Planning Permission – the pitfalls and paperwork

Building PLanning

This guest blog from Jon Ponting, Senior Energy Assessor, at Energist aims to clear up some of the terminology, steps and processes that you need to consider when planning a new development.

Long gone are the days of building your house first and asking questions later… these days the various reams of red tape and hurdles which you have to jump over before you can stick a spade in the ground can leave many people bamboozled. So let’s start with the planning application.

Permitted Development

Firstly, some works may not require a planning application, such as a small extension. This is known as Permitted Development, but be aware you may still need Building Control approval for those works. But if you do need planning permission, depending on the type of development, there are a couple of different routes you can go down…

Outline Planning

For larger developments, where the principle of developing is not yet clear, an Outline Planning application could be used. Often submitted with a few basic details, such as proposed layout, numbers of homes or scale of the development, this outline seeks to approve the principle of the development without providing the detail (which incurs cost). This Outline is the first chance you’ll get to receive specific feedback from the local authority about how happy they are with your proposals. If your Outline application is approved, then you’ll later need to submit a Reserved Matters approval, to sign off all those details that were not covered in the original application.

Full Planning Permission

Alternatively, you can submit for Full Planning Permission, by providing all this detail in one fell swoop. This is more appropriate for smaller developments or where the principle of development is more certain (for example, land allocated for development in a Local Plan). The council will either refuse planning permission, giving their reasons as to why, or they will approve your application subject to you meeting a (sometimes lengthy) list of planning conditions. These conditions can cover site ecology, sustainability, drainage, appearance, garden sizes, archaeology, timeframes…there is a near endless amount of requests that could be included.

With regards to sustainability many Planning Authorities currently have the power to ramp up these requirements depending on their Local Plan Policies, asking developments to meet certain levels of the Code for Sustainable Homes (or equivalent), or having Energy Statements commissioned to assess means of incorporating onsite renewables into the development.

The Code for Sustainable Homes requires developers to go above and beyond the Building Regulations, forcing builders to consider and adopt details of 34 topics, covering energy, waste management, surface water run-off, water use and availability to natural light.

Energy Statement requirements vary depending on the council’s own agenda, but usually ask a developer to include enough renewable technology on the site to offset 10 / 15 / 20% of the total carbon emissions or energy consumption – this usually means that PV panels, community heating, heat pumps or biomass boilers should be considered as part of the development proposals.

Section 106 Agreements

Section 106 agreements can also crop up for larger developments. These legal agreements require developers to make a financial contribution to local infrastructure works, including transport, education and public space. Section 106’s have even been known to ask for money for carbon offset measures and public artwork!

Ongoing Assessment

Many planning conditions will need to be regularly assessed while construction work continues, with consultants and officers checking progress as you go. Planning Authorities will often require Final Code for Sustainable Homes Certificates before a home can be occupied, so it’s important to ensure you can get your development certified to avoid any delays.

So that’s a very brief overview of the Planning Process. However, you are likely to also need Building Control sign off for your development.

Building Control 

To achieve Building Control approval, you need to agree to a specification that complies with all sections of Building Regulations. In England and Wales there are 14 Approved Documents, which cover mandatory requirements from structural safety and protection from falling, through to energy efficiency and drainage. This specification must be implemented in accordance with the Building Regulations and signed off by your Building Control Body, as the development proceeds.

Part L for example (Conservation of Fuel and Power) dictates the minimum levels of insulation you can install, the maximum CO2 levels the dwelling or commercial building can be designed to produce, the provision of Energy Performance Certificates (EPC) for each dwelling, and literature which should be provided to the first buyer to encourage energy efficiency…

Targets specified by Part L requires the use of SAP (for domestic) or SBEM (for non-domestic) calculations to be completed – this will tell you how much insulation is needed, the type of heating system you should use, the thermal bridging details you should follow and the air permeability rating which you should aim for.

Once you’ve satisfied Building Control that your development meets all of the Approved Documents requirements, you’ll be issued a Completion Certificate once Development has finished, and provided you’ve cleared all of your Planning Conditions, you’ll be able to occupy, rent or sell your development!

With thanks to Jon Ponting, Senior Energy Assessor



Twitter: @EnergistUK

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