5 July 2016

Demolition: When is planning permission needed?

Do I need planning permission to demolish a building or part of a building? A simple question, but unfortunately the answer is anything but!

The law in relation to demolition is actually disproportionately complicated. Whether you need planning permission depends on whether the building is in England or Wales, and depends on whether you intend to demolish the whole or part of the building. It also depends on how big the building is, whether the building is listed or in a Conservation Area, and whether the demolition will have an environmental impact.

Getting it wrong could mean you are forced to re-build the building, or could even carry a criminal liability. We set out here some of the rules you need to be aware of before getting started.

Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas

Listed Building Consent is always required for the demolition of any listed building or building within the curtilage of a listed building.

For unlisted buildings in Conservation Areas, the requirements depend on whether the building is in England or Wales.

In Wales, planning permission is not required for the demolition of buildings in Conservation Areas, but Conservation Area Consent (which still exists in Wales) is required if the volume of the building is more than 115 cubic metres.

In England, planning permission is required for the demolition of buildings of any size in Conservation Areas, but Conservation Area Consent is not, as this no longer exists in England.

There may also be other relevant consents needed, such as for buildings listed as Scheduled Ancient Monuments or certain other buildings.

Small buildings

Other than the above, you don’t need planning permission for the demolition of small buildings in England or Wales, provided that the external volume of the building is less than 50 cubic metres.

Other buildings – total demolition

In Wales, there are permitted development rights to demolish the whole of a building without planning permission in most cases, provided that an application is made to the local authority beforehand for their prior approval of the method of demolition.

However there is one main exception to this –  you need planning permission if the building has been made unsafe or uninhabitable through deliberate action or neglect by anyone with an interest in the site, and the building could be made safe through temporary repair or support.

In England, there are also permitted development rights to demolish the whole of a building without planning permission in most cases, provided that an application is made to the local authority beforehand for their prior approval of the method of demolition.

However the exceptions to this are slightly different, meaning that planning permission is required in more situations, as follows:

  • The building has been made unsafe or uninhabitable through deliberate action or neglect by anyone with an interest in the site, and the building could be made safe through temporary repair or support; or
  • The building is a pub, which has been listed as an Asset of Community Value and it is within the specified time limit.

If demolition of a whole building is required urgently for health and safety reasons so that the prior approval process cannot be complied with, you need to provide the local authority with a written justification as soon as possible.

Demolishing part of a building

Oddly, the permitted development rights discussed above relate only to the demolition of whole buildings. The demolition of part of a building is considered to be a structural alteration, and so you need planning permission.

What else do I need to know?

Even if you don’t need planning permission to demolish a building, you will still need to consider what other consents are required. In addition to Listed Building Consent and Conservation Area Consent (in Wales), you need to also consider Buildings Regulations Approvals, and Party Wall Act Notices.

An Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) screening opinion would also be needed if demolition is likely to have a significant impact on the environment. If a full EIA is required, permitted development rights cannot be relied on, and planning permission would be required for the demolition.

If you demolish a building without the necessary consents, you may be served with an enforcement notice by the local authority. This could require you to re-build the building and, in some circumstances, you could face criminal sanctions. So you should always take professional advice before starting work.

For more information, please contact Rosalind Andrews at randrews@hcrlaw.com in our planning team.

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About the Author
Rosalind Andrews, Partner Planning & Highways
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