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Article 353 [ added on 04-12-2009, updated on 12-08-2010 ]

Planning Permission  

In domestic circumstances foundation work does not require Planning Permission.

If the dwelling is situated in a “designated area” i.e. Conservation Area, Listed Building, National Park or Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Planning and other permissions may be required. 

Building Regulations

All foundation work requires formal Building Regulations approval.

The function of a foundation is to safely transmit all the loads from a building onto the ground on which it sits.

There are numerous factors which will influence the foundation design. The solution can range from a simple concrete filled trench to a full design.

The factors to be taken into account when designing a foundation will include

  • The load (weight) of the building.
  • The bearing capacity of the soil.
  • Near surface conditions such as land fill. A situation requiring the input of a geo technical engineer who will also check for contamination and, additionally, recommend remedial action.
  • Any mining history. As before the input of a geo technical engineer is essential. Research would be carried of historical records almost certainly leading to on site investigation.
  • The proximity of any tree’s and their effect on the soil. Certain tree’s have a high water demand and, depending on the soil type, can cause ground movement. This movement can result in structural damage. It follows that the foundation design should take this movement into account. The solution can be as simple as a deepening of the foundation beyond the zone of influence of the trees. Professional advice should always be sought.


Foundation work includes underpinning – a process of upgrading a failed foundation. It can be as simple as placing mass concrete beneath the existing foundation or as complicated as a full design. In most circumstances the process will require the input of a structural engineer.

Click here for more info on underpinning.

Walls Below Ground Level

Walls below ground level the bricks and block work below ground level have the function of transmitting the superstructure loads to the foundation. The masonry and mortar must be resistant to ground water, frost action and sulphate attack. Former industrial sites are particularly but not exclusively prone to chemical contamination and a soil analyst is essential to establish the level of contamination. If there are any doubts proper research must be carried out.

The Party Wall Act

Any excavation adjacent to existing structures is likely to require some consideration under The Party Wall Act.  The purpose of The Act is to ensure any excavation does not destabilize the adjacent structure. It provides a procedure for the various parties to agree a way forward. The services of a party wall surveyor may be requires.

Click here for more info on The Party Wall Act.

Adjacent Structures

It is good practice to consider the foundation of an adjacent building or brick wall to ensure that the excavation for the new foundation does not adversely affect that foundation

Landfill Sites

If a property is constructed on a landfill site, the depth of undisturbed natural ground could be many metres deep and it may require a more extensive form of foundation such as piling. An alternative may be a "raft" foundation. A structural engineer will be able to advise you further.

Building Over Drains    Drains & Sewers

If a new extension is to be built over drainage pipes, it must be established what category these drains fall into: public or private.

Not all public sewers are found under the highway. Public sewers can be found to the rear of older properties (particularly terraced properties. It is necessary to obtain permission from the Local Water Authority.

Private drainage is less of a problem, particularly if it only serves your house. If it does serve other properties, it is known as ‘shared drainage’. You share ownership of it with the other home owners on the system before it connects to the public sewer. You should therefore obtain their consent for building over it.

Mine Workings

If there have been mine workings in your area, it should be possible to obtain the position and depth of these workings from British Coal.  A Coal Authority report will give an indication of the position of any mine workings but it will not necessarily be a complete record. It should be noted that British Coal do not possess all mine working records. The services of a geo- technical engineer may be required.

Building Near Trees

Foundations can be affected by tree roots and soil moisture. Such matters should be considered when planting/removing trees or building new structures as certain tree species can affect foundations over 20-30 metres away.

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