External Wall Insulation and Planning Permission

For properties with solid brick walls – you really only have two ways in which you can insulate them. External wall insulation, which means you lose the feel of the brick (if they haven’t been previously rendered) or internal solid wall insulation where the insulation is applied inside the house.

Now since we carry out the majority of our assessments in London, where house prices are a premium, the majority of these customers want to get external wall insulation – they don’t want to give up the space internally.

In most cases the cost of doing either of these works is about the same – around the £100 / m2, however the Government were up to quite recently offering a £3,750 grant towards solid wall insulation via the GDHIF scheme, which made the whole thing extremely attractive.

This grant scheme is now closed off to new applications, but when it was up and running we saw an unprecedented increase in the overall enquiries, and some of those are still coming through from customers who would like to have external wall insulation – even without a grant.

Aside from the fact that new customers are being left disappointed, we have seen some installations held back due to planning permission.

We have worked with councils extensively across London and it appears none of them are explicitly clear on the requirements for planning permission to get external solid wall insulation installed.

So in the rest of the blog we thought we would cite some examples to help give you a clearer picture on any requirements you might need to follow to not delay your project for too long.

Is planning permission required for solid wall insulation?

The first thing to say is that solid wall insulation does not count as an enlargement or extension (although some councils thought this wasn’t the case – Merton please take note!).

External cladding to a single dwelling house is an improvement rather than an enlargement or extension, and this is supported by page 11 Para (d) of the DCLG “Permitted development for householders” Technical Guidance (April 2014).

This means that you should not need full planning permission in order to install external wall insulation, unless you are living in a conservation area or a listed property. It will qualify as permitted development and therefore not need a full planning application.

For some customers, this is all they need to hear, but just to be on the safe side, it is really worth getting a letter confirming this. It is known as a letter confirming lawful development, and you will have to pay a fee for this from your council. It can take several weeks to get the letter sent out, and you will have to put together appropriate plans and detail on your application. Despite the fact that the development is almost certainly legal, there is always a chance that the application could be rejected for other reasons. In our experience it is not really necessary, but you might feel the peace of mind from this is worth the time and effort.

Render vs. brick walls

If planning might be a problem for you (in a conservation area for example), there is one thing that will make your application easier – if your property is already rendered. One of the criteria that the council planners will look at is the ‘look’ of the property, and the properties around it. If the property is already rendered, you aren’t going to be changing the appearance of the property much with external insulation, and therefore planning is less of an issue.

If your property, and most of the houses on the street are brick, a rendered finish like that you get with external wall insulation might be an issue for the planning department, and could cause them to reject an application if the look of the new property is not ‘in keeping’ with the rest of the street.

Your council planning department and Solid Wall Insulation

The first thing you need to do is to give your council a ring and clarify what their internal process is. Every council works slightly differently, and some are going to have a fairly straight-forward process for external wall insulation, whilst others will be more convoluted.

Some councils will be able to brief you over the phone and let you know whether planning is going to be necessary, whilst others will need a written request.

Make sure you are happy with your planning requirements before you choose to go ahead with your insulation. The last thing you want is the insulation having to be removed!

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