Work on your land

Work on your land

There are many factors that will affect whether or not you need to apply for planning permission, you should think about the following before you start work:

Your neighbours

Let your neighbours know about work you intend to carry out to your property. They are likely to be as concerned about work which might affect them as you would be about changes which might affect your enjoyment of your own property. For example, your building work could take away some of their light or spoil a view from their windows. If the work you carry out seriously overshadows a neighbour's window and that window has been there for 20 years or more, you may be affecting his or her 'right to light' and you could be open to legal action. It is best to consult a lawyer if you think you need advice about this.

You may be able to meet some of your neighbour's worries by modifying your proposals. Even if you decide not to change what you want to do, it is usually better to have told your neighbours what you are proposing before you apply for planning permission or before building work starts.

If you need to make a planning application for the work you want to carry out, the council will ask your neighbours for their views.

If you or any of the people you are employing to do the work need to go on to a neighbour's property, you will, of course, need to obtain his or her consent before doing so.


Light itself, and minor domestic light fittings, are not subject to planning controls. Nevertheless, if you are planning to install external lighting for security or other purposes, you should ensure that the intensity and direction of light does not disturb others.

Security lights fitted with passive infra-red detectors (PIRs) and/or timing devices should be adjusted so that they minimise nuisance to neighbours and are set so that they are not constantly being triggered by traffic or pedestrians passing outside your property.

A neighbour might take you to court if you are negligent or cause nuisance.


Everybody's taste varies and different styles will suit different types of property. Nevertheless, a well-designed building or extension is likely to be much more attractive to you and to your neighbours. It is also likely to add more value to your house when you sell it. You should always think carefully about how your property will look after the work is finished.

Extensions often look better if they use the same materials and are in a similar style to the buildings which are there already. It is impossible to give a single definition of good design in this context: there may be many ways of producing a good result. In some areas, the council's planning department issues design guides or other advisory leaflets which may help you. You should think about using a suitably, qualified, skilled and experienced designer.

Covenants and private rights

Covenants or other restrictions in the title to your property or conditions in the lease may require you to get someone else's agreement before carrying out some kinds of work to your property. This may be the case even if you do not need to apply for planning permission. You can check this yourself or consult a lawyer. You may also find that some properties enjoy historic rights. The council has no involvement in checking or enforcing your private rights such as a 'right to light'.

For more information, see our 'How restrictive covenants affect land use' section.

Listed buildings

You will need to apply for listed building consent if either of the following cases applies:

  • You want to demolish a listed building
  • You want to alter or extend a listed building in a manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest

You may also need listed building control approval for any works to separate buildings within the grounds of a listed building. Check the position carefully with the council - it is a criminal offence to carry out work which needs listed building consent without obtaining it beforehand.

If your application for listed building consent is refused, granted with conditions or not determined within 8 weeks of it being validated by the council then you have the right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate or to the Planning Appeals Commission in Northern Ireland.

Conservation areas

If you live in a conservation area, you will need conservation area consent to do the following:

  • Demolish a building with a volume of more than 115 cubic metres. There are a few exceptions - you can get further information from your council.
  • To demolish a gate, fence, wall or railing over 1 metre high next to a highway (including a public footpath or bridleway) or public open space; or over 2 metres high elsewhere.

If your application for conservation area consent is refused, granted with conditions or not determined within 8 weeks of it being validated by the council then you have the right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate or to the Planning Appeals Commission in Northern Ireland.

Trees and hedgerows

Many trees are protected by tree preservation orders which prevent you from pruning or felling them without the council's consent. In addition, in conservation areas, you must give the council six weeks' notice in writing of your intention to fell, lop or top or uproot trees within a conservation area. It is an offence to carry out the work within that period without the council's consent.

In Northern Ireland you must make an application to your LPA and await their decision before carrying out any works. If the LPA refuse your application, you will have six months to appeal. If your LPA consents to your application, you should also ensure that you also obtain permission from the person who owns the trees or hedgerows that will be affected.

If you are unsure about the status of trees which you intend to prune or fell (or you simply require further information), you should contact your council.

Design of new development

Your council has the power to require a very high standard of design which is consistent with the character of the conservation area. New development must make a positive contribution to the character of the area. In view of this, your council can require additional information in support of any planning application showing how the proposal will relate to the conservation area. This can mean the submission of elevations of adjacent buildings, full details of the proposal and examples of materials and colours. Usually only a fully detailed planning application will be considered, which should be accompanied by a design statement.

Your council will advertise all planning applications affecting the character of conservation areas both on site and in the local paper.

Alterations to roofs and cladding of buildings, proposals to change the profile of a roof, for example with the provision of a dormer window, and to clad a building with a different material, such as imitation stone, require consent from your council.

Satellite dishes

The siting of a satellite dish on the chimney stack or on the roof slope or elevation fronting the road requires consent from your council. For more information see our 'Permission to install Sat/TV/radio aerials' section.

Nature and wildlife

You may need to consider the effects on wildlife of any works you wish to carry out. Animals, plants and habitats may be protected under their own legislation (badgers, for example), under the 'Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981' and the 'Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985' (for example, bats, see below).

English Nature can provide advice on what species are protected by legislation, and what course of action should be taken. Your local planning authority should also be able to advise on any species or habitats that may be affected by your proposals.

Even when your development proposal benefits from permitted development rights, the legal protections for wildlife still apply.


Some houses may hold roosts of bats. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Wildlife (Northern Ireland) Order 1985 give special protection to bats because of their roosting requirements.

You must notify English Nature in England & Wales or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency in Northern Ireland of any proposed action (e.g. remedial timber treatment, renovation, demolition and extensions) which is likely to disturb bats or their roosts. They must then be allowed time to advise on how best to prevent inconvenience to both bats and the owners

Building Regulations

You will need to consider the Building Regulations (BR) for any kind of building work that you are considering doing. For more information, see our 'Building regulations' section.

Rights of way

If your proposed development would obstruct a public path which crosses your property, you should discuss the proposals with the council at an early stage. The granting of planning permission will not give you the right to interfere with, obstruct or move the path. A path cannot be legally diverted or closed unless the council has made an order to divert or close it to allow the development to go ahead. The order must be advertised and anyone may object. You must not obstruct the path until any objections have been considered and the order has been confirmed. You should bear in mind that confirmation is not automatic; for example, an alternative line for the path may be proposed. Planning permission for a new gate would not itself grant you any right of way on land outside your own.

Adverts and signs

You may need to apply for advertisement consent to display an advertisement bigger than 0.3 square metres on the front of, or outside, your property. So you are unlikely to need consent for a sign with your house name or number on it, or even a sign saying 'Beware of the dog'. Temporary notices up to 0.6 square metres relating to local events, such as fêtes and concerts, may be displayed for a short period. There are different rules for estate agents' boards, but, in general, these should not be bigger than 0.5 square metres. You can get further advice from the planning department of your council.

Ancient monuments

Ancient monuments are structures of special historic interest or significance, and range from earthworks to ruins to buried remains. Many of them are scheduled as nationally important archaeological sites. If any ancient monument could in any way be affected by proposed development, advice from English Heritage or the Northern Ireland Environment Agency should be sought as soon as possible. Applications for Scheduled Monument Consent may be required by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport or the Department of Environment. It is an offence to damage a scheduled monument.

Environmental health

Environmental Health covers the safety of people living or working in an area. Any proposed development which could cause, for example, air pollution, unfit housing or unhygienic food preparation premises would be the concern of environmental health officers (EHOs). Such developments may also require an 'Environmental Impact Assessment' to be submitted. Environmental health departments work alongside planning departments in most local authorities.

Licensed sites and premises

Caravan sites (unless exempt), premises selling alcohol, and some other public entertainment venues are subject to special licensing arrangements, in addition to other permissions they may require. Your local council will be able to provide further details.

Roads and highways

Roads and Highways are normally the responsibility of the local highways authority in England & Wales and the Road Service in Northern Ireland. Where highways are affected during or after construction work, the applicable authority will need to be consulted.

In England and Wales if your local council is not the highways authority for the road involved, they will be able to help you contact the right person. In Northern Ireland your local council should be able to assist in contacting the correct roads service branch.

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