Driveways: how to get planning permission

Beautiful driveway

Look along any suburban road, and a substantial number of people will be using their front garden as off-street-parking (or OSP as it's usually described in estate agents' jargon).

There are many advantages about getting off-street parking, but there are also a number of drawbacks and legal factors to consider. It's not quite as simple as tearing down the garden wall and pouring the concrete.

Advantages
Having off street parking is means that you can always park next to your house. This is a big bonus if you've got small children or disabled family members or if you routinely transport heavy loads. It's also very useful if it's particularly difficult to get a parking space in your neighbourhood.

Disadvantages
Replacing attractive shrubs and flowers with a driveway can make your house look less attractive if you're not careful about the driveway design. The loss of front gardens is also damaging to the environment. And there's ‘driveway contagion' to consider. If a few people in a particular street get their gardens turned into driveways, this makes it harder for their neighbours to find somewhere to park. So, in turn, their neighbours will tend to get their drives paved. After a while, the whole road will be a line of driveways. Some such roads may look less attractive and this can push the value of the properties on a street down. It can also mean that it's especially difficult for guests to find a parking place on your road! Nonetheless estate agents generally agree that having off street parking will increase the value of an individual property...

So how do you go about getting off-street parking?
Most people who want off street parking will use their front garden as a driveway. Some people, for example people who live on the corner of a street or who have a lane running down the back of their house, may be able to use their back garden. But this is not very common.

Anyone wanting a front drive will need authorisation from the council. There is nothing to stop you removing the garden wall but, unless you have permission you won't be allowed to use the space to park your car.

If you don't have authorisation, in effect you are driving over the council's pavement without permission. If anyone complains, the council is likely to send someone to inspect your property and you can be fined. You may also be forced to pay for any damage that your car has done to the pavement - replacing broken stones etc. Also, if you have an unauthorised cross over, anyone can park in front of your drive and block you in. You won't be able to do much about it. After all, they'll be parked legally: it's you who is breaking the law!

Most councils will give you an application form for permission to install a crossover. These can often be downloaded from the internet. Permission will not usually be granted if the house is in a conservation area, or if it is at a dangerous road intersection or if the driveway might be a traffic hazard. It can also be refused if there is a tree or a postbox in the way or if the installation might disrupt phonelines. Each council will have its own rules.

Homeowners will usually have to pay an application fee just to submit the form. In addition, they will have to pay for the kerb to be dropped. Most councils insist that this work should be done by council staff or by an approved contractor. The cost of dropping a kerb is usually around £800.

In the past, homeowners were allowed to pave over or concrete their front gardens. However, since October 2008 anyone wanting to put down a hard surface has had to apply for planning permission. However, homeowners are allowed to use permeable surfaces, such as gravel or permeable block pavement, without planning permission.

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