Planning permission: when do you need it and how can you obtain it? In this first article of a four part series, we look at self-builds and some of the issues to consider.

ROI: Estate agents sell sites with and without planning permission; those without can be cheaper, but the planning process is time-consuming, expensive and risky. With planning permission you can begin building immediately, though not to your design. Rural sites with planning permission have fewer advantages, as they are normally only available to another person who meets strict rural housing policy.
Some avoid all this by purchasing an existing property, demolishing (wholly or partly) the house and replacing it with their design. But this will be costly and planning permission still required – even for the demolition. For those considering this, you should seek the opinion of the planning department.

NI: As with ROI, it is possible to buy sites with or without planning permission. However, be wary of buying a site without permission as you are effectively buying land and not a site, which may be suitable only for keeping a few chickens! Take expert advice early on as to whether permission is likely to be granted.
Rural sites which have permission are normally transferable to another party, as the permission goes with the land and not the person. Watch that the permission is not going to expire before you can complete the transaction and commence building works. You also need to ensure that the site has been approved for a dwelling of the size and type which you desire, or that you can amend this to suit your needs.

Selfbuild Live Belfast is the ultimate showcase for people who are building, extending, improving or simply decorating their home. Selfbuild Live Belfast, 22nd-24th February takes place in the Titanic Exhibition Centre, Belfast.

I am thinking of buying a plot of land but I don’t own it yet. Can I apply for planning permission on it?

ROI: If your heart is set on a rural location, those offering such sites for sale may agree to a deal involving purchase in the event of a grant of planning permission. In an urban area, such a deal is more difficult as there are more buyers, but it is possible. To make a planning application it is only necessary to have the permission of the owner of the property and to give his/her name and address.

NI: The same applies, here notice must be served upon the landowner.In what

circumstances do I need to have someone assess a site for suitability?

ROI and NI: The question you need to ask yourself with regards to your site is whether it’s suitable in principle for a house.
The main planning issues facing urban sites are: (i) Is the site accessible by car? (ii) Is it big enough to fit a house and provide areas for parking and for private open space – a garden? Councils maintain minimum garden depth and size standards which vary, but the minimum garden depth is normally 7 to 11m and minimum garden size around 50-60sqm (if the site is being subdivided from another, then the existing site must also remain large enough); and (iii) Can a design and layout be achieved which does not unduly impact on the amenity of neighbouring properties (this may cause your proposed dwelling to be single storey only).
In rural areas you need to consider: (i) Whether your site can be accessed safely by road (sightlines); (ii) Can the site can be serviced by an on-site wastewater treatment system? (a Site Suitability Tester is required); and (iii) Is the site able to absorb a house without it having a significant visual impact on the area.

I have a large back garden. Can I build a new house in it?

ROI and NI: Applying the above criteria, consider whether it is going to be possible to access your back garden. Many back gardens in urban areas are large but inaccessible. Take a standard road of detached houses. The properties may have space for a laneway to the side of their house or they may demolish a garage to provide access to the rear of approx. 3.1-3.5m wide.
Then, is the rear garden sufficiently long to provide for a separate property with its own parking area, a dwelling and a rear garden? All the while leaving the existing property with sufficient rear garden area (of around 60sqm) to provide for a setback between dwellings of around 15m? Finally, if the property adjoins rear gardens on both sides, the proposed dwelling would need to be single storey to minimise impacts on adjoining properties, but those impacts (visual, overshadowing, noise, etc.) may still be considered excessive.

BS8601 Subsoil

Subsoil is an essential component of most soil profiles. It provides storage of moisture, transmits rainfall to deeper layers and provides anchorage for trees and larger shrubs. It plays an important role in reducing the amount and speed of surface water runoff, reduces the risk of erosion and flooding, and is an integral part of sustainable drainage systems.

BS8601:2013 specifies the requirements for the classification, composition and use of subsoils for creating soil profiles intended to support plant growth. Our stocks of BS8601 are fully certified. That means you get the service, efficiency and quality guarantee you expect from MCM – with the added assurance of British Standard certification. Ensure healthy plant establishment and growth from tree pit to border, lawn and planting bed.

MCM – Supplying your product, your way

MCM can provide BS8601:2013 Subsoil via the following methods:

  • Tipper or Grab Lorries
  • Standard Industry Bulk Bags
  • Articulated Lorries.

Minimum Order

The standard MCM minimum order is 10 tonnes or 5 Multi-lift Bags. If you require smaller deliveries, we will try our best to help – just give us a call to discuss on 0845 053 34 54

What is Subsoil?

The definition of subsoil

Directly beneath the surface soil (topsoil) lies a layer known as Subsoil. Worn and weather-beaten, this eroded material is a salient part of the environment.

The majority of subsoil is made up from materials that have undergone the leaching process. This process entails said materials being removed from a solid via percolation. Materials such as clay and sand are most commonly what it comprises of.

What are the properties of subsoil?

  • Less organic matter

Unlike its companion above, subsoil has a significantly lower ratio of organic material. As well as containing less humus, it also contains less plant nutrient content. This goes hand in hand as humus is very nutrient-rich. The smaller amount of humus contained within subsoil is carbon-based and has great longevity.

  • Diverse Colouring

A constant brown colour does feature consistently throughout the varying types. And a combination of brown-yellow or brown-red are the two widespread additional colours. And the colour of is also paramount to indicating the effectiveness of the drainage. The varying moisture levels are revealed easily to the naked eye. The brighter the better! When an increased amount of iron is oxidised it exhibits a more ‘rusty’ colour.

  • Minerals and Materials

For what it lacks in humus, it makes up for in rich minerals. Iron, magnesium and calcium are commonly featured. Roots are therefore rewarded greatly when they venture below the topsoil. And one process that can transfer minerals and materials from the topsoil to the subsoil is Surface runoff. This occurs when a heavy amount of stormy weather/rain hits. When the soil is overly saturated with water, the topsoil can suffer from a shortage of minerals. Because of the increased ratio of clay in the subsoil, a higher volume of water can be held.

What is it used for?

  • Converting to Topsoil

Consistent and concerted erosion can niggle away at the topsoil until a small amount if left. If this happens and a solution is needed – subsoil can step up! If a great quantity of organic matter is added, it is plausible. Manure is a popular choice and it must be mixed and combined with the existing matter thoroughly.

Fertility is also a key aspect of the conversion process. And this can be achieved through liming. Once the conditions are correct for the change, it’s just a matter of waiting. Let the decomposing commence!

  • In Construction

With the advantageous ability that it has to drain water, it is often used in the construction industry. It stores moisture incredibly well as it is particularly dense. After building structures have been completed, topsoil is often added above. This is to encourage growth while giving the area high stability.

One example of a functional structure created using it is an actual drain! The main purpose being to reduce the likelihood of dampness in buildings. Made from a combination of possible materials including plastic and concrete, they are incredibly effective. But it’s vital not to forget how integral the subsoil underneath is to this system.

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