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Extending your home - Part 2 - Getting approvals

Extending your home - Part 2 - Getting approvals

drawing with building control approval stamp

In a typical small project, there are two local government bodies that you, or your professional advisor, will need to satisfy with regard the design and construction of your new extension, these are, the planning department and the building control department. Formal applications may be required to either or both of these, if the work is to be carried out in compliance with the relevant legislation.

- Planning

Typically, your architect or draftsman will be required to submit quadruplicate copies of suitably scaled drawings, showing the existing and proposed plan layouts and elevations, along with a block plan of the site, with the site boundary marked in red. The planning drawings will need to be accompanied by an application form, along with the prescribed fee. The council will check the application is complete, and will register it as a valid application if everything is in order. After which the council is required to make a decision within eight weeks of registering the application as valid.

Hopefully all will be well, and your approval will be forthcoming. However on occasion, further amendments are required, in order to make the application more acceptable to the planning department. These further amendments may, or may not, require a further formal application. A second application does not generally require a further application fee, however it will result in a further eight weeks delay.

- Building Control

For minor developments, you will most probably be dealing with your local council’s ‘building control department’, with regard to compliance with the building regulations. The building regulations cover such issues as structural stability, fire escape provisions, the combustibility of materials, thermal and sound insulation, plumbing and a recent requirement for new dwellings to achieve a level of air tightness. As the regulations are constantly changing, your builder may insist that construction drawings are prepared to, at least building regulation standards, before pricing the work. In any event, there are two ways to approach compliance with the building regulations, the preferred method is to submit a ‘Full Plan’ application to the council for approval. This involves the submission of building control drawings and such structural calculations as are required, to the building control department, along with the relevant ‘plan checking’ fee. The council will check the drawings and calculations, and issue a notice of approval, or request the design be amended in order to comply. As an alternative to the above, your builder may submit a building notice to the council, indicating his intent to start work. This notice must be on the prescribed form and accompanied by a block plan of the site. The notice must be issued at least 48 hours before the intended start date. In either case, the building control officer, otherwise known as the ‘district surveyor’, will come out to inspect the development at various stages of the build. Your builder will be issued with a set of cards at the first site visit, to submit and request an inspection at the appropriate stage. At the first site meeting, he will also require the fee to be paid, or the balance of the fee, if a 'Full Plan' application has been made.

- The Party Wall Act

If your property is adjacent to other properties, or other people's land, it is likely you will need to give formal notice to your neighbour of your proposed development, under the terms of the Party Wall Act 1996.

In brief, there are three common situations that require notification.

  • 01 Carrying out any significant structural work to a party wall, such as extending upwards or cutting in, to take a baring for a beam, as would be typical with regard a loft conversion for instance.
  • 02 Building a party wall or party fence wall on, or astride, the boundary of your land with your neighbours. You cannot however build astride the boundary unless your neighbour agrees.
  • 03 Excavating to a depth below that of the neighbour's foundations within 3m, or within 6m, if the intended excavation is below a line, cutting a 45 degree angle, from the bottom of the neighbours foundations.

In the first instance, the notice, in writing, should be given two months in advance of the intended start date, and in the latter cases 1 month in advance.

- Other legislation for commercial developments

In addition to the legislation above, if you are extending a small business premises, then there are additional requirements to take account of. In recent years, significant new requirements were made under the Construction Design and Management Regulations. The regulations were originally introduced in 1994, under the ‘Health and Safety at Work act’, and were subsequently revised in 2007. The requirements will also apply if you are developing a residential property, not for you own use, but for instance, to sell on or rent out.

The CDM regulations will require you to appoint a consultant, whose duty it is to coordinate Health and Safety issues. The duty holder is referred to as the ‘CDM coordinator’, formally known as the ‘Planning supervisor’. However, the full force of the regulations only apply if the development is above a certain size, defined as being work that lasts for more than 30 days, or involves more than 500 person days of construction work.

The CDM regulations introduced a major change in responsibilities, in that it placed responsibilities on the client for Health and Safety issues, hitherto the preserve of the contractor, in addition to the appointment, and hence cost of an additional duty holder, the CDM co-ordinator. The principle duties placed on the client are:

  • 01 To check competence and resources of all appointees.
  • 02 To ensure there are suitable management arrangements for the project welfare facilities.
  • 03 To allow sufficient time and resources for all stages.
  • 03 To provide pre-construction information to designers and contractors.
  • 03 To appoint a CDM co-ordinator.
  • 03 To appoint a principal contractor. Typically this would be the main contractor. In any event the contractor who is responsible for Health and Safety on site.
  • 03 To provide any information he is aware of that relates to Health and Safety, to the CDM coordinator.
  • 03 To retain the Health and Safety file in his possession, and allow access to it by those concerned.

Where the project is below the size defined above, there is no requirement to notify the ‘Health and Safely Executive’ and the appointment of a CDM coordinator is not required, however, the first three duties in the above list, should still be complied with. Further information regarding the ‘CDM regulations’ can be found on the web site of the ‘Health and Safety Executive’.

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