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How to build a home extension  without Planning Permission using your PD rights - Oct. 1st 2008



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What to do if you erect an house extension or detached garden building that is not permitted development - and the planners come calling.

This is a very common scenario and happens more often than you would imagine. Most Planning Departments have an enforcement or compliance section. Some take their roles more serious than others so there is no one size fits all approach to ensuring damage limitation of your scheme.

Most homeowners caught out by completing non compliant Permitted Development works seem to fall into two camps. Those that wilfully and knowingly completed the works and took a chance and those that completed the works in good faith but have fallen foul of a technicality.

Those of you in the first camp need to take advice from a Planning Consultant and you probably will be required to submit a retrospective Planning application to regularise the situation.

Those in the second camp usually have a better chance of ’playing the game’ and could play the system a bit to avoid submitting a retrospective Planning application.

First, you have to understand what the enforcement section is trying to achieve. They simply need to decide if the works are PD or it requires formal Planning Permission. If they do decide that your operation or works should have received formal Planning Consent, they will explain exactly why. Maybe, you simply need to adjust a small element of the scheme for it to comply with Permitted Development. If that is the case do it if it does not adversely affect your requirements then do it and let them close the case swiftly for everyone to get on with their more important lives.

If the technicality cannot be easily adjusted for compliance then they will request that your either remove the works or submit a retrospective planning application within a certain time period. The secret is not to panic. Remember that the enforcement team are not the case planning officers who will handle your planning application so no matter how positive they are for your scheme treat it with a pinch of salt - they just want to close their file

All potential Planning contraventions are tested expediency. Is it expedient for the Council to take enforcement action. As taking action by the Council involves resources and costs, they are obliged to give all cases the expediency tests.

So what is the expediency test? To understand this you need to realise that expediency is in two parts. The first part is for the council to decide of the breach of planning control (your works) causes any harm. This could be to neighbours or the local area (Green Belt, Conservation Area, adjacent a listed Building for example).

If they decide that there is no harm caused then does the alleged contravention fall in line with Planning Policy - the question is would the council likely recommend approval of the works within a Planning Application? If the answer is yes then should the homeowner decide not to play ball and not submit a retrospective planning application then probably the Council will fail the expediency test and not pursue you.

The other part of the expediency test is will the Council likely win any enforcement appeal. If the Councils stance is not at least 90% secure then again many Planning Departments will not pursue enforcement and consider the case not expedient. Examples could be cloudy issues on dates or timings of the works, what has actually been committed within the alleged infringement.

Therefore, if any of these issues applies to you and you are not certain that a retrospective planning approval would be forthcoming then you may want to call the planners hand by stating your case and confirming that you would prefer to appeal on the enforcement first. If they are minded to proceed with any enforcement action they will let you know. Alternatively you may just get a letter claiming ‘not expedient’ and the council will close their file.

The secret is not to panic, do not divulge too much too quickly about the background and take time to consider your options. Use all the time limits given by the Council and do not be afraid to request extended time for producing additional information provided you have reasons (you or your design agent is on holiday).

For a diagram of the restrictions affecting detached garden rooms click here. 


 Detached garden rooms under PD