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Are planning permission and building regulations the same thing?

No. Planning permission is completely different from the process governing building regulations and is designed to shape and control the way in areas are developed. If you intend to make major structural changes to your home, therefore, or to build something completely new, you will probably need to get planning permission. While you don’t need planning permission for many internal renovations and some house extensions which fall within your permitted development rights, it’s best to check before work starts. So give us a call first.

Where can I get building regulations approval?

There are three main sources of approval for you/your building contractor to consider:

  • Local Authority Building Control (LABC): Most people go through their LABC body to get Building Regs approval.

  • Private building control bodies: Private company Approved Inspectors will advise you on how the regulations will apply to your chosen work, check all plans, notify a local authority of intended work (via an ‘Initial Notice’), inspect the work as it progresses and issue the final certificate. There is no application process in this instance.

  • Competent Person Scheme: The main advantage with self-certification is that no building control fee is charged, so customers benefit from lower prices and the convenience of the work being carried out and signed off by the same person, at the same time.

  • Finally, there are also a range of third party certification schemes for accreditation of materials, products and installers. Some LABC bodies will accept third party accreditation as evidence of building regulation compliance, providing the scheme is recognised.

How do I apply for building regulations approval and how long does it take?

If you decide to use the local authority building control, there are three main types of application for approval that can be made. All applications can be submitted online.

  • Full plans: This will require either you or your builder to submit full plans and/or technical drawings (see below) of what you intend to build in advance of work. It is usually processed by the local authority within 5-8 weeks, with approved applications valid for the next three years. Local authority building inspectors will arrange to visit you and check the works are compliant at key stages in the build process.

  • Building notice: This process allows you to inform a local authority that you intend to build something without providing full plans. It is a much quicker and easier route to pursue than the first option, although there are some exclusions (such as work relating to fire safety or close to drains highlighted on sewer maps). There is also an element of risk. Building inspections are carried out throughout the construction process and any work deemed to fall outside of the regulatory standards will need to be modified or removed. Only once the work is completed to a satisfactory degree will the local authority issue a completion certificate.

  • Regularisation: This final application process is retrospective and is discussed in detail below.

Building Regs Drawings

Whether you already have architects plans for your project, have a builder in place to carry out the job, or are planning a DIY alteration which you know will require building regulations approval (e.g. removal of a load bearing wall) then you will also need structural calculations and technical drawings to submit to the local authority building control to explain your project and seek approval. Archplans can provide this for you. These calculations and drawings will also be an important guide for your builder/contractor/you to follow.

What happens if I don’t get building regulations approval?

If the initial application for approval is rejected by a local authority, you have the option of amending your existing plans- which we would recommend as the smoothest and quickest option. Alternatively, you can resolve any pertinent issues by means of discussion, or by appealing the decision at a local level or directly to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

If you proceed with the work without receiving prior authorisation and this does not comply with building regulation standards, then you may be asked to remove or alter each offending contravention. If this is not done, the local authority will either serve a 28-day requirement notice (together with a bill for costs) or choose to prosecute. If convicted, penalty fees of up to £5,000 can be charged plus £50 for each day that the work remains uncorrected. Failing this, the authority may decide to perform the remedial work themselves and recover all costs from the property owner.

An appeal for ‘determination’ can be lodged if you believe that your plans comply with regulations but have been rejected, or for ‘relaxation’, ‘dispensations’ and ‘appeals’ if you believe that the regulatory requirements are excessively onerous or irrelevant.

Can I obtain retrospective approval for building work?

If you have undertaken building work without prior approval, then a retrospective application process, known as ‘regularisation’, can be used to obtain a ‘regularisation certificate’. However, this may entail extensive corrective work to comply with building standards. A fee is usually charged for this type of application, although the amount will differ according to the local authority. It is usually based upon the estimated cost of the initial work against sliding scale works.

Do I need to get a building regulations certificate?

Yes! Once the building work on a property is completed, it is essential that you obtain a completion certificate confirming that the undertaken work complies with regulatory standards from the local authority. This should always be done before handing over payment to the responsible builder or tradesperson, although competent person scheme members will provide you with a certificate within eight weeks of completed work. Completion certificates cannot be issued retrospectively, so failure to obtain one at this time could lead to major difficulties if you choose to sell your home at a later date (although indemnity insurance may help to overcome this hurdle).

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