Normally building work and changes of use require planning permission. However, in some cases this planning permission is not required and is conveyed automatically by national legislation (and is referred to as “permitted development rights”). In such cases you will not need to make a planning application. However, you can submit an application for a Lawful Development Certificate to your local planning authority should you wish to confirm whether the proposed or existing works/change of use is “permitted development”.
The most commonly encountered categories of permitted development are those relating to householder development. This includes alterations and extension to existing houses and bungalows (e.g. conservatories and dormer windows) and for outbuildings and other structures within their grounds (e.g. garden sheds, swimming pools, garages). If you live in a flat (either in a block with other flats or above a shop or offices), you will not have permitted development rights as your property does not constitute a ‘dwellinghouse’ under the legislation. You will therefore have to make a planning application for any such works. If you live in a listed property (Grades I, II or II*) some of your permitted development rights will be restricted and any works to the property will need listed building consent before the commencement of works.
Although permitted development is effectively a nationwide planning permission, in some instances these rights will have been removed. This could be as a result of planning conditions imposed on a development, e.g. when planning permission is granted for a new housing estate and is subject to restrictive conditions. Dwellings that have been created as a result of a change of use granted through the prior approval process (e.g. conversion of barn or offices into a dwelling(s)) automatically have their permitted development rights removed. You are advised to check with your local planning authority before embarking on any works, particularly if you live in a new build, or recently converted property.
Local planning authorities can also introduce what are called "Article 4 Directions" which take away permitted development rights. These are most frequently used in conservation areas. They restrict the scope of permitted development rights either in relation to a particular area or site (e.g. preventing the construction of gates, fences or other means of enclosure), or a particular type of development anywhere in the authority’s area. If you are assessing whether a proposal is permitted development, you need to be aware that one or more of these local controls might affect the rights.
Regardless of whether you need planning permission, you will normally need Building Regulations approval for most works to your property. These are separate to planning permission and we do not address them in this guidance. Further details can be found at http://www.nhbc.co.uk/. There may also be restrictions imposed by previous owners of your property known as “restrictive covenants”. These might either require you to obtain permission for extensions and alterations, etc. or may prevent you carrying out certain types of development.