The planning department of your local council will be very much part of your self-build. Without their seal of approval you cannot dig a footing or lay one brick. This department has the power to enforce the building to be demolished if regulations and plans are not followed correctly.
Where is the Planning Department?
Each district council has a planning department. They are responsible for all planning applications within the council's boundaries. Most local councils now have websites where they will explain how to contact the planning department.
When to Contact Them
Before you purchase a plot of land, with or without outline planning permission for a dwelling, it is important to make a visit to the planning department. Inform them you are about to start a self- build and request all information they have on this subject. Most planners are interested in these types of projects and you will hopefully find that all your dealings with this department will be pleasant ands straightforward.
Ask if there has been any form of complaints against the planning application on your site. The last thing you need is to purchase a plot that has unhappy neighbours who do not want the build to go ahead for any reason.
It may be that the outline plans purchased with the land are not quite to your liking. Ask the planning department if they are willing for changes to be made (subject to the usual applications). You do not want to find out that you are unable to build the home of your dreams after you have purchased the plot of land.
Once you have submitted the plans of your home they will go through a standard process before being passed. Firstly that the paperwork is correct before being passed to a town or parish council if you are in their area. Sometimes a notice is placed in the local paper of any planning applications. Letters are also sent to the owners of neighbouring properties. These people are given time to consider the plans and put up any objections.Finally, the application is put before the Development Control Committee and they will have the final approval. Normally single house applications are straightforward unless neighbours have put forward objections. This stage of the build can take from two to three months and during this time you are not allowed to start building.
Once the build commences you will have to notify the Building Control department at certain stages so that they can pass the work before you continue. Normally they will come out within 24 hours so the work should not be held up. Work such as excavation of footings or trial holes, foundation concrete, damp proofing, hardcore laying and drainage are some of the early inspections needed. If you are in doubt as to what work needs to be passed contact either your architect/surveyor or the Building Control department.
The Seal of Approval
Always ensure that you have written evidence that every inspection has been passed. If for any reason you need to change part of the building plan during the build ensure that you have written notification from both the planning department and Building Control before you proceed. It has happened in the past that some builders fall foul by small changes not being passed by both departments. The house then receives an enforcement order against it for an illegal build. The worse possible scenario is that you will have to pull down the offending area of the build if not the whole house. The lesser option will be the expense of paying fees for an appeal and the build is halted for some months.
When to Complain
If at any time you feel you are not receiving the best service from the planning department you can always write to the Development Control Committee. If an enforcement notice is placed against your build you have the option to appeal to the Department of the Environment.