Within this section we aim to answer some of the most common questions we’ve come across and provide definitions of building related terminology.


Local authority

Local authority is the collective term for local councils. You may also sometimes hear them referred to as local government. Local councils are made up of councillors (members) who are voted for by the public in local elections and paid council staff (officers) who deliver services.

Planning Permission or Planning Consent

The permission required in the United Kingdom and Ireland in order to be allowed to build on land, or change the use of land or buildings. Within the UK the occupier of any land or building will need title to that land or building (i.e. “ownership”), but will also need “planning title” or planning permission. Planning title was granted for all pre-existing uses and buildings by the Town and Country Planning Act 1947, which came into effect on 1 July 1948. Since that date any new “development” has required planning permission. “Development” as defined by law consists of any building, engineering or mining operation, or the making of a material change of use in any land or building. Certain types of operation such as routine maintenance of an existing building are specifically excluded from the definition of development. Specified categories of minor or insignificant development are granted an automatic planning permission by law, and therefore do not require any application for planning permission. These categories are referred to as permitted development

Building Regulations

Are statutory instruments that seek to ensure that the policies set out in the relevant legislation are carried out. Building regulations approval is required for most building work in the UK. Building regulations that apply across England and Wales are set out in the Building Act 1984 while those that apply across Scotland are set out in the Building (Scotland) Act 2003. The Act in England and Wales permits detailed regulations to be made by the Secretary of State. The regulations made under the Act have been periodically updated, rewritten or consolidated, with the latest and current version being the Building Regulations 2010. The UK Government is responsible for the relevant legislation and administration in England, the Welsh Government is the responsible body in Wales, the Scottish Government is responsible for the issue in Scotland, and the Northern Ireland Executive has responsibility within its jurisdiction.

The detailed requirements of Building regulations in England and Wales are scheduled within 14 separate headings, each designated by a letter (“Part A” to “Part Q”), and covering aspects such as “structure”, “fire safety”, “access”, “electrical”, “protection from falling”, “drainage”, and so on. For each Part, detailed specifications are available free online (“approved documents”) describing the matters to be taken into account. The approved documents are not legally binding; rather, they present the expectation of the Secretary of State concerning the standards required for compliance with the Building Regulations, and the standard methods used to achieve these.

The Party Wall etc. Act 1996

Introduced a procedure for resolving disputes between owners of neighbouring properties, arising as a result of one owner’s intention to carry out works which would affect the party wall, involve the construction of a party wall or boundary wall at or adjacent the line of junction between the two properties or excavation within certain distances of a neighbour’s structure and to a lower depth than its foundations.


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