Planning Permission v Building Regulations

Planning permission. Two words that are always greeted with eye-rolling. Two words that almost always cause confusion and frustration. Planning permission is a lengthy, and often expensive process.

Planning permission, building regulations, and all other guidelines and rules are in place to protect our built and natural environment.

This is a guide only. You must check with the planning department and/or building control of your local authority before work starts if you need planning permission for your project.

Are planning permission and building regulations the same thing?

Planning permission and building regulations are two terms that are often used interchangeably. We may think they describe the same thing, when in actual fact, they are two very different things.

Building regulations are defined as a statutory instrument that seeks to ensure policies set out in relevant legislation are carried out. In other words, buildings and structures are built to a standard that ensures they are safe for use in their intended capacity.

Planning permission is the approval from a local authority to make alterations to a building. This can be in terms of construction, expansion or usage.

Do permissions and building regulations vary across the country?

The process of applying for planning permission to make alterations to a property, and the standards of building and structures, can vary throughout England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.

Individual local authorities may also take varying perspectives on proposed designs. There is no difference in how regulations and permissions should be applied between one county and the next.

When is planning permission needed?

Using a broad definition from the gov.uk website, planning permission in England and Wales is needed:

  • When something new is being built
  • When there is to be a major change to the building, e.g. an extension
  • When there is a change in use of the building, e.g. from a shop to residential

Whilst planning permission is not normally necessary to install a balustrade, the project as a whole may need it. To find out, get in touch with the planning department of your local authority. There is also a lot of information on Planning Portal, a website that can be used by property owners, builders and designers completing projects in England and Wales.

What about regulations specific to balustrades?

Building regulations are the set of rules that govern the acceptable standards for design and construction. It is these regulations that relate to balustrades; when and where they are used, how high they need to be and the materials that are acceptable for use.

For example, you may need planning permission for replacing a Juliette balcony onto the exterior of a listed property. However, it would be the specific sub-set of building regulations, that would determine certain aspects of the balustrade on the Juliette balcony.

Part K: Protection from falling, collision and impact is the set of regulations that cover the technical specification of balustrades both in and outside of the domestic dwelling, as well as commercial settings. You can download a PDF version of the latest set of technical specifications which were released in 2013.

The British Standard ‘Barriers in and about building code of practice’ came into effect in 2011 and is the set of standards that refers specifically to balustrades.

Other Articles Relating to Building Regulations

  8 Tips for Design and Specification of Balustrades and Handrails
  Regulatory Codes and British Specifications Applicable to Balustrading & Handrails
  What is the building regulation height for balustrades in residential applications?

Information is given as a guide and is not intended to be exhaustive. It remains the reader’s responsibility to take specific independent advice and to comply with local legislation. Taken from BSS5395, EN1991, BS6180, BS8300