From 1 October 2008 new rules have applied for householders wanting to pave over their front gardens.
You will not need planning permission if a new or replacement driveway of any size uses permeable (or porous) surfacing which allows water to drain through, such as gravel, permeable concrete block paving or porous asphalt, or if the rainwater is directed to a lawn or border to drain naturally.
If the surface to be covered is more than five square metres planning permission will be needed for laying traditional, impermeable driveways that do not provide for the water to run to a permeable area.
Building Regulations do not generally apply. However, you will need to make sure that any alterations do not make access to the dwelling any less satisfactory than it was before.
So, for example, changing levels to introduce steps where none existed before would be a contravention of the regulations.
Dropping kerbs - If you are making a new access into the garden across the footpath you will need to obtain permission from the local council to drop the kerbs and the pavement may need strengthening. This is to protect any services buried in the ground such as water pipes.
Current Planning Rules
Currently in England and Wales planning permission is rarely needed for any driveway work unless there are some serious construction works involved. Building control likewise doesn't apply to drives or other hardstandings. You might need other permissions from a council or other body, depending on the nature of the work and the rules in the local area.
But planning permission is much more likely to be required in Scotland for a driveway, and there are reports that late in 2008 England will follow suit, with permission required to pave a front garden.
For now, probably 99% of all driveways present no problems at all in terms of planning issues. The government's planning portal states clearly that there are " no restrictions on the area of land around your house which you can cover with hard surfaces at, or near, ground level." But they then go on to say that there might be a need for a planning application if there are 'significant works of embanking or terracing' needed to support the hard surface.
If your house is on an incline and you need to build up the area where your driveway is going, then it's worth checking that out. Of course, there is no guideline so you won’t be able to work it out yourself, but planners are approachable and would much rather discuss something with you first than have to go through the hassle of making you apply for permission retrospectively, or even take out an enforcement order to make you undo the work. The best option is to go and see them with plans of your work and make sure there's no problem.
Planning Permission on the Way in England?
However, there are growing concerns over the numbers of gardens being paved over for driveways in suburban areas in England and that's why the change in heart towards planning. The trend is contributing to flooding problems because a garden will hold rainwater and let it drain away slowly whereas a concrete or paved surface will send it straight into the storm drain system.
There are also other issues, such as the destruction of microclimates where insects and grubs can survive that in turn are food for small animals and birds, and the fact that hard surfaces reflect the heat of the sun rather than absorb it.
Contact the Highways Department
One specific point where discussions with the local council will be required is if you plan to put in a new driveway that crosses the pavement or verge outside your home. In this instance you will need to obtain the permission of the Highways Department at the council. They will also require that the kerb be dropped to road level so that it isn’t damaged when you drive your car over it.
The process for doing this varies from region to region. Some councils will insist on doing the work themselves, but others will only do it if they happen to be resurfacing at the time. If they don't do it themselves they will probably require you to use approved contractors to do the work. If that's the case get a variety of quotes, as charges seem to vary wildly.