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Understanding the UK’s Building Regulations and Permissions

Published on April 7, 2016 by Ryan Taylor in News, Property Investment


One of the major advantages of owning your own home is that you can modify it any way you want to. Want to give it a completely different look? You can paint, install new flooring and even change parts of its construction; all without seeking permission from a landlord.

However, what many homeowners don’t realise is that if you’re looking to make more than just a few cosmetic changes, you may need planning permission. There are various building regulations in place that every homeowner must adhere to. Here you’ll discover everything you need to know about the types of modifications that typically require planning permission.

What’s the difference between building regulations and planning permission?

Many homeowners get confused between building regulations and planning permission. Put simply, building regulations are there to ensure a property meets safety, convenience, health and welfare standards. Planning permission relates to whether a specific development should be given the go ahead.

Planning permission is generally needed if:

  • You want to change how your property is used
  • You want to build a new property or structure
  • You would like to make a major change to the home such as an extension

Build regulations on the other hand cover a much wider range of upgrades and modifications to the home. It’s basically usually required when internal alterations need to be made.

It’s worth noting that the planning permission rules and building regulations differ between England and Wales. So it’s advisable to contact your local planning authority for specific rules in your area.

So now you have a basic understanding of building regulations and planning permission, let’s look at some of the most common home modifications you might need to get approval for.

Professional or DIY electrical work – Part P Building Regulations

When you think of planning permission and building regulations, you typically associate them with extensions and building work. However, building regulations also refer to electrical work within a property.

Part P of the building regulations has been in force since 2005. Any electrical work you plan on having done, whether you plan on doing it yourself, or using a professional, will need to adhere to the regulations set out in Part P. It’s also worth noting that these regulations were updated for England in 2013.

Both partial and full rewiring is included in Part P and its aim is to ensure you and your family remain safe. If the work carried out does not comply with Part P, local authorities can make you alter or remove the work carried out.

You will need to contact your local building control body if you need the following work carried out on your home:

  • Replacement of a fuse box or other consumer unit
  • New circuit installation, including both extra-low and low voltage circuits
  • Any addition or alteration of an existing circuit situated in a unique location such as a swimming pool or bath

Once you have notified your local building control body, you will need to ensure you hire an electrician who is registered with a government approved scheme.

Building a Conservatory


If you’re looking to add a conservatory to the home, or expand an existing one, you may need planning permission. Generally speaking, you only need planning permission if the conservatory will take up more than half of the land surrounding the property. However, there are other factors you need to counter in too such as how deep the conservatory will be, whether it faces a road and how high you want it to be.

If you construct a conservatory without seeking planning permission, you may need to take it down if it goes against building regulations. Therefore, to save both time and potentially a lot of money, it’s worth contacting your local authorities to see whether you need permission. You can find out more about planning permission for conservatories here.

Loft conversions

Another common modification homeowners like to make is to convert their loft into an additional living or work space. In most cases, you won’t need planning permission. However, if you want to extend the loft space further than the existing roof slope or if you want to build a balcony or veranda outside of the new loft conversion, you will need permission.

It’s also worth noting that you will need to leave at least 40 cubic metres roof space if you live in a terraced home. With semi-detached and detached homes this increases to 50 cubic metres roof space.

As well as ensuring the actual building work meets building regulations, you also need to make sure all materials used meet the regulations too.

Garage conversions

If you plan on only doing internal work to the garage, it is unlikely you will need permission. Planning permission is mainly required if you want to alter the size or use of the garage. For example, if you want to turn it into a living space, you will need to seek permission and guidance from local authorities.

There are a lot of things to think about before you start work on a garage conversion. If a new foundation needs to be installed, you’ll need to consider the type of foundation required as well as take into account any adjacent buildings and trees. There are a lot of safety implications involved that you might not be aware of. That’s why it is so important to contact your local planning permission office to discuss the conversion and what it’s likely to involve.

Like with conservatories, the garage and any other outbuildings should not take up more than 50% of the land surrounding the property.

Which jobs can be done without planning permission?


So above you’ve discovered some of the most common renovations and jobs that may require planning permission. Now let’s talk about the jobs you can do without needing permission.

Front garden paving – Provided you are using a porous material, you will not need planning permission

Bathroom and kitchen renovations – Unless you are planning an extension or altering the plumbing, you won’t usually need permission to make bathroom or kitchen renovations

New boiler installation – If a new boiler is being fitted and all of the work is internal, you will not require permission.

Adding decking – If the decking is going to be less than 30cm above ground and it doesn’t take up over 50% of the land around the property, planning permission isn’t necessary.

Lighting – Internal light repairs and installation very rarely requires any type of planning permission. If you’re installing an external light however, you will need to ensure it does not cause disturbance to your neighbours.

General home improvements – The majority of internal home improvements don’t require planning permission. This includes remodelling without having to re-wire or re-plumb any fixtures.

What happens if I ignore building regulations?

It may be tempting in some situations to just go ahead and make alterations to your property without seeking approval. However, going ahead with an extension or any other type of improvement that requires permission would be a breach of the law. So what would happen if you went ahead?

Local authorities are responsible for ensuring building regulations are followed within their governing area. If it is found you have breached the law, they will first try to enforce the building regulations informally. If the informal approach is ignored, they have two formal enforcement powers they can make use of.

The first is prosecution. They could take you to the Magistrates court and issue a fine. This fine is unlimited so you could end up facing a very expensive fine depending upon the work carried out. They can take you to court up to two years after the work has been carried out.

Secondly, an enforcement notice can be given requesting the work is removed or altered. It is worth keeping in mind that this can also be done alongside taking you to court. So you could end up paying a hefty fine, as well as have to remove the work completed.


While it can be overwhelming trying to figure out whether the work you need doing is subject to building regulations and planning permission, hopefully the above information has helped a little.

As a general rule of thumb, remember that any work that does not alter the size of the property or involve any major electrical or plumbing work, can typically be done without permission. However, if you are unsure it’s vital you contact your local planning office. They will be able to discuss your requirements and inform you of any regulations you need to follow.

There’s an extremely useful website which provides in-depth information about the kind of permission you may need when doing any type of work to your property. The Planning Portal has everything you need to know and will provide a fantastic resource.

Overall it is very important that you ensure any work you want to carry out meets building regulations. The majority of home repairs and improvements will not require any special permissions, but you need to be 100% sure of this before you start any work.

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About the author
Ryan TaylorRyan has worked in many areas of property over his eight years in the business. From Lettings to Property Management to New Home Sales to Investment, his knowledge and passion are second to none. He is currently based in Nottingham.

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