What Is Property Law? – Planning & Property Laws Explained

In property law, planning refers to the process of planning a new construction project such as a residential, commercial or industrial property, as well as infrastructure construction projects such as bridges, roads and motorways. In addition, planning law also regulates the growth and development of villages, towns and cities. Planning can also include issues such as preservation of trees and hedgerows, applying for building consent for renovations and other matters relating to conservation areas and protecting listed buildings.

Planning laws exist in order to regulate the way in which new developments are added to the landscape, to ensure that buildings and infrastructures are safe and functional, and that the negative impact of such construction projects are minimised.

For large-scale construction projects this is sometimes achieved with planning obligations. These are used in cases where a particular development is considered undesirable for some reason. In these situations, the project developer agrees to meet planning obligations—such as provision of infrastructure or services to the community—in exchange for which the local authority agrees to grant planning permission. Obligations are therefore a way of offsetting the potential negative impact of a new development.

For homeowners, planning permission ensures that any modifications made to a home are done so in a way that does not negatively impact the safety of the home. Planning regulations also ensure that modifications made to a home do not negatively affect the homes around it.

In addition, planning laws serve to protect conservation areas, trees, and hedgerows, as well as buildings of national or historical significance. In practice, this means that conservation areas and listed buildings are protected by special laws that regulate how and when they can be modified or removed from the landscape. For instance, if any individual or organisation wants to trim or remove a protected tree or hedgerow, they must apply for permission from their local council.

Penalties can be imposed when construction or renovation projects are carried out without planning permission. For example, if a homeowner modifies their home without getting the necessary permission, they might be served an enforcement notice that orders them to undo the modifications they made.

Processes Involved in Property Planning

The main process in property planning is that of applying for planning permission. This can be relatively simple, as in the case of a homeowner wanting to make a simple modification to their home, but applying for planning permission for large-scale projects can be complicated and involve a great deal of preparation.

Applying for planning permission

Individuals or organisations that wish to complete a new construction project, or make major changes to an existing building, must obtain planning permission. Planning permission may also be needed in order to change the way a building is used; for instance, if someone wants to convert former business or industrial premises into residential homes.

In most cases, applying for planning permission is done online, via a government planning portal. However, when applying for planning permission you have the option of meeting with a planning officer from your LPA to discuss your application and get advice on how to proceed.

When completing your application, you’ll need to supply a number of items, as well as filling in the online form. These include plans of your construction or development site, supporting documentation as outlined on the form, and the required fee. This is a single flat fee for home modifications, but for new construction projects fees are typically charged based on the size of the building.

Appealing planning permission decisions

If your application for planning permission is denied, you have the option to appeal the decision. However, before attempting an appeal, it is a good idea to first approach your local planning authority (LPA) to see if there are any modifications you could make to the construction plans that would allow you to obtain planning permission.

You can appeal if the LPA refuses planning permission, or if they grant permission but apply restrictions or conditions that you do not like. In addition, if you’re served with an enforcement notice, but you do not agree that you have breached planning permission, you can appeal the notice.

If you wish to appeal a planning permission decision, you must do so within six months of the date of the decision notice that you received from your LPA. If you’re appealing an enforcement notice you must appeal within 28 days of the notice.

Your appeal must be lodged with the Planning Inspectorate, either online or via post, and should include copies of your original application plus supporting documentation, the LPA’s decision notice, and certain other documents. In most cases the Planning Inspectorate will make a decision within 19 weeks, although it may sometimes take longer.

If your appeal does not lead to the result that you wanted, your last remaining option is to take the case to the planning court, a specialist high court that handles challenges relating to planning permissions.

How Can A Solicitor Help?

Planning and property law is a complicated field, where there are lots of rules and regulations to follow, and where simple errors in paperwork can result in costly construction delays. This often means that in many matters, particularly those relating to large-scale projects, it is often beneficial to work with a solicitor to help prevent delays and errors that could result in the planning permission being denied.

While it is not strictly necessary for a homeowner to have legal assistance from a law firm or solicitor to apply for planning permission for home renovations, it can be helpful to get legal advice in the event that planning permission is denied.

Some things that planning / property solicitors can do include:

  • Provide legal advice on issues related to obtaining planning consent for all kinds of buildings and properties;
  • Provide legal advice for area related issues such as conservation areas, protected trees and hedgerows, and listed buildings;
  • Prepare planning applications, including performing research, drafting documents and filing forms;
  • Prepare an appeal in the event that planning permission is denied;
  • Help to resolve disputes related to planning laws;
  • Help individuals and organisations comply with planning codes and regulations.