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Planning Permissions Vs Building Regulations: Essex Guide

Planning consent drawings with rubber stamp

If you’re embarking on a building or construction project for the first time, you’re likely to be a bit baffled by the hurdles that loom ahead. You’ve probably already started to see there are a number of approval and regulations processes that you could encounter, including planning permissions and building regulations. This can be particularly daunting without any guidance, and it can be tricky to know where the line is drawn between the two.

But don’t worry, you’re not alone! At MyHousePlan, we’re familiar with these same obstacles and aim to make this process as seamless as possible, from the very beginning of your project to the end. In this post, we break down the definitions of “planning permission” and “building regulations” applications, helping you to decide which you may need to consider for your project.

What is planning permission?

If there was once an Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe – well, how times have changed! If everyone could build without permission, our towns and cities would be a lot less structured and unsafe. Planning permissions by our local planning authorities ensure that things don’t get out of hand.

Planning permission follows the national rule of thumb guide – the National Planning Policy Framework – but also an important consideration of the local town/city in which the building is situated. Some considerations will be the different landscaping effects in Essex, such as highway access and its impacts on the general environment. There are numerous public interests in different cities and towns, for example between that of rural areas of Essex (such as Basildon countryside parks) and urban land areas (such as Chelmsford city centre), so each proposal will be subject to different factors.

Planning permission is needed to grant permission to proceed with a proposed development and will usually lie with local planning authorities. So, before proceeding your application, it is worth checking with your local planning authorities of any local requirements you may need to consider when writing your application. For more information on how to start your planning permission application, see our recent guide.

Building regulations explained

We all know it: health and safety comes first, so there are no cutting corners here. Building regulations primarily ensure the health and safety of the people in or about the buildings. These set firm standards that the building facilities are safe for people to access and move around, including those with disabilities. These requirements also keep in check that power and fuel is conserved appropriately.

In England, it is the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) that is responsible for setting building regulations. To make an application, you need to contact your local Building Control Body (BCB), in which you can apply for approval from your council or alternatively through a private approved inspector. However, there are several types of applications, bearing in mind the scale and timeframe of your project.

A dream project can easily become a nightmare if the essential components are not put into place from the get-go. You might have an idea that defies gravity, but of course, you need to ensure this physically holds up. So, it is best practice to start your application at the beginning of your project to ensure approval runs smoothly. At MyHousePlan, we can determine all requirements needed to be submitted with your building regulations application, such as whether the services of a structural engineer would be required.

Types of building regulations applications

If you’re planning a medium or large-scale building project (such as a summer house or house extension), a “Full Plans” application is the most thorough and recommended, as this application will guide you through your building project from start to finish. So long as you follow the plan as agreed in the application, your build will be approved. However, for small building projects (such as a garden shed), you may only need to submit a “Building Notice” application, which – if approved – would allow you to start working on your project after 48 hours. Lastly, if you’ve already started or finished your project, you can submit a retrospective application called a “regularisation” application.

What is the difference between building control and planning permission?

A striking difference between building control and planning permission is the scope of where their concerns primarily lie. Perhaps a good analogy here would be a microscope. Zoomed out, planning permissions go wider to the interests of the local town and council, so is very much about the broader interests of the public and the nation. However, zoom in more closely on the building itself (or where it’s going to appear) and you could probably think of building control best in a micro-scale – looking at the ins-and-outs of that precise location and the people concerned around it.

Do I need both planning permission and building regulations approval?

Most types of “outside” building work, particularly that of residential building projects, will require separate permissions under both regimes. But if it’s a very small project that does not extend over 30 square metres – for instance, a garden shed or an outdoor playhouse – you should not require building regulations, so long as it’s not within a metre of a boundary and does not require sleeping accommodation. If it’s something bigger than 30 square metres – such as a garage of summerhouse – you are likely to need building regulations approval.

When you’re planning internal building alterations, you would likely need building regulations guidance to ensure it fits the safety bill (such as electric fittings). However, because it’s not in the interest of the wider public, it is likely you will not need planning permissions. But this isn’t always the case! For example, if you’re making internal amendments which affect the original proposal agreed in your planning permission application, you may need to seek further approval.

Generally, if you’re planning out any type of construction or building work and you’re not sure of the next steps, you should get in touch with your local planning authority or building control body. However, our experts at MyHousePlan can always guide you through the step-by-step requirements needed, and also smooth you through the whole process to make it much more stress-free. Simply contact us if you’d like more information about the next steps of your building project.

How else we can help

At MyHousePlan, we offer all the beams of support from the beginning to the end of your building project. From helping you draw up your beginning building plan blueprint and writing your planning permission application, to ensuring the building is following building regulations requirements, right through to the very physical development stage!

Because every project is different and will have different requirements, we cannot provide you with a one-size-fits-all approach, but we can help, and if you have any more questions please feel free to get in touch.