Frequently Asked Questions
ProDesign

Our promise to our customers. To provide quality Architect drawings with a quick turn around, while not cutting corners or compromising in quality.

Service

How long does it take?

Depending on type of project the timeline may vary. Please see the table below for approximate times for standard projects.

Services

Time

Planning

2-4 weeks

Building Regs.

+1-2 weeks

Steel Beam Calcs

+2 days

These assume prompt responses to email & minor revisions. This does not include approval for the council. If you need to submit to Building Control (required for most projects) this needs to be done at least 5 working days before work commences

Are your plans the same as an Architects drawings?

The drawings we put together are done to the same (or better if you ask us!) standard an Architect, and at a lower price. A member of our experienced design team creates your plans, making sure to include everything your local planning authority needs to process your application.

Can I do my own survey?

If you live outside our service area or would prefer to get your project started as soon as possible this is perfectly fine. We've created a handy template and guide for you to follow to make this as easy as possible!

Planning

Do I need Planning Approval?

Most home improvement projects can be done under what is known as permitted development, as long as they meet set criteria. Check out these interactive guides on the Planning Portal for more details: https://www.planningportal.co.uk/homepage/29/mini_guides

If you want to be fully protected it is recommended to get a document from the council called a Lawful Development Certificate. This means that the council have checked that the design meets these permitted development regulations and therefore allowed to go ahead.

Do I have permitted development rights?

In most cases, yes. If your property is a recent new build (usually within 2 years of the initial build), a listed building or is situated in a conservation area it is likely to have its rights withdrawn.

It's also worth checking the deed for the property – sometimes the developer may have added a caveat preventing certain types of work. This is sometimes a belt and braces measure by the developer and can often be removed by sending them plans to check over and agree to the work.

If the property has been previously extended, you may need to double check the details. The measurements listed for permitted development are in reference to the 'original dwelling', defined as how the property was originally built or stood on 1st July 1948. Also, you can only use up 50% of the remaining land area around the 'original dwelling', with the figure including any outbuildings (sheds, garages, etc.)

Do I need a Lawful Development Certificate?

This is not a legal requirement, but it is strongly advised to get one. Often neighbours can be annoyed if they believe the permitted development infringes their rights (usually to privacy or light). This can be used as evidence to settle these disputes and gives you legal backing from the council that you were within your rights to build your project.

So, what is Prior Approval?

Certain projects use a 'lite' version of planning called prior approval. It has also been known as neighbourhood notice and prior notification in the past.

For home improvement projects this covers large single-story rear extensions; defined as those that protrude from the rear wall of the property (as originally built or stood on 1st July 1948) by 4-8m for detached properties and 3-6m for other types. Direct neighbours are still consulted, but more weight is given to the regulations.

When would I need full planning?

If your project doesn't fall under the permitted development guidelines or you plan to do multiple projects at once you'll need to go through planning permission.

If you're insure on which applies to your proposal, get in touch with your ideas and we can help you out. Alternatively, have look at our blogs and the planning portal website for further guidance.

How long until we hear back from the council?

Waiting times for a decision vary depending on your local planning authority's workload and unfortunately there is no way of fast tracking these. Below are the amount of time the council aims to give you a decision by for the two main application types.

Type of Application

Time

Prior Approval

6 weeks

Planning Application

8 weeks

Before these timelines start the application needs to be validated by the council, which usually takes around 2 weeks

Can we start any of the work on my project before permission is given?

Any external work can't be started until approval is given from the council. You can start internal works

Can you fast track the planning application?

Currently there is no way of speeding up a planning application

I can't see my application on the council's website even though it's been submitted.

Details of the project won't appear on the council site till the application has been validated and an expected decision date has been given. When we receive any correspondence from the council, we will communicate these across.

How long does planning permission last?

You have 3 years from the date of approval to start your project. If the approval runs out you will need to resubmit the application to the council. The same drawings can be used for this provided the design of the project hasn't changed.

Can my neighbours object to my planning application?

Your neighbours can object, but this does not mean you'll be denied approval.

The council inform your neighbours that you intend to build, and allow a period of time for your neighbour to make any comments if they wish. Your neighbour's comments do have some sway on the decision of the application, but the council mainly judge the proposal against their regulations and legislation.

It is best to keep them in the loop and ask their opinions prior to submitting the application. A small gesture can go a long way!

Do I need to get permission from the freeholder?

Yes, if you are a leaseholder you will need to make the freeholder aware of your proposal prior to applying for planning permission and get their approval. The free holder may have their own process that they need you to follow, meaning you could incur further costs. Make sure to get any confirmation in writing.

What is Pre-Planning?

It's a pre-emptive measure used if your proposal is more complex than a traditional project. This gives the chance for the council to advise prior to submitting a full application. From this advice the proposal can be modified in order to give the application the best chance of getting approval. These take about 2- 4 weeks to be processed. Prices vary depend on the scope of the work and your council's fees, but is usually in the £100-200 range.

How do I remove planning permission conditions?

All decision notices come with conditions which must be abided by, most of which are standard such as 'all proposed materials must be similar in appearance to the existing materials.

Some may require the council to approve certain aspects of the build as decisions are made, such as materials like roof tiles.

You can appeal these but it is extremely unlikely for these to be overturned.

What happens if my application is rejected?

If your initial plan is rejected, you can re-apply within 12 months of the initial decision without additional council fees in most cases. In the rejection letter the council will set out the reasons why the application was denied, allowing us to rectify these issues before re-submitting.

We will rectify small changes free of charge, but if extensive modifications or a full re-design is required a small charge may be added, usually in the region £50-£100.

Can I make internal changes after planning permission has been given?

Yes, planning is only concerned with the external features of the property. If you need to modify the external features to allow for this you will need to re-apply.

Do the windows need to be the right size?

Window sizes on the plans are indicative in most cases, but you aren't allowed to go bigger than the size displayed on the plans. You can shrink or remove these without reapplying in most cases.

What is the Party Wall Act?

If any of the proposed works lie within 2m of a boundary to a neighbouring property you will need to notify the relevant neighbour in writing.

The Party Wall Act is a sets out a way of protecting neighbours and mediating if a disagreement arises about work to a party wall or just next to it. If you don’t follow the process outlined by the act legal action can be taken by your neighbours, either preventing the work or requiring you to pay for legal fees and damages, for so it is important to check whether this applies.

This is separate to planning, so they can’t object to any build on your land unless it effects the structural stability of the wall, their property or outbuildings.

If the builders would need access through their land, and this is the only way to complete the work, then they are required to give access by the act too.

For more information please see the guide on the government website: https://www.gov.uk/party-walls-building-works

Do I need to send Party Wall Notices?

Depending on your project you may need to get your neighbours to agree to the works. This all surrounds work on or around party walls – commonly these are the boundary between yours and a neighbouring property. You must tell your neighbour if your project involves:

  • build on or at the boundary of your 2 properties
  • work on an existing party wall or party structure
  • dig below and near (6m or less) to the foundation level of their property

For full detail on the act and how it applies please check the below link to the government guide on the matter: https://www.gov.uk/party-walls-building-works

Do I need Planning Drawings?

If you're proposal needs to be approved by the council, no matter which type your applying for, you will definitely need planning drawings.

Most builders will want to see a drawing of the project to be able to give a reasonably accurate cost and won't consider giving a quote unless these are provided. It also gives you some security in what is being costed is the design you want, as a vague description of a '3m rear extension' could be interpreted in various ways and done to different finishes.

Do I need Building Regulation Drawings?

For smaller projects Building Regulation Drawings are not always required but gives an even more detailed scope of the project buy listing the relevant sections of the Building Regulations in relation to your project. This gives you a layer of security. if there are issues with the workmanship, you have the drawing as evidence of what and how the work should have been done.

Due to the extra detail, builders can give even more accurate quotes for the project as it specifies most aspects of the build such as foundation depth, joist sizes and electrical fitting locations.

What’s the difference between Planning and Building Regulation Drawings?

Planning drawings are catered to the council’s requirements and specify the external features of the build (Walls, Doors, Windows, Roof Type) and show an indicative internal layout of the build.

Building Regulation Drawings contain all the relevant information for the builder to make the project ‘up to code’ and assist Building Control in the approval of the project. These add an extra level of detail to the drawing including such as; supporting beam detail, sewage pipes, insulation, roof structure & foundation detail.

Can I get Building Regulation Drawings from you once I have planning approval?

If you need to apply for full planning permission and would rather wait for this to be approved before starting on building regulation drawings this is perfectly fine. Once we’ve sent you the approval and drawings, let us know that you’d like building regulation drawings and we can do these separately. We’ll send you the price before we start any work.

Building

There's a manhole in my garden, will this mean I can't build my project?

No. If you are required to reposition a manhole or build over a sewer an application must be submitted to your local sewage provider - This is Severn Trent Water in the Nottingham area. The application typically takes a couple of weeks and upon being accepted your builder can simply build over or reposition manhole. They'll need to do drain camera surveys before and after to show the integrity of the pipework to your sewage provider.

What is building Regulations/Control?

Building Regulations are a minimum standard for building work to ensure your new space is structurally sound and is eco-friendly. These are enforced by Building Control which can either be done through the council or private entities.

Building Control check the drawings & calculations to make sure they are correct and meet the relevant standards. They also come out to the build at multiple stages to liaise with and check the work done by your builder has been done correctly.

Do I need Building Control Approval?

Most project require building control approval by law. A list of works exempt from building control can be found here: https://www.planningportal.co.uk/info/200128/building_control/38/building_regulations/2

If you don't get building control approval you will run into issues when you come to sell the property. On top of this you can be hit by hefty fines or forced to demolish or rectify the offending work.

How much does Building Control cost?

Building Control costs vary depending on the size & type of project and the travel distance from the service provider you choose. For projects in the Nottingham City area you'd be looking at the approximate cost below:

Project Type

Cost (ex. VAT)

Porch Extension*

£495

Garage Conversion

£385

Loft Conversion

£525

Extension (adding under 20m2 Floor Space)

£495

Extension (adding 20m2-60m2 Floor Space)

£550

Extension (adding over 60m2 Floor Space)

£650

* - Not all porches require building control approval.

Prices are shown are indicative for most projects, they are fixed rates that we can access from Midlands Building Control within the Nottingham city and surrounding areas. They are correct as of 10/10/20.

What does the building control entail?

Once planning has been approved and the drawings and associated documents/calculations are completed, these are submitted to building control through an application. These are then checked to ensure all the information we have provided is compliant to the building regulations before work commences.

After the application has been submitted you will receive a name and number of your assigned inspector who your builder can contact to arrange the different site visits, this should be normal practise for the builder.

Once they're happy with the plans they also proof the work conducted by the builder and that he has followed our plans and installed them correctly.

Once all of the requirements are met, the inspector will create a certificate, signing off the project. Once the application has been submitted you will receive a name and number of your assigned inspector who your builder can contact to arrange the different site visits, this should be normal practise for the builder.

Why use a private building control company rather than the council?

Councils are notoriously slow at processing applications (as can be seen by the time it takes for planning). Private versions of this service are much quicker, are more customer friendly and can often be cheaper.

The certificate that you receive from a private building control company is no different from that you would receive from the council.

If you have a builder lined up, check with them as they may have a company they prefer to work with. If not, we use and recommend Midlands Building Control, if your outside of Nottingham there may be a more local company to yourself.

At the end of the day the building control company you use is up to you, not the builder, so do a bit of research into your options and go for whoever you're comfortable with.

How soon can I start building?

We advise waiting on approval of your planning application or a certificate of lawful development prior to commencement of construction if you project can be done under permitted development guidelines. Once you have the necessary approval from the council for the design of your project a building control application is submitted. We recommend submitting the building control application at least 2 weeks prior the start of work to allow building control the time to approve your documentation, but you're within your rights to start building works just 5 days after submission.

Should I tell my insurance about the building works?

Yes, it is recommended to contact your insurance company before work starts to let them know about the proposed works so they are able to advise you of their process.

When is the best time to start the works?

Honestly, it doesn't really matter! Work is more likely to be finished on schedule in the summer months due to less rain, but you may get the work done cheaper over the winter due to this being a quiet time for builders. British weather is unpredictable, so don't plan solely on this. Plan the construction phase around when it would work best for you, taking into consideration school holidays, temporary accommodation and available finance.

Will I need to move out during the works?

This is entirely dependent on the size of your project & situation, but builders can usually get more work done if the property is vacant, but if you're not just about to move in this can add a lot of cost to the project. Dependant on the work you may not have a kitchen/utility or the building may not be structurally sound for a period of time. It is always best to speak to the builder to find this out, you may be able to work around each other or minimise the time out of the property.

Do I need a project manager?

If you are choosing a reputable building company, (Such as Rightbuild) they generally have an element of project management within provided within their service. For the size of the projects we usually see, it doesn't make financial sense to have a project manager. If you've got a larger project it can be cheaper to use individual tradesmen rather than an all-in -one builder. If you'd like us to get our fully qualified project manager to look after your job please get in touch using the contact form.

Do I get a any proof of the work on completion of the build?

You will receive a completion certificate from building control, it is important to keep this safe as it will be required if the property is ever revalued or sold. The building company who completed the works may also offer guarantees on some or all the work done to the property, it is important to get this in writing also.

What if I can't find an exact match to the existing materials?

If you build under permitted development, or don't specify specific materials in the planning application, you'll be required to meet the following clause: 'Materials must match the existing property'. Its understood that you may not reach an exact match, so the guidelines allow you to get as close as possible. Most builders and merchants can help with this.

My builder wants to go off plan, will this be okay?

As long as the changes are internal and are signed off by the building control officer, this is fine and won't require any revision of the drawings.

If changes affect the external features of the design then the council will need to be notified. Fees for this vary depending on the change and revisions to the drawing would be charged at an hourly rate.

My builder has a problem, can you come out and sort this for me?

We are happy to come out to site and sort any queries, but this will be charged at £100 if within our service area. In most cases the queries can be answered via email or phone, this is done free of charge.

Structural

Do I need structural calculations?

If you are removing any load bearing wall or have openings greater than 3m in your design, you'll need to have structural calculations to submit to Building Control.

Do I need a Structural Engineer?

As part of our service we can provide these calculations for simple beams, which cover most home improvement projects. If a more complex solution is required, we can source a specialised engineer to complete your design package.

What do the structural calculations outline?

The structural calculations specify what size beam should be used to support the structures above. Depending on the construction this can include loads transmitted from walls, roofing, floors & ceilings

How do I check if a wall I want to remove is Load Bearing?

The age old test is to knock on it – if it sounds dull, it is highly likely to be load bearing.

If it sounds hollow, you’ll need to go upstairs to check a couple more things. First, is there a wall directly above? If yes then again it is more than likely load bearing.

If not, you’ll need to check the joist direction. These usually run the shortest distance but to double check, lift up the flooring and you should be able to see the direction of the floor boards. The joists run perpendicular to these, and the walls at either ends of the joist are likely to be load bearing.

Pricing

I'm on a budget, do you have any idea on build costs?

Although each build can vary wildly depending on its scope and what quality of builder you choose. We've put together a rough table of costs for common projects from an average builder below.

Project

Ballpark Cost

Cost per m2

Loft Conversion

£15-50k

£1600

Single Story Extension

£15-75k

£1350

Double Story Extension

£40-125k

£2000

Kitchen/Bathroom

Add £5-10k

n/a

En-Suite/WC

Add £1-3k

n/a

Please note that more design features will add cost to the build. For a more detailed breakdown of costs of common projects, check the different projects listed on https://www.myjobquote.co.uk/costs/. Figures are correct as of 20/10/20.

How are your prices transparent?

Most architects charge using a hourly rate or use a percentage of the build costs. This makes it impossible to offer a final price until the project has been completed. This can lead to unforeseen costs and an unexpectedly high final invoice. We have refined our service to provide you with a cost-effective alternative, but still providing the same level of service & quality of work. We charge only for the drawings & services you need and aim to give you the finished price before you choose us to buy from you.

Do you really submit applications for free?

Included in the cost of your drawing is the admin associated with a planning application. We submit the application to the council and act as the agent throughout the process to save you from dealing with the bureaucracy of the council and ensure your application is processed as a quickly as possible. Planning fees still apply but will be included in our calculator.

What if I want it as fast/cheap as possible?

If you know exactly what you're after and are on a budget or trying to hit a tight deadline, use our Self Survey process to reduce the costs. This streamlines this process as you provide the measurements, we do not have to charge for site visits and can start work on your plans immediately.

How do I get cheap drawings online?

It's straight-forward - head over to our quote page to get a price!

If you have a larger project for us, get in touch via the contact us page. We aim to respond to all queries within 24hrs

How much will I pay in Planning Fees?

For a standard home improvement project, you'd likely pay:

Type of Approval Council Fees OS Map Fees Total
Prior Approval £121 £10 £131
Planning Permission £231 £25 £256
Lawful Development Certificate £128-£231 £25 £153-256

OS Maps are required by the council to assess the application and must be licenced to be valid.

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