Ancillary and Incidental Uses
So as a general rule, ancillary uses will require some form of planning permission. Incidental uses can be permitted development. As seen with the two examples above, whether a use is incidental is open to interpretation. Therefore with certain outbuildings is a good practice to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. Remember, it is the responsibility of the applicant/appellant or their agent to adequately demonstrate that the use of the outbuilding will be incidental. If you need planning advice or support please get in touch. 🙂
With most planning applications work has yet to start on the project. However, there are instances where work may have already started or been completed. If the works do not come under permitted development rights the local enforcement department may become aware of the works. This is where a retrospective planning application may be a suitable means to address the situation and regularize the development in planning terms. The retrospective planning application process is used to secure permission for development ‘after the fact’ of it taking place.
There are some applications that are classified as a retrospective but the majority of the development has yet to take place. Common instances of this kind are where the applicant has already started ground works which are considered development. Some applicants see this approach as a means to speed up the development process. However, if the application is refused the local authority would expect the ground works to cease and reinstate the land to its previous condition.
If you have been contacted by your local planning enforcement department its important to address the situation as quickly as possible. You want to see if they will allow you to submit a retrospective planning application before an enforcement notice is served.
Does the Local Planning Authority have to accept a Retrospective Planning Application?
No, they don’t, with the introduction of the Localism Act 2011 local planning authorities (LPA’s) were given new powers. If a pre-existing enforcement notice is in place a retrospective planning application will not be accepted.
Under Section 70A of the Town and County Planning Act, the LPA has further powers to refuse a retrospective application. For instance, let’s presume a similar application was submitted for the existing development within the last 2 years. Let’s also presume there has been no change to local planning policies. Then the LPA can determine there has been no ‘material’ change in planning terms and refuse to accept the retrospective application. There is no right of appeal against this refusal, there is only the right to challenge the decision via judicial review to the High Court.
No Plausible Means to Approve
The LPA will also refuse to accept a retrospective planning application if they see no plausible means to approve the application. In other words, if the existing development causes such significant harm to the local landscape character or Green Belt. Furthermore, the amenity issues may be so significant in terms of impact on loss of light, privacy, noise or smell.
However, if the LPA then proceed to issue an enforcement notice for the development an appeal against the enforcement notice can be made via a Ground A appeal. This is also known as a deemed planning application (DPA). The Inspector will then consider the planning merits of the case. With a deemed planning application a fee has to be submitted for the Inspector to consider the planning merits of the case.
How to secure Retrospective Planning Approval
If the LPA is willing to accept a retrospective planning application its likely they will set a date by which it must be submitted. If the retrospective application is not submitted by this date it’s likely they will issue an enforcement notice. It is a criminal offence not to adhere to an enforcement notice, so you should never ignore it.
With the submission of your retrospective application, you need to have a good understanding of the current planning situation in terms of local and national planning policy. For instance, this could include a solid understanding of Green Belt planning policy. It’s also a good idea to do an extensive planning search for relevant local decisions. These can help to shape your arguments and strategy.
Thorough Research is Essential
You also need to have a clear understanding of what development the LPA believes to have taken place. For instance, you may believe that part of the development is immune from enforcement due to the passage of time. A thorough look into the planning history of the property can be of assistance. In that case, it may be possible to submit a lawful development certificate for part of the works.
If during the discussion with the LPA on the retrospective application they have significant issues it’s helpful to be flexible. For instance, you may be able to amend the proposals to remove certain aspects of the existing development. This may involve lowering the ridge height of a roof structure due to impacts on landscape and local character. It may involve removing certain aspects of the existing structure which have negative neighbour amenity impacts. While it may not be desirable to have to spend time and money modifying the structure, refusal of the retrospective application could result in a loss of the structure altogether.
How long does it take to get Retrospective Planning Permission?
For retrospective applications, the determination period is the same as other householder or full planning applications for minor developments of 8 weeks. During that period it’s important you or your planning agent/consultant are in contact with the case officer. You need to try and establish a constructive relationship where they are detailing any concerns they have with the proposals. You then have the option to amend the proposals or for them to determine the proposals as is.
It’s good to have a conversation with the planning officer on the phone, via email and a face to face conversations if possible. Email serves a good record of the conversations, however, the subtext is often lost. With a face to face or phone conversation its usually possible to get more of a feel whether the application is heading for approval or refusal.
What happens if the Retrospective Planning Application is Refused?
If a retrospective planning application is refused it’s likely that the local enforcement will be in contact again. They will usually state that the development needs to be removed and the site returned to its previous condition/use. If this is not done by a certain date an enforcement notice will be served. The enforcement notice will state another date by which development must be removed/ceased. Otherwise, the local planning authority may begin legal proceedings.
As stated previously like most planning proceedings there is a right of appeal. However, it’s important to note that you have less time to start enforcement appeal proceedings than with other planning matters. Usually, an appeal must be submitted within 28 days of the enforcement notice being served.
As with any planning appeal (but especially an enforcement appeal) you need to be aware that the LPA may seek costs against you. If the Inspector believes the appellant has behaved unreasonably in the submission of the appeal they may award costs. Costs awards, however, can go in both directions and may be awarded against the LPA. The risk of a costs award does need to be acknowledged. Therefore trying to secure retrospective permission for development should always be the first approach.
Assistance with a Retrospective Planning Application
If you have been requested by your local planning authority to submit a retrospective planning application please get in touch. We can discuss your current situation and if a retrospective application is the best means to proceed. 🙂
When it comes to planning one of the trickest policies to navigate projects around is that of the Green Belt. My own dwelling is located within the Staffordshire Moorlands Green Belt. Therefore I’ve appreciated the importance of being familiar with Green Belt planning policy and its implications for many years. There is no doubt that securing approval for development located within the Green Belt can be a significant challenge. However, understanding the detail of the policy and designing proposals which do not significantly conflict with the objectives of the Green Belt is possible.
What is the Purpose of the Green Belt?
The main purpose of the Green Belt is to provide a ‘check’ on urban growth and sprawl. To ensure that urban development does not overrun areas of agriculture, forestry and leisure. The key objective of the Green Belt is to maintain areas of openness and permanence. The current National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states the five main purposes of the Green Belt are:
(a) to check the unrestricted sprawl of large built-up areas;
(b) to prevent neighbouring towns merging into one another;
(c) to assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment;
(d) to preserve the setting and special character of historic towns; and
(e) to assist in urban regeneration, by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land.
The Government places significant weight on the protection of the Green Belt. Therefore, so do local planning authorities and the Planning Inspectorate. Therefore once you have identified that your development is located within the Green Belt it should shape the design of the proposals and your approach to securing planning permission.
How much of England is covered by Green Belt?
The first area of Green Belt was created around Greater London in 1935, referred to as the Metropolitan Green Belt. Then more Green Belt was introduced across the UK, notably around Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool.
The area of land in the UK covered changes year on year as land is released or protected. The latest released Government statistics from 2018 state that 12.5% of the land area of England is covered by Green Belt. This is estimated to be 1,629,510 hectares. From the previous 2017 figures, there was a reduction of 5,070 hectares.
Is new Green Belt being created?
As the NPPF states, the majority of the Green Belt has already been established, and new Green Belts would only be created in ‘exceptional circumstances’. Due to the UK housing crisis that is ongoing the introduction of new Green Belts would not be conducive to addressing this issue. Many local authorities are now having to conduct Green Belt reviews to identify parts of the local Green Belts which serve little value to the five main purposes stated above. These areas are then released from the Green Belt to meet urgent local housing needs. Areas of Green Belt which are released are located on the fringes of existing settlements. Therefore new developments can be sustainably located close to public transport and services.
Is my property within the Green Belt?
If you wish to find out if your property is located within the Green Belt, there are various sources you can use to check. However, some are more accurate and user-friendly than others.
Telegraph – Interactive Green Belt Map
Back in 2012 the Telegraph placed an interactive map of Englands Green Belt on their website. You can enter your postcode and obviously the areas highlighted in green are areas of Green Belt. However, the problem with this map is when it comes to reviewing properties on the fringes of Green Belt zones. Furthermore, it’s not clear if the data set they are using to generate this map is being updated. Therefore, it may not be providing accurate information.
Campaign to Protect Rural England
The Campaign to Protect Rural England is a registered charity who lobby the government and other institutions on planning policy and other matters which impact the countryside. They have created their own interactive Green Belt map using OpenStreetMap.
Magic Map – Defra and Natural England
One of if not the best tools that planning consultants such as my self have access to (and its free!) is Magic Map. Launched in 2002 it provides visual information on more than 300 different data layers held on the natural environment. Therefore it also provides access to the Green Belt data set provided by the Government. It’s a bit more complicated to use than the interactive map on the Telegraph/CPRE websites, but you can view the map in much more detail. You can also draw lines, shapes and annotations. You can print these maps, however, you cannot submit them as Location or Site Plans. For such maps, you will need to purchase OS maps with the appropriate licences. Magic Map is normally my first point of reference to check the Green Belt status of the client’s property.
Local Authorities Interactive Planning Maps
Over recent years there has been a push by many local planning authorities to make the planning process easier to understand and navigate. Part of that effort is to provide more visual means to review the local area from a planning policy perspective. My own local planning authority of Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) have quite a good interactive planning policy map. It’s possible to show local Green Belt in the area including any amendments (increase/reductions) which have been made. If your local planning authority provides such an interactive map, this should be your primary source of information. If your local authority has not as yet provided such an interactive map you can still use Magic Map to review if your property lies within the Green Belt.
Do properties within the Green Belt have Permitted Development Rights?
Many people start to investigate what the Green Belt is from a perspective of investigating what restrictions there are on development. As the Government and Local Authorities place such significant weight on protecting the openness of the Green Belt you may be surprised to learn that permitted development rights (PD) do exist. Essentially within the curtilage of your home, there are no specific restrictions on PD for properties in the Green Belt. Therefore once the original size of the dwelling is accurately understood, PD often serves as an excellent means to extend a dwelling in the Green Belt. Furthermore, when it comes to dwelling extensions outside of PD or a replacement dwelling, PD rights can help to justify proposals.
Remember, when it comes to PD it’s very easy to think a proposal is acceptable under the rules, only to later find out your local planning enforcement department has issues with what you’ve built. Therefore I often recommend submitting a Lawful Development Certificate for proposed works before you actually start to build. It can save making a very expensive mistake and it also helps to sell a property with evidence the works comply with PD rules.
Can you still extend properties located within the Green Belt?
If you can not achieve the type of development you’re looking for under PD rights, you can submit a Householder Planning Application. This process is the same for properties not within the Green Belt. However, to extend a property within the Green Belt a tougher test needs to be passed. Both on a national planning policy (NPPF) and local planning policy level.
With regards to extending a building within the Green Belt the NPPF states the following:
“(c) the extension or alteration of a building provided that it does not result in disproportionate additions over and above the size of the original building;”
The term disproportionate may be open for interpretation. However, some local development plans specifically state a percentage above the original dwelling they will accept. Typically around 30% over the size of the original dwelling is accepted. Therefore as with PD rights, having an accurate understanding of the size of the original dwelling is imperative. Remaining PD rights for a dwelling can come in handy. If you can successfully demonstrate the property still holds PD rights to extend, these can be used to justify that the proposed extension plans while not PD are also not disproportionate.
What is Inappropriate Development?
When it comes to any development in the Green Belt (outside of PD) it will be determined if the proposals are considered to be ‘inappropriate development’. Point 143 of the NPPF states that inappropriate development is considered to cause harm to the Green Belt. Proposals which cause harm to the Green Belt will do so through by being in conflict to the five purposes of the Green Belt as stated above. Moreover, by doing harm to reduce the openness of the Green Belt. This harm can only be overcome in ‘very special circumstances‘. There are also exceptions to development referenced below.
What are Very Special Circumstances?
If your proposals are deemed to be inappropriate development and do not fall under an exemption category, you will need to demonstrate ‘very special circumstances’. So what can be determined to be very special circumstances? Well, this is a typical case in planning where a lot of different perspectives and interpretations come into play. However, an example would be PD rights which have been effectively demonstrated to exist. PD rights can be effectively demonstrated through the approval of a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) for proposed works.
It’s potentially possible to demonstrate a collective of individual circumstances while not ‘special’ on their own merit are special collectively. These could be for instance high-quality design, a high degree of sustainability (low energy consumption/renewable energy measures) and improvements to landscaping/biodiversity. However, each case is different, and the decision maker will apply what ‘weight’ they believe is appropriate to the circumstances.
Building a New Dwelling
With regards to planning applications for new dwellings within the Green Belt, line 145 of the NPPF needs to be acknowledged:
“145. A local planning authority should regard the construction of new buildings as inappropriate in the Green Belt.”
However, there are exceptions to this rule which include buildings for agriculture, forestry and leisure (outdoor sports). However, proposals must still ‘preserve the openness’ of the Green Belt and not conflict the five purposes stated at the start of this post. Therefore it’s possible in some cases to secure permission for an agricultural worker dwelling. However, this can be a tough test to pass in terms of establishing a genuine need. Furthermore, a planning condition would be attached to the property.
What is Limited Infilling?
Another approach to building a new dwelling within the Green Belt is under the exception of development stated in the NPPF of:
“(e) limited infilling in villages;”
So the exception of development comes down to the interpretation of ‘limited’ and ‘villages’. Some local planning policy documents may provide an indication of what they consider to be ‘limited’. It will generally refer to a maximum of two, perhaps three new dwellings filling in between existing development. The term ‘villages’ is also up for interpretation. There are decisions where a local planning authority has not considered the location of a proposal to be within a village as it was not stated as such in their settlement hierarchy. However, upon appeal, the Inspectorate has determined otherwise, based on the number of dwellings and the character of the area.
With infilling developments its important to note that the location must still be deemed to be sustainable. For instance, is there good access within a reasonable walking distance to public transport and other local services (shops etc). Modern planning has a heavy focus on sustainability and this will need to be demonstrated to secure approval.
Reuse of an Existing Building as a Dwelling
From reading the above it should be clear that outside of limited infilling, securing approval for a new dwelling in the Green Belt from scratch is very challenging. However, there is another means to create a dwelling, through the redevelopment of an existing structure. Under point 146 of the NPPF development which is not regarded as inappropriate includes:
“(d) the re-use of buildings provided that the buildings are of permanent and substantial construction;”
I referenced this particular part of the NPPF to secure approval for my own dwelling in 2014. To demonstrate the building was of ‘permanent and substantial construction’ I commissioned a structural engineers report and included it with the planning application.
Replacement Buildings and Dwellings
Under section 145 of the NPPF with regards to proposals affecting the Green Belt the following applies:
“(d) the replacement of a building provided the new building is in the same use and not materially larger than the one it replaces;”
This is where PD rights can again come into use. A Lawful Development Certificate can be used to demonstrate the existing dwelling could be extended through PD. Those PD extensions can then be factored into the size of the dwellings. Therefore the design of the new replacement dwelling can be based on the existing dwelling + PD extensions.
Renewable Energy projects on Green Belt land
When it comes to solar and wind projects within the Green Belt, line 147 of the NPPF needs to be considered:
“147. When located in the Green Belt, elements of many renewable energy projects will comprise inappropriate development. In such cases developers will need to demonstrate very special circumstances if projects are to proceed. Such very special circumstances may include the wider environmental benefits associated with increased production of energy from renewable sources.”
Therefore it is possible to secure approval for a solar installation on the basis that the power generated is considered as a very special circumstance. However, if the proposals are particularly prominent within the landscape and are determined to have a significant negative impact on Green Belt openness, the proposals may still result in a refusal. Each case is judged on its own merits and projects that do secure approval the decision is often finely balanced.
However, currently in 2019 onshore wind turbine developments face a much tougher test than solar projects. With the introduction of the 2015 Written Ministerial Statement (WMS) with regards to onshore wind, new onshore wind projects are few and far between. The 2015 WMS has now been included in the NPPF as a footnote and reads as follows:
“49 Except for applications for the repowering of existing wind turbines, a proposed wind energy development involving one or more turbines should not be considered acceptable unless it is in an area identified as suitable for wind energy development in the development plan; and, following consultation, it can be demonstrated that the planning impacts identified by the affected local community have been fully addressed and the proposal has their backing.”
Very few local development plans have identified areas suitable for wind energy development. Therefore trying to secure approval for a wind energy development within land designated as Green Belt in 2019 is not a realistic option. However, planning policies change and a policy such as this could change under a new Government.
How to get Planning Permission for development in the Green Belt?
One of the first steps to secure planning permission within the Green Belt is to conduct a planning application search. You want to review planning decisions and appeals from local properties located in the Green Belt. Ideally, you want to find recent decisions for very similar developments to your own proposals. As referenced above many local planning authorities now provide interactive planning maps. These can be very helpful indeed, you can turn on the Green Belt layer and set the date range for decisions and start your search. Reviewing the approvals and refusals for proposals can provide some very helpful guidance to shape your proposals.
The Importance of Good Design
When it comes to rural locations (and especially the Green Belt) good design can be what tips the planning balance to approval. For instance, paragraph 79 of the NPPF regards isolated homes in the countryside.
“(e) the design is of exceptional quality, in that it:
is truly outstanding or innovative, reflecting the highest standards in architecture, and would help to raise standards of design more generally in rural areas; and
would significantly enhance its immediate setting, and be sensitive to the defining characteristics of the local area.”
“131. In determining applications, great weight should be given to outstanding or innovative designs which promote high levels of sustainability, or help raise the standard of design more generally in an area, so long as they fit in with the overall form and layout of their surroundings.”
Therefore, if you were looking to secure approval for a new dwelling from scratch in the Green Belt the above paragraphs of the NPPF need to be carefully considered by your architect. It’s also important to review any available supplementary design guidance provided by your local planning authority. To secure approval for projects in the Green Belt it often relies on a close working relationship with the architect and planning consultant.
Planning Assitance with Green Belt Projects
If your property is located in the Green Belt and you have a project in mind please get in touch. We can discuss your ideas and a strategy to go about trying to secure planning permission 🙂