FAQs

Do I need approval...

...to demolish a building?

The Council has powers to enable it to control aspects of the demolition of all buildings or structures within the district, except those that are exempt from such control:

  • buildings having an external size of less than 50m3 (this volume is less than the average double garage)
  • extensions on a larger building that consists of an attached conservatory, shed or garage
  • buildings used solely as agricultural buildings and
  • work in occupied buildings where it is intended that it should continue to be occupied.

Anyone intending to demolish a building is, in most instances, required to serve a Notice on the Council under Section 80 of the Building Act 1984. The Notice should be accompanied by a location plan and method statement.

We will then consult with the relevant parties and where appropriate consent to demolish will be issued together with any conditions, which must be complied with when the demolition is carried out.

It may also be necessary to obtain consent under the Town and Country Planning Act before the building is demolished.

...to build a conservatory?

If all of the following conditions are met, no. Otherwise, yes. Conservatories attached to domestic dwellings are exempt from the Building Regulations providing:

  • the internal floor area does not exceed 30m2
  • the roof is transparent or translucent (polycarbonate or similar material which allows light to pass through)
  • the conservatory is constructed at ground floor level
  • the conservatory is separated from the rest of the dwelling by a doors and/or windows and
  • glass in critical locations is safety glass. EURoeCritical locations" means up to 1,500mm from floor level in doors and side panels, and up to 800mm from floor level in windows.

...to build a detached domestic garage?

No, providing the garage does not exceed 30m2, does not contain habitable accommodation

  • is at least one metre from the boundary of the property or
  • is built substantially of non-combustible material.

...to build a porch?

A porch is exempt if:

  • the floor area does not exceed 30m2
  • a door is retained between the porch and the rest of the house
  • there is no drainage within the porch and
  • glazing below 800mm in windows and 1.5m in doors and sidelights is safety glazing.

You should also ensure that a porch does not cover outlets to boilers or other flues as well as the only ventilation openings to WC's and other rooms.

...to build an attached domestic garage?

Yes, irrespective of size. The fee for a garage under 40m2 in internal floor area is less than that for one between 40 and 60m2. An attached garage over 60m2 is classed as an extension, and the Building Regulations fee is based on the floor area.

...to build an extension to my house?

Yes, you will need to make either a Full Plans or Building Notice application. A conservatory and/or porch may be exempt.

...for internal alterations?

Dwelling

Yes, if the alterations are structural (removal or part removal of load bearing wall or chimney breast) or alterations to the drainage system or alterations which affect means of escape in case in fire.

Shop, office or other workplace

Yes. The Council will also consult with the Fire Authority.

...to convert my house into flats?

Yes, even where internal alterations and/or extensions may not be intended. This is a "material change of use" as defined in the Regulations.

...to put rooms in the roof space?

Yes. Whatever the intended purpose of the room(s), it will be necessary to make a Full Plans or Building Notice application. Often the nature of these works is quite complex and requires the deposit of structural calculations and a complete assessment of the provisions for means of escape. It is, therefore, highly recommended that you use the Full Plans procedure.

...for a swimming pool?

An external swimming pool, not covered by any structure, is exempt. However, caution should be exercised when siting it close to an existing structure. A swimming pool within an existing or proposed structure requires Building Regulations approval. Consent to discharge water from any swimming pool must be sought from the relevant Water Authority.

...for garden or boundary walls?

No, not if the repairs are of a minor nature, e.g. replacing the felt to a flat roof, repointing brickwork, replacing floorboards. Although the height of boundary walls may be restricted under the Town and Country Planning Act. Please consult the Planning Service for further advice.

If the repair work is major in nature, like removing a substantial part of a wall and rebuilding it, or underpinning a building and in the case of re-tiling, the tiles are the same type, then no approval is needed. If the new tiling or roofing material is substantially heavier or lighter than the existing material, or if the roof is to be thatched where previously it was not, then an approval under Building Regulations is probably required. Similarly if you propose to re-roof (take away the old roof structure and replace it) then consent will be required.

...to convert all/part of my shop/office to a flat or house?

Yes, even where internal alterations and/or extensions may not be intended. This is a "material change of use" as defined in the Regulations.

...to fit replacement windows?

Yes. Regulations apply to replacement windows but not to the replacement of broken glass only. You should check with your installer to ensure that he is registered with FENSA if so, the installer can self certify compliance with the Regulations.

If you propose to do the works yourself or if your installer is not registered, then you or he must make an application for replacement windows.

...to install, alter or replace my shop front?

Yes. Take care that you do not make the accessibility of your shop less suitable for disabled people.

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Does the Council enforce the Disability Discrimination Act?

No, this is civil rights legislation and is enforced by disabled people themselves, with assistance from the Equality and Human Rights Commission.

The wider issues of disabled access to Council services are covered by the Council's Equality and Diversity service.

Access to new buildings is dealt with by the Building Control Service and should comply with Approved Document M: Access to and use of buildings.

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Can I...

...see the drainage plans for my house?

The Council may have plans of your original house which include a drainage layout. It may be possible for the original plans to be extracted from the archives, dependant largely on how old the house is. It cannot be guaranteed that what is shown on any plan is what you will find on site. You may be charged an administration fee. Searching for old records takes a while whether or not they can be found.

A better way to determine the drainage layout is to either employ a surveyor to investigate or lift manholes in your garden and do your own survey.

Remember there may be surface water as well as foul drains on your property, you must not connect foul water to a surface water system or vice versa. You will also need to remember that other people may have rights of drainage and therefore use of the sewers passing through your land.

You have a right to see plans deposited for any planning application for your house and these may contain drainage plans.

...see the plans for my house?

You have a right to see plans deposited for any planning application for your house.

However, Building Control documents are not public records and access is restricted to the owner. If you wish to see documents produced by the Council, such as approval notices and Completion Certificates, these may be viewed on request as along as they are accompanied by proof of ownership.

...have copies of the plans for my house?

Building Control documents are not public records and access is restricted to the owner. The copyright remains with the architect/engineer who drew the original plans and in the first instance you will be referred to them.

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Will the foundations of my extension be OK to take another storey?

Generally the design for foundations of a single storey building is the same as that for a two storey extension. The important aspects include:

  • depth to the bottom of the foundations above ground level
  • depth of concrete in the foundations
  • width of the foundation concrete
  • location of the wall within the width of the foundation and
  • probably even more important, the nature of the ground under the foundation.

Unless the original foundations were laid within the last two to three years, it is advisable to expose the existing foundation in one or two locations so that the above aspects can be assessed by a structural engineer or the Building Control Surveyor before planning a first floor extension on an existing single storey part of the building.

Other important aspects to consider are:

  • suitability of existing roof structure to act as a floor
  • suitability of existing lintels over ground floor openings and
  • suitability of existing walls.

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My neighbour has extended over the boundary, what can I do?

Boundary disputes are a private matter between neighbours, the Council cannot be party to any such disputes, unless of course they are the landowners involved. Neither the planning consent nor the Building Regulation approval confers a right to build over a boundary onto neighbours land.

Such disputes are best resolved, initially by consultation and if necessary negotiation. If necessary both parties can agree to go to arbitration, Woking Mediation Service. You may also care to try the Citizens Advice Bureau. Parties may have to resort to solicitors advice and even formal legal action.

The Council cannot give you any information about the location of boundaries. Some information may be available from the Land Registry about the approximate size of a particular plot but they are not able to confirm the exact location of boundary lines.

You should plan work so that foundations, walls, roof eaves and gutters do not encroach over boundaries except when this is done by negotiation. Remember that an informal agreement between you and your present neighbour may not be enforceable on any future neighbour. Ensure that you get negotiated agreements properly and formally agreed and any necessary changes made to deeds.

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What are Approved Documents?

The Building Regulations generally lay down performance requirements in relation to various aspects of building work.

The Approved Documents, in simple terms, set out the ways in which you can ensure that you comply with the performance requirements of the Regulations. You can use another way of complying but you will have to demonstrate to the Council how you will comply with the performance requirement of the Regulations.

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I need a Completion Certificate, how do I get one?

When the Council has made all necessary inspections and is satisfied that the works you have carried out comply with the Regulations it will issue a Completion Certificate.

If there are minor items outstanding a conditioned Completion Certificate will be issued at the Council's discretion.

If major issues remain outstanding it is possible that formal enforcement action will be taken.

When the works you have undertaken are substantially complete you are required to notify us so that we can carry out a completion inspection. A Completion Certificate will be issued following a completion inspection.

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I am selling my house and need a Completion Certificate, how do I get one?

These are only available for works carried out after June 1992.

Unfortunately many people neglect to notify the Council that works are complete. Therefore, no formal Completion Inspection is made, so no Completion Certificate is issued. Often, in the final stages of selling a property, the absence of a Completion Certificate becomes an issue and we are requested to issue one quickly. Given the inevitable delay organising a completion inspection, putting right any outstanding items and re-inspection of the works, a sale can be lost.

We will do all we can within reason to co-operate in these circumstances, but cannot issue a Completion Certificate on works that have not been subject to a completion inspection or where outstanding issues remain unresolved.

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When can I start to build?

Not before you have obtained planning permission, if it is necessary.

48 hours after depositing all the information and the fee necessary for a Building Notice application.

You should avoid commencement of works until plans deposited under the Full Plans procedure have been approved. If you choose to start works before a Full Plans application is approved, you have to understand that formal notices must be given and the work you do is done at your own risk until plans are approved.

Work which is exempt from Building Control can be commenced once you have obtained any necessary planning consent.

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How can I find out whether there is a public sewer on my property?

Generally the deeds of your house will advise you of the fact. Your solicitor will probably have advised you at the time of purchase.

Thames Water Utilities have provided us with computer based information showing the location of public sewers throughout the Borough. You can view this information, free of charge, at the Council offices. There are staff on hand to help you with the technology if you require it.

You will need the specific consent of Thames Water Utilities to build over or within 3m of a public sewer. If they are not happy for you to build over, they will refuse permission and instruct the Council to refuse the Building Regulation application.

When you deposit a Building Notice application or Full Plans application you are required to show the location of any public sewer on your land.

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How often will the Building Control Surveyor make inspections?

There are a number of statutory inspections from commencement, through damp proof courses and drains, to completion. Usually other inspections are made at floor joist and roof level. How many and how often he calls is very dependant on the size type and nature of the project, however, as a general rule the above is a good guide. Sometimes two or three inspections can be made at one call, i.e. drains, hardcore and dpc.

Clearly for internal alterations or rooms in the roof space a lot of these will not apply.

We endeavour to supply with an approval notice, or at commencement, an inspection profile for the particular job.

In all cases it is very important that you ensure that notice of commencement and completion is given, as well as all the other statutory inspection stages where they apply. A Completion Certificate may not be issued and enforcement may result if you cover up work without an inspection.

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Do I have to pay a fee each time the inspector calls?

No.

For a particular Full Plans application the inspection charge becomes payable after the Building Control Surveyor has made the first inspection. We will invoice you for the fee shortly after you start work. The amount you pay was determined when you made the application based on the Charge Scheme criteria for the nature of the work involved. This part of the total fee covers all inspections, however few or many.

If you made a Building Notice application, the total charge included the fee for all inspections, again however few or many.

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I need to get some plans drawn, can you recommend anyone?

No. The Council cannot recommend any architect, surveyor or plan smith. You could contact the Royal Institute of British Architects or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. Alternatively, your builder may have his own preferred plan smith or may indeed do the drawing work himself. You could consider Surrey County Council Trading Standards who are operating a new web based approved trader scheme.

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I need to get a builder, can the Council recommend one?

No. The Council cannot recommend any builder. You can look through Yellow Pages or a local directory to obtain quotes for the work. You should obtain a number of quotations for your work and seek the services of a private surveyor to advise you on the suitability of a particular quote. The person who draws your plans may offer this service. Alternatively you may consider Surrey County Council Trading Standards who are operating a new web based approved trader scheme.

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You may need planning consent, but for Building Regulation purposes a garden shed may be exempt.

If it is located at least 1m from any boundary of your property then it is exempt if it is:

  • under 30m2 in internal floor area
  • single storey and detached and
  • contains no sleeping accommodation

If it is within 1m of your boundaries then it may still be exempt if it is, in addition to the above, constructed substantially of materials of limited combustibility.

If a shed is under 15m2 in internal floor area and contains no sleeping accommodation it is exempt.

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On the sale of property much more attention is being paid now to what has been done to properties and whether Planning and Building Regulation consent has been obtained. Often sight is required of a Completion Certificate.

If the work in question is unauthorised and was carried out after 11 November 1985, you can apply for a Regularisation Certificate.