Who is a building surveyor?

Who is a building surveyor?

A building surveyor is trained to provide advice about land, property and building construction. Most surveyors have completed a University degree in surveying, construction or property development. However, becoming a fully-skilled surveyor can take years of training – often under the instruction of a more experienced colleague. Commonly, surveyors will have already worked in the construction industry for years as perhaps a builder or architect.  When choosing a surveyor it’s important to look at not only their qualifications but their experience, insurance credentials and references too.  For example, I first met my business partner in the County Court years ago when we both expert witnesses in a dispute case. He had a practical background, studied very hard and is now a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (FRICS). He’s now in great demand as an expert witness/arbitrator and mediator and it was his practical experience that led the way to him being professionally qualified and in great demand.

What does a building surveyor do?

You may need to hire a building surveyor for one of the following reasons:

  • To carry out a Homebuyer Report – this report was specially designed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to give an overview of the state and value of a property. Homebuyer Reports are suitable for modern homes which are in a fairly good state of repair.
  • To complete a building survey – if you’re looking for a more in-depth assessment of a property then it’s best to commission a full building survey. It’s especially important to commission a building survey if you’re thinking about buying a very old or dilapidated property.
  • To draw up building plans – if you’re extending or renovating an existing property or building a new house from scratch, a surveyor can draw up building plans for you. A surveyor can also look over any existing plans to identify faults and recommend solutions.
  • To help with planning applications – it’s essential to comply with UK planning laws when carrying out work on any property, otherwise you can end up with a hefty fine – you might even be forced to undo the work. Planning applications can be complicated, expensive and time consuming to complete; a building surveyor can help you navigate the process and may even agree to make the application for you.
  • To advise on building regulations – any building work you carry out must also comply with UK building regulations to ensure it’s safe and meets good standards of energy efficiency. A building surveyor will be able to advise on which building regulations you need to follow and will make sure your project adheres to these rules.
  • Help solve disputes – if you’re having a dispute with a tradesman, find an experienced building surveyor who can act as an independent judge to assess whether the work was of a good quality and determine what needs to be done to resolve the dispute.

Benefits of commissioning a building survey

Building surveys are one of the most common tasks a surveyor will carry out.  It’s especially important to commission a building survey for properties over 75 years old, for listed buildings or properties that you plan on substantially refurbishing. Here are some of the main benefits of commissioning a building survey:

  • A building survey will help you decide whether the property is worth the asking price.
  • A survey could uncover serious underlying faults in the building which may cost thousands to put right years down the line and could even jeopardise your health and safety.
  • If you are buying a property with the specific intention to renovate, then a building survey is especially important – no council will grant you planning permission if the basic structure of the property is unsound.
  • The results of a survey can also allow you room to negotiate on price and provide you with all important peace of mind.
  • Some mortgage lenders allow a building survey to double as a valuation (the surveyor may need to be approved by the mortgage lender

Get more information on why you should commission a full building survey contact us on 0207 1128 766

New permitted development rights

New permitted development rights

As from 30 May 2013, new changes have come into force in respect of further permitted development rights for certain building works and changes of use without the need to apply for planning permission. Despite most Council’s, including ourselves, having raised objections to these planned changes, this has nationally been brought in to encourage development to take place and speed up its delivery by removing local authority control in an attempt to revive the economy. There are a number of changes, which are as follows:

Single storey rear extension to houses:

At present, it is possible to build a 4 metre deep single storey rear extension onto the original rear wall of a detached house and a 3 metre deep single storey rear extension onto an attached house as permitted development, i.e. without the need for planning permission. This right remains, but a new procedure (called “prior approval”) is to be introduced which may allow extensions up to double this size without planning permission (up to 8 metres deep for a detached house and 6 metres deep for an attached house). This does not apply in conservation areas, though.

The process for all other extension works under Part 1 of the GPDO will remain the same (i.e. no more than half the garden area around the house etc), but anyone proposing a 3m-6m or 4m-8m extension must write and provide a plan and written description of the proposal. There is no planning application fee.

The Council is required to consult the immediately adjoining premises only, with a minimum consultation period of 21 days. If no objections are received from the consulted adjoining neighbours, the development can go ahead. If an adjoining neighbour objects, then the prior approval of the local planning authority is required. Planning Officers will then need to consider the impact of the development only on the amenity of the immediate neighbours. Other factors, such as green belt, design and appearance cannot be considered under this prior approval procedure. Only where there is clearly excessive harm to neighbouring amenity will Officers be in a position to refuse prior approval.

This whole process has to be done within a total of 42 days from first receipt of the information submitted, otherwise, no matter whether there is an objection from an immediate neighbour or from the Council, the development can proceed. There is a right of appeal against a refusal.

The legislation requires that any 3m-6m or 4m-8m extension “shall be completed on or before 30th May 2016″.  It is therefore a temporary additional permitted development right for 3 years only.

The legislation also requires that “the developer shall notify the local planning authority of the completion of the development as soon as reasonably practicable after completion”.

Download the guidance notes – Prior Notification of a Proposed Larger Home Extension

Change of Use

(please note that none of the below changes of use are relevant to listed buildings, but they can be carried out in conservation areas).

•  Premises in Class B1(a) office use will be able to change to Class C3 residential use so long as the C3 use starts on or before 30 May 2016. This is only subject to a prior approval process whereby the developer shall apply to the Council for a determination as to whether prior approval is required only in respect of flooding, highway and transport issues and contamination. There are no other considerations. The determination will have to be made by the Council within 56 days and in this case, a fee, believed at this stage to be £80.00, is required. There was an opportunity to be exempt from this permitted change of use and we as a Council made a strong case in order to protect our local town centre and employment areas. However, we, along with many others, were unsuccessful and only 17 authorities across England (including 11 inner London boroughs) have been given change of use exemption. Again, this is a temporary additional permitted development right in that no change of use can take place after 30 May 2016, but if the use has started before then, it can continue.   •  Parts of buildings under 150 metres within Class A1 – A5, B1, D1 and D2 will be permitted to change to a flexible use falling within Class A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services), A3 (restaurants) or B1 (business). For a one off period of up to 2 years, the developer only needs to notify (and therefore there is no prior approval considerations) the Council beforehand and in this time period, it can move between other uses in this flexible use. After 2 years, the use reverts back. This applies even in the Local Plan key retail frontages.

•  Agricultural buildings (cumulatively)|under 500 square metres in floor space used solely in agriculture before 3 July 2012 or for 10 years after that date, can change to a flexible use falling within Class A1-A3, B1 (business), B8 (storage and distribution), C1 (hotel) or D2 (assembly and leisure). This flexible use will then be classed as “sui generis” such that any further changes of use outside the flexible uses require planning permission. In the case where the floor space does not exceed 150 metres, the developer merely has to notify the Council of the change. If it exceeds 150 metres, the developer has to apply to the Council for a determination as to whether prior approval is required and we can only take account of flooding, highway and transport issues, noise and contamination can be considered through consultation with statutory undertakers. Therefore there are no other considerations. The determination has to be made by the Council within 56 days.

•  Buildings within Class B1, C1, C2, C2a, D1 and D2 will be able to change to a state funded school. The developer shall apply to the Council for a determination as to whether prior approval but we can only consider against  highway and transport issues, noise and contamination. There are no other considerations. The determination will have to be made by the Council within 56 days.

•   The use of any building as a state-funded school for a single academic year will be permitted. It then reverts back to its previous use at the end of the academic year. The site must however, be approved for such purpose by the relevant Minister.

Temporary Increased Thresholds for Offices

Increases Permitted Development threshold to erect, extend or alter office premises from 25% of gross floor space or 100 square metres (whichever is the lesser) to 50% or 200 square metres. The new permitted development right is temporary and will expire on 30th May 2016. The developer must notify us in writing when the development is complete

Temporary Increased Thresholds for Shops, Catering, Professional or Financial Services

Increases PD threshold to erect, extend or alter a shop, catering, professional or financial services establishment from 25% of gross floor space or 100 square metres (whichever is the lesser) to 50% or 200 square metres. The new permitted development right is temporary and will expire on 30th May 2016.  The exclusion of development within 2 metres of the boundary of the curtilage is removed during the same period except in relation to premises which adjoin land or buildings in residential use. The developer must notify us in writing when the development is complete.

Temporary Increased Thresholds for Industrial and Warehouse Use Classes

Increases PD threshold to erect, extend or alter industrial and warehouse premises from 25% of gross floor space or 100 square metres (whichever is the lesser) to 50% or 200 square metres. The new permitted development right is temporary and will expire on 30th May 2016. Developers must notify us of completion.

Telecoms Installations

The construction, installation or replacement of telegraph poles, cabinets or lines for fixed-line broadband services will not require prior approval in Conservation Areas for a 5 year period. Development must be completed before 30th May 2018.

Extensions permitted to temporary schools

Buildings which qualify for the right to change temporarily to school use are also given the benefit of existing permitted development rights which allow schools to carry out building works (including the erection, extension or alteration of buildings and the provision of hard surfaces) subject to various conditions and limitations.  This will apply from the date we are notified by the relevant Minister that the site has been approved for school use.


Contact us if you need to obtain a PRIOR APPROVAL for your larger extension or if you need any other Planning or Building Control Application and approval.

Building Regulations – Building Control and Planning Permission

Building Regulations – Building Control and Planning Permission

What are the Building Regulations?

If you are considering undertaking any development you must consider whether the project will need to have a planning permission and/or a Building Regulations application. These are two separate applications and must be applied for individually.

Building Regulations are national standards for England and Wales which apply to most types of buildings, whether in the home or a commercial development. They ensure that the built environment in which we all live is a safe place. The regulations also ensure that adequate access and facilities are provided for people with disabilities and include requirements for conservation of fuel and power.
• Go to the Legislation.gov.uk website to view the Building Regulations 2010

Building Regulations in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland

LABC operates in both England and Wales. Go to the LABC Cymru page for more information about what they can offer you. There are similar but separate regulations which apply in Northern Ireland and Scotland. Further details on these regulations can be found at the Scottish Building Standards Agency website and the Department of Finance and Personnel Northern Ireland website.

What is planning permission?

The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) sets national planning policy. Both planning permission and building control are needed to satisfy legal requirements so please contact your local authority to find out your exact requirements.

You must apply to your council for planning permission. It is not necessary to make the application yourself. You can appoint an agent, ie an architect or solicitor, to make it for you.

Points that will be looked at include the number, size, layout, siting and external appearance of buildings, and the proposed use of the development, among other things.
• The full procedure for how to make a planning application is available in flow chart form on the Planning Portal website.


Need more information?

Why not browse our Publications Library where you will find guidance on topics such as conservatories and making a Building Regulations application.

Changes in the building regulations that will affect your home improvements. From 6/04/2013

Changes in the building regulations that will affect your home improvements

If you are making improvements to your home and live in England, then you need to be aware of important Building Regulations changes that affect how you work with your local authority building control team. Site inspections are an important process of ensuring your work meets Building Regulation standards which ensure your project will be safe, fire resistant, energy efficient and sustainable.

Previously, your local authority building control team carried out site inspections at fixed stages of your construction project. This system was inflexible and did not give them the opportunity to look at the most important stages of construction. From 6 April 2013 the law has changed to give your local authority building control team greater flexibility as to when they need to carry out site inspections. This will enable them to make sure the work better complies with Building Regulations.

After 6 April 2013 when you submit a Building Regulations Application you are likely to be provided with an Inspection Service Plan before you start work detailing the stages of work they would like to inspect. This will vary depending on the size and complexity of your project, age of your home, the construction type, ground conditions and your builder’s experience.

You’ll have to inform your local authority building control team when you start and when you reach the stages outlined in your Inspection Service Plan so they can carry out site visits. If your local building control team are not given the opportunity to carry out a site inspection at the stages outlined in your plan they may not be able to issue the completion certificate – you will need this when you comes to sell your home.
For more information download the LABC guidance leaflets from LABC website.


Dwelling houses and Low Raise Flats (3-4 Storeys max)              

Domestic extensions, alterations, renovations and Refurbisments


Commercial, industry and mixed use