Investors buying off-plan build

Is it advisable to apply for planning permission retrospectively?

The number of retrospective planning applications reached almost 40,000 over the past three years, but is this a risk worth taking when renovating your property?

If you’re building something new, making a major change to your property or changing the use of a building, the chances are you’ll need to secure planning permission from your local planning authority.

However, over the past three years, 39,200 retrospective planning permission applications have been submitted for developments either started or completed, according to research by Churchill Home Insurance. These applications were sent off either once the work had been started or after it had been completed, rather than before.

During that time, some of the most commonly reported reasons by participating councils for applying for retrospective planning permission were single-floor extensions (2,218 applications), double-floor extensions (459) loft conversions (424), garage conversions (309) and open-plan spaces (106).

Regional trends

Scotland topped the list for the greatest number of retrospective planning applications, accounting for 20% (7,949) of all applications over the last three years. Unsurprisingly, given its size, London was second (5,612) together with the south-east (5,372), who both account for 14% of the UK’s retrospective planning applications. Around a fifth of applications were refused in both London (21%) and Scotland (18%).

At a local level, the New Forest in Hampshire had the highest rejection rate across the UK, with the council rejecting the overwhelming majority (92%) of retrospective planning applications. Being an area of outstanding natural beauty and conservation area brings challenges for any planning applications.

On a region-by-region basis, Wales had the highest refusal rate, with more than a quarter (28%) of retrospective planning applications refused.

One in eight planning applications are rejected

Any local authority can insist that a retrospective planning application is filed in the event of a property owner failing to apply for the usual consents prior to undertaking the work. Currently, one out of eight applications is rejected by UK local councils and proceeding with building works before gaining planning approval is not without risks.

The most common reasons for authorities rejecting applications include the development being out of character (28%), loss of privacy (10%), highway safety (7%), overdevelopment (5%) and impact on nature (3%).

On the government’s website, it states: “If your project needs planning permission and you do the work without getting it, you can be served an ‘enforcement notice’ ordering you to undo all the changes you have made.”

The risks are real

Pritpal Powar of Churchill Home Insurance commented: “Homeowners are increasingly choosing to expand their current homes to accommodate growing family sizes, rather than move to a new house.

“However, before beginning any development, we encourage people to check whether they need planning permission and if they do, to wait until this has been granted before starting work.”

“It is also important for householders to advise their insurance provider on any works they are planning, to ensure they have the correct cover in place for their property. Whilst any major household development is likely to come with a certain amount of upheaval, we hope that by taking these steps homeowners should ensure that they aren’t subjected to any unnecessary stress during the process.”

For many property investors, you can maximise the potential of your property by carrying out major works such as extensions and conversions to create extra bedrooms. While you run the risk of an application being rejected, if you carry out the work without planning permission and are then forced to reverse the changes, this will have a major impact on your bottom line. It is therefore always advisable to go through the correct procedure.

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