What's the Deal with Planning and Building Regs?

Even the savviest of homeowners get stuck when it comes understanding the differences between planning and building regulations approval. Here we give you the low-down on the what's what and who's who of both approval types and their differences.

Planning and Building regs in urban locations can be tricky

The basics

Planning and building regulations approval are the two statutory consents that any property owner, agent or developer amending or creating buildings in the UK have to receive from their local authority (LA). It doesn't matter if you're the Queen, the BBC or the Bee Gee's, if you want to do work to a property you have to seek approval. There are certain types of developments and works that do not require planning approval which we discuss here, but by and large 95% of projects do.

What do they cover?

Planning law all relates to how the building is perceived from the outside (materials, scale, heights); how big it is in relation to its use (size of living areas in relation to occupancy) and how it relates to its immediate context (neighbours garden, other buildings, trees). This is why you have local and national design guides and policies provided by your LA to reference when making a planning application.

The Building Regulations on the other hand are a minimum design standard that all new developments or building elements have to be designed and built in accordance with. There are over a dozen documents that make up the Building Regulations which includes things like structural steel calculations, fire escape distances and thickness and quality of insulation. The Building Regulations are there to ensure the buildings we inhabit are safe and functional. They generally stop disasters like Grenfell happening.

Who deals with my applications?

Your local authority is made up of many departments from taxes and recycling to housing benefits and voting registration. If you are applying for planning permission, you have to submit it to the LA. There are no private bodies or institutions that govern this aspect of your project. Building Regulations however can be dealt with through Building Control at the council, or you can get approval from an "Approved Inspector". This is a private individual or business that has the professional qualifications to assess a buildings drawings pre-construction and conduct and on-site inspection during construction.

Planning rules can change depending on the location, but the Building Regulations are the same everywhere
Planning rules can change depending on the location, but the Building Regulations are the same everywhere


Planning and Building Regulations costs vary considerably depending on the size of a project and the LA. National costs for a householder planning application is always £206. With Building control approval for drawings coming in at around £250 for the drawings assessment and £500 for on-site inspections. Professional fees for engineers, surveys and drawings will come in at an additional cost to this.


Planning approval is broken down into 2 distinct stages - validation and determination. Validation is meant to take up to 21 days. Most of the time it's shorter, but some LA's are very understaffed and can take considerably longer. Once an application is validated it goes into the determination process. The statutory time period for this is 8 weeks, however again it can sometimes take less time or longer. At the time of determination you will know if what you have proposed is going to be recommended for approval or rejection.

Assuming you receive approval, the Building Regulation drawings can be assessed within 2 weeks, but they can take 4-6 weeks to prepare. The Approved Inspector will then assess the project whilst it is being built to determine it's being constructed in accordance with the Building Regulations.


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