“But [insert name] said it was permitted development…”

One of the most common phases I hear from clients, or potential clients: “But [insert name] said it was permitted development”. If I had a pound for each time I heard that I could reduce my working hours considerably (or even work from sunnier climates than North Worcestershire).  In calling me to check, however, it is a tell-tale sign that people aren’t sure otherwise they would be proceeding, unconcerned, with their proposal. That said – I would rather they did double check, there isn’t much worse than someone who has already undertaken work when it really is a problem in planning terms! Permitted Development rights are not always clear or straight forward and they can be applicable (or not) to a wide range of schemes.

In some cases they are very helpful, however, the starting point is always to check that “normal” or “standard” rights are still in force and available to use. There are relatively common instances where they have been physically removed (for a period of time, or permanently) for example as part of a planning condition, through use of permitted development rights elsewhere (such as on a farm) or an article 4 direction from the Local Planning Authority (LPA). If anything like the above applies then it is simple, a proposal would require full planning consent.

Assuming your scheme does fall under permitted development it is not always the case that you can simply grab your local tradesperson, make them a cup of tea and ask them to get on with it. Some permitted development rights are subject to a prior approval application scheme which still requires an application of sorts to the LPA. Examples of this would include Class Q conversions (agriculture to residential), the erection of farm buildings (which require a twenty-eight-day notification to the LPA) or larger single-storey residential rear extensions which require submission of a prior approval: larger home extension application.

Householder permitted rights also involve planning judgement as to what is ancillary to the enjoyment of a dwellinghouse – case law suggests this can be quite wide, however, be aware of companies selling structures who tell you they can be put up permitted development rights. Double checking can save a lot of cost, and stress, before making a substantial purchase.  It is also worth considering what the previous owner of your property or land has done. Whilst you may not have extended your home, the previous occupier may have and the limits for householder extensions are based upon the original dwellinghouse which is defined as the how the house stood when it was first built or as it stood on 1 July 1948 (if built before that date).  Similarly, you may have purchased a parcel of land which you wish to erect an agricultural storage building upon, however, the barns as part of the original holding may have been converted under Class Q meaning utilisation of other permitted development rights will be limited for a period of time.

Assuming your project is permitted development, and there is no requirement for a prior notification, it is still worth considering applying for a Certificate of Lawfulness confirming that your development is legal in planning terms (i.e. that it is permitted development). This piece of paper is relatively easily to obtain and may save headaches and/or the need for indemnities at a later date in the event you sell your property or asset. It certainly makes conveyancer’s lives a lot easier.

The above is a brief overview which doesn’t even scratch the surface as to how complex the world of permitted development rights can actually be. To summarise, the starting point is always to check whether rights have been removed and the actions of previous owners to determine what options are available to you.  As much as say, in jest, that people always tell me their proposal is permitted development – it really is better to check for the sake of say an hour of a professionals time, it can be a costly mistake to rectify if you are wrong, if indeed it is able to be rectified at all within standard enforcement time limits/the relevant planning policies!

I can, and do, double check what has happened with properties and farm holdings where such matters could be an issue.  This has been on behalf of clients purchasing properties directly, or feeding into a purchase process with solicitors.  With the planning history (which, on some farm holdings can be complex), I can confirm whether conditions have been discharged and developments commenced legally, whether consents are dead and gone or extant and whether there is anything which could interfere with a client’s objectives when purchasing a property.  This has, unfortunately, resulted in a few sales being stopped but this has enabled them to go on and buy the right properties for them.  If in doubt – do send me an email, I can usually unravel things quite quickly!