When carrying out building work or alterations to a property, it is likely that you will need approval for these from your local council. However, you might be confused as to whether you need to apply for planning permission, or whether you need to put in an application for building control.  In this article, we hope to give you some clarity on what each will cover, and the difference between them.

What is planning permission, and why do I need it?

Planning permission is designed to exercise some control on the overall look of an area. For example, if you are in a conservation area, or you are looking to undertake a large extension or set of renovations to your house, you are likely to need planning permission from your local council. Decisions are with the Local Planning Authority rather than any centralised authority having direct oversight.

Some renovations and alterations are covered by permitted development, meaning that you don’t necessarily need permission to carry them out. However, it’s always wise to consult an architect with your plans before starting any works, as they will have worked on previous projects not just similar to yours, but in your local area.

When applying for planning permission, make sure that your paperwork is as complete as possible. That means get a full set of scale drawings, and an accurate application form together. It’s important to get a professional to make up those drawings for you, as otherwise you’re in danger of missing out essentials like doors and windows, and also neglecting to state the materials that will be used. Make sure that you adhere to any additional local requirements, especially for conservation areas.

What is building control and why do I need it?

Building control regulations apply to the safety of the construction for those that use it, and specifically apply to the technical aspects of the build. This does mean, of course, that most building work – including alterations and renovations – will require building control approve as well as (or at least instead of) planning permission.

For example, a loft extension will definitely require building control, as will any kind of structural alteration to a property. In short, anything that is going to be lived in or worked in is going to require building control.

Applications should be made to the building control division of your local council, as it is their responsibility to make sure that building works are compliant. However, unlike planning permission, there is another route – you can also ask a private approved inspector to confirm that the building work meets current regulations. Again, the application is more likely to be accepted with a full set of professionally prepared plans.


Although there are common areas between planning permission and building control regulation, they do apply to different aspects of builds and renovations. Planning permission covers whether your building works will comply with local policy of what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of construction, and whether it will affect your neighbours’ enjoyment of their own properties. Building control deals with the health and safety aspects of the construction, and whether the finished building will be safe for those that use it on a daily basis.

One thing is certain; in both cases, it’s advisable to have a professional on board to draw up plans and check that any paperwork is likely to be passed by your local authority. Otherwise, you could be due the headache of having your plans rejected, and experiencing a delay in putting your building plans in place.