Renovating or extending your property is an almost overwhelming project at the best of times. With so many factors to consider and, seemingly, so much that threatens to go wrong, it’s easy to forget certain details in the pursuit of your perfect design. However, one such detail can prove devastating if overlooked – planning permission.

As important as it is, planning permission is something often left to one side. It usually means project delays and additional costs, understandably things nobody wants to think about when undergoing such an upheaval as home renovation. But, as much of a nuisance as it is, forgetting planning permission risks undoing all your hard work, something far worse than mere delays.

All is not lost, however. If you have already carried out a renovation or extension to your property without first seeking planning permission, you can still apply for retrospective planning permission. In this article, we will break down exactly what that is, the possible consequences of forgoing it, and other important information.

What is retrospective planning permission?

Retrospective planning permission is one of the rarer terms in finance, those that are perfectly simple to explain. Effectively, it is the same permission as ordinary planning permission, though one you apply for after a project has been completed. Of course, as it is applied for in retrospect, it has some unique qualities that set it apart from planning permission.

The costs of retrospective planning permission

Likely the first question that will come to mind is about costs, namely “will it cost more”? Thankfully, no, at least not when applying. Your application will incur the same costs as if you had applied before the project. That said, if you are asked for records you have not kept, such as building materials used, you may be subject to fees you wouldn’t have been otherwise, or be required to make several applications if revisions are needed. Resubmissions are not usually charged, but that isn’t always the case.

What are the consequences of not acquiring planning permission?

As we’ve said, not getting planning permission is not necessarily the end of the world. Not every project will need planning permission, though you would be lucky if this applied to you. Alternatively, you can seek retrospective planning permission, as also mentioned earlier.

Assuming you don’t acquire planning permission before or after the project, and that the project requires planning permission in the first place, you will be considered to be in breach of planning conditions.

What does being in breach of planning conditions mean?

Being in breach of planning conditions isn’t always as bad as it sounds, the solutions oftentimes being easy to implement. In short, it simply means you are in breach of one or more criteria assessed by planning permission. In the above example, the solution is most likely as simple as applying for and receiving retrospective planning permission. However, retrospective planning permission is not always accepted, which is the risk inherent to leaving your planning permission until after the fact.

There are other breaches of planning conditions, however, with some much more difficult to handle than others. For example, say your application for retrospective planning permission was rejected. You will receive a planning enforcement notice, highlighting the problem areas and requiring you to fix them. This could be relatively benign, only requiring some small fixes, but this is not always the case. Conservatory extensions, for example, that have made major violations of planning conditions may result in demands for you to tear it down completely. Needless to say, this is a worst-case scenario that will cost you dearly in both time and money, certainly something to be avoided. While tempting, ignoring a planning enforcement notice is considered a criminal offence, so not a recommended course of action.

The four or ten-year rules

As with everything, there are exceptions to building without planning permission – the four and ten-year rules. The four-year rule refers to the time a project has been completed without planning permission and without any complaints raised by authorities. Note that this rule only applies to dwellings. The ten-year rule covers all other buildings, making any breaches of planning conditions void if not challenged by authorities over ten years. You might think that simply concealing your renovation or extension for four or ten years would be a solution, but alas, lawmakers have thought of such a loophole. If you are found to have deliberately concealed any work done to your property, this rule will not take effect. Instead, the time will begin from when the development was discovered.

If either of these cases applies to you, it is a good idea to look into obtaining a lawful development certificate. This is essentially a legal document that says your property is all clear, despite it being in breach of planning conditions. While not strictly necessary, it helps keep you covered.

Applying for retrospective planning permission

Applying for retrospective planning permission is, thankfully, no different from a standard planning permission application. You will need to submit an application with your local council. Which will then process your application as they would any other. While this is handy, the fact the application is in retrospect will likely mean an enforcement notice upon rejection, if, of course, your application is turned down.

Should you make use of retrospective planning permission?

Ultimately, retrospective planning permission is not something you should put the fate of your development in. It is inherently unreliable and risky, since the application is submitted after the development has been made. Lastly, assuming you fall short of the planning permission requirements, you may well incur a significant cost and possibly even legal repercussions. Because of all this, retrospective planning permission should only be sought as a last resort, with ordinary planning permission before a development project being the gold standard. Of course, if you have already conducted your developments, seeking retrospective planning permission is likely your best option. If you are unsure about developments you have recently made, or are considering making any changes to your property, be sure to consult a planner or an architect before you commit to anything.