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When everyone has a home

Housing advice for Northern Ireland

Planning permission and building control

You need both planning permission and building control approval for certain extensions and building work.  For others, like a loft conversion or installing a new boiler you’ll only need building control approval.

There are very specific procedures you need to follow when you’re applying for planning permission.  Once you get permission you need to stick exactly to the plans that were approved by the council. 

Planning permission

If you’re not sure whether you need planning permission or not, check with the planning department at your local council before you start work.  Most councils will have a pre-application planning advice service, but you may have to pay a fee for this service. If your council charges a fee for the advice session, this will usually be deducted from your planning permission application fee if you do require permission and have to apply.  You won’t get the fee back if the work doesn’t require permission.

Once you’ve applied and paid your fees the council's planning team will put inspect the site and notify your neighbours of your plans. They will also consult with the roads and sewage services to check that your plans will not have a negative impact on these.

You should find out if your plans have been approved within about 8 weeks of making your original application, although large or complex applications can take longer.  You have 4 months from the date of your decision to appeal if you think the decision is wrong.  Your appeal should go to the Planning Appeals Commission

You can make a complaint if you’re dissatisfied with the service provided by your council's planning team.  You need to use the council's internal complaints process first and may be able to complain to the Ombudsman if you’re not happy with how your complaint is handled.

Building control

Many people don’t realise that you need building control approval for lots of smaller alterations to your home.  If you don’t get this approval, the council can tear down the work that you’ve done or fine you for doing work without approval.

You will need Building Control approval if you:

  • enlarge windows or doors
  • remove a load bearing wall
  • open up patio doors
  • carry out a roof space conversion
  • build an extension
  • install cavity wall insulation
  • build a garage
  • build outbuildings
  • alter your drains
  • install a kitchen or bathroom
  • install central heating
  • install a gas fire
  • carry out a flat conversion
  • convert any building to a dwelling house

You apply through the Building Control department of your local council.  You’ll need to pay a fee to Building Control.