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A Guide to Building Regulations

Most people looking to undertake an extension, Class Q building project or loft conversion understand that they may require planning approval first. What people often don’t realise however, is that even if planning permission has been granted or is not required, they are still likely to need building regulations approval.

Building Regulations approval (building control) and Planning Permission are very different to each other, and are covered by separate pieces of legislation. Sometimes you may only require one; sometimes you may need both; and sometimes none at all.

As planning legislation is distinctly different from building control legislation, it’s important to understand that approval or granted consent for one does not imply it for the other. Here, New Space Architecture explain the different type of applications for your project.

What is the difference between building control and planning permission?

Whereas planning permission deals with the building’s appearance and its use, the building regulations govern the standard to which the building is then constructed. Failure to meet these standards may lead to difficulties when an owner comes to sell the property and, in some cases, can also lead to prosecution. There are two types of building regulations applications that can be made; A ‘Full Plans Application’, or a ‘Building Notice’.

Full Plans Application

A ‘Full Plans Application’ requires the production of detailed drawings demonstrating how you intend to comply with the regulations. These plans are then submitted to your local authority building control (LABC) department, or an approved private building regulations company for approval.

The plans are checked by a Building Inspector and either approved or returned to the agent for further information. Once the drawings show compliance, a Building Regulations Approval Notice is issued. Working to a fully approved plan or specification gives you peace of mind, avoids potential problems and can even save you from the agony of remedial work.

A building inspector will make periodic visits to the site throughout the build to ensure that the work is constructed as per the approved drawings and a Completion Certificate is issued following a final inspection once all works have been finished.

Pros to Full Plans Application:

  • Builders are able to quote much more accurately for your project as they can see a lot more detail and full spec on the drawings. This helps stop a figure being plucked from the air and unforeseen costs arising at a later stage.

  • Any potential issues or critical points are much less likely to come up as they are already worked out within the detailed drawings allowing for a more simple build, saving time, and as a result, money.

Cons to Full Plans Application:

  • You will be required to pay an architectural consultant or designer to produce the required detailed drawings. Although this is an additional initial expense, more often than not this fee is gained back many times over due to the builder having detailed drawings to work from and potential issues already resolved. New Space Architecture, based in Devon, highly recommend the Full Plans route for most projects.

  • Work cannot commence immediately, the checking and approval process takes 2-4 weeks.

Building Notice

This is simply a statement of the address and description of the work, giving building control 48 hours’ notice of your intention to start work. It avoids the preparation of detailed ‘full plans’, and is designed to enable some types of building work to get underway quickly. In this case, a simple form is submitted and a building inspector will approve the works as they are carried out by a process of inspection.

Although inspections are also made during a Full Plans Application, with a Building Notice these inspections are much more frequent. Building notices are best suited to smaller and more straightforward works, such as extensions that fall within permitted development. Using it for bigger projects is risky, as you have no assurance that the project meets the regulations.

Work can start once a building notice has been registered and after the final inspection, a Completion Certificate is issued as per the Full Plans procedure.

Pros to using Building Notice:

  • Work can begin within 48 hours.

  • Architectural / construction drawings may not be required.

Cons to using Building Notice:

  • A building notice application leaves the client at risk that completed works might not be approved, resulting in remedial costs. Clients should be certain that their builder is familiar with all the relevant regulations before deciding to follow this route. It is also worth considering that proceeding without a full set of agreed drawings is more likely to result in oversights by the builder, unexpected costs and disputes.

  • Application fees for a building notice may also be more expensive than a full plans application due to the greater number of inspections.

Structural Engineering

As part of the Building Regulations process, Building Control will request that a Structural Engineer provides a detailed specification and calculations for any structural elements of the build, in order to prove their suitability. In this regard a structural engineer is one of the most important third party consultants for any architectural project.

Structural Engineer’s are responsible for the structural analysis and design of the most important components of any build – the structural load bearing elements. Their job is to assess factors that exert force upon a building (i.e. earth, gravity & wind) and decide whether or not the structure is adequately designed and built to resist those forces. These professionals are able to calculate and understand the stability, strength and rigidity of any given structure and will ultimately provide the best solutions for any structural complications.

Key areas that an engineer deals with include:

  • Specifying and detailing steelwork (beams, columns, etc)

  • Resolving foundation designs

  • Timber roof or floor arrangements

  • Lintels for openings

  • Retaining structures

  • Stability resolution (to resist the ‘domino’ effect)

  • Assessment of the structural integrity of existing elements

At New Space Architecture, we work with multiple firms throughout the UK who all provide an excellent level of detail and service.

Our experience in the architectural industry means that we have gained the intrinsic ability to understand and apply engineering principles to all of our designs. As designers, it can be frustrating that the world is full of constraints, whether that is budget, site location or even gravity, and we are firm believers in designing within these from the very outset to ensure that our projects not only look fantastic, but are feasible and structurally capable too.

The result of this, is that the level of detail in our Building Regulations drawings is exceptional and therefore we can often secure huge savings for our clients on the quotes we receive from Structural Engineers compared to our competitors – something which is always passed onto our clients.

Building Regulations Frequently Asked Questions

How does the application process work?

A Building Regulations application for both a Full Plans Application and a Building

Notice has to be accompanied by the relevant application fee, much like the planning

Process. This fee will cover both the application itself and the eventual inspections. Application fees vary for the size and type of work and most local authorities offer fee calculators on their websites.

With a Full Plans submission, the application will need to be accompanied by the relevant architectural drawings, along with any additional relevant information e.g. specification notes, structural calculations and energy assessments.

With a Building Notice, you simply need to fill in a form letting the relevant Inspector know your intention to commence building works and you are able to commence on site within 48 hours.

What timescales are involved?

Both Full Plans applications and Building Notices are valid for three years from the date they were given to the local authority, and will automatically lapse if the building work is not started in that timeframe.

Importantly, you don’t have to wait for approval before commencing work – provided that 48 hours’ written notice is given of your intention to start work, following a successful Full Plans application or issue of a building notice.

How does the Inspection process work?

Although work on your project may commence 48 hours after your application has been submitted, nothing can proceed beyond the inspection stages set out by the Building Inspector. In most cases, these are: commencement of works; excavation of foundations; foundations laid; oversite preparation; damp proof course; drains testing; external walling; roof structure; superstructure; completion.

You must notify the inspector once you have reached the particular stages and give 24 hours’ notice for them to inspect. If you don’t inform them as you reach a particular stage, the local authority can ask you to open up the work for inspection at your expense. Once the work is approved, you may then proceed to the next stage – this is crucial for most self builders, as stage payment mortgage funds are only released upon approval.

What is a Completion Certificate?

When the project is finished, the approved inspector must then issue a final certificate to the local authority to confirm that the work is complete, inspected, and that it complies with the regulations. If all is well, you will then get a completion certificate from your building inspector.

This valuable piece of paper confirms that the project, as inspected, complies with the Building Regulations, and is vital as it will help you re-mortgage or sell your home in the future. For some elements of the project, such as electrics, certification of the work and the approved status of the person who carried it out and tested it, will be needed before a completion certificate can be issued. It is always advisable to get your completion certificate before making final payments to contractors.

When is Building Regulations approval not required?

You do not need Building Regulations approval for most minor works, particularly where like-for-like replacements are used. Certain small buildings, such as a porch or conservatory, are also usually exempt.

As a general rule, any structural work, as well as anything to do with electrics, drainage or work affecting the thermal elements of the property, will require building control approval. If in doubt, check with your local authority building inspector before starting work.

What if I have undertaken works without necessary building regulation approval?

If you have carried out works without building control approval, a retrospective application can be made to certify that the works are within the regulations. This is called ‘Regularisation’. There is an additional fee for a regularisation application and you may be asked to expose elements of the work in order to prove they comply.

Devon Building Control

At New Space Architecture, we are partnered with Devon Building Control to ensure that our clients get the very best service when it comes to gaining Building Regulations approval.

Devon Building Control is a not-for-profit organisation offering an efficient and reliable service for plan checking and site inspections for any sized building project.


They have a highly experienced team of qualified surveyors, with a vast knowledge of the technical building standards.They and work with architects and designers across the country to ensure that any building projects they oversee comply with current building regulations.


Partnering with Devon Building Control means that our team of architects can rely on competent and efficient surveyors to assess and inspect our projects to the highest of standards. In addition, the partnership allows us to benefit from bespoke quotes for each job submitted, ensuring that our clients get the best possible service at the best value price.

Talk to us about your upcoming project and find out how we can help by getting in touch today.