Planning Permission: The Complete Guide

If everyone in the country could build, or use land for whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted, it would be absolute chaos. Luckily the planning system is designed to prevent this from happening and to ensure that all development is in the best interests of the local area.

Follow this guide for all you need to know about planning permission.

What is Planning Permission?

The building of a new dwelling and extensive changes to existing buildings usually requires consent from the local planning authority in the form of planning permission. This system is in place to deter inappropriate development.

When do I need Planning Permission?

If your project involves the creation of a new dwelling (by either building from scratch or subdividing an existing home), then planning permission is normally required.

Adding outbuildings or building extensions will require planning permission, depending on the size of the project and the level of Permitted Development rights afforded to or still remaining on a property.

Smaller additions and improvements can normally be made under your Permitted Development Rights.

5 Things You Need to Know about Planning Permission

  • You can make a planning application on any piece of land in the country — you don’t have to own it
  • Your planning decision should take no longer than eight weeks from the point of application
  • The objections of neighbours and local people may well not have any impact on the final decision
  • You can withdraw an application at any time — so if you think you are going to get a refusal, you can withdraw it at any time up to the day itself, and resubmit free of charge
  • You can submit an infinite number of planning applic­ations on any one site — and choose which one to use. As long as it is current, you don’t have to use the most recent

What are Permitted Development Rights?

Permitted Development allows for smaller, minor improvements, such as converting a loft or modest extensions to your home, to be undertaken without clogging up the planning system. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland each benefit from their own version of these rules.

The level of work that can be carried out under Permitted Development depends on a variety of factors including:

  • location (Areas of Natural Beauty and Conservation Areas have different rules)
  • the extent of work already carried out on a property.

You can see a list of things you can do without planning permission here.

Outline and Full Planning Permission – What’s the Difference?

Outline planning permission grants, in principle, the construction of a dwelling, subject to certain design conditions based on size and shape. The design information required with an Outline application however has to be so detailed that many developers decide a Full application is the best way to proceed.

If, however, your plot comes with Outline permission, you will need to examine the approval document, which will give you a good idea of the type of house you could end up building. ‘Full’ approval is likely on a design that follows these guidelines — but it is also true to say that other design schemes could be approved.

How Much will an Application Cost?

The cost of submitting a planning application will depend on the nature of your proposed development. The cost is currently £462 for a full application for a new single dwelling in England, but this fee is different in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. For home improvers, an application in England for an extension currently costs £206, whereas in Wales the cost of a typical householder application is currently £190.

As well as fees for pre-application advice, further small sums are payable for the discharge of planning conditions which must be met before development begins.

What Does a Planning Application Include?

In general terms, an application should include:

  • five copies of application forms
  • the signed ownership certificate
  • a site plan, block plan, elevations of both the existing and proposed sites,
  • a Design and Access Statement
  • the correct fee

What’s a Design and Access Statement?

These statements have to accompany all planning applications besides householder building works in unprotected areas and changes of use. Statements are used to justify a proposal’s design concept and the access to it. The level of detail depends on the scale of the project and its sensitivity.

Most authorities will have guidance notes available to help you but, unfortunately, unless you ensure you have included one in your submission, planning authorities can refuse to register your planning application.

What are Planning Conditions?

Sometimes the planners will grant permission subject to certain criteria than need to be met/agreed to within a certain time frame. These conditions are extremely important. Failure to comply can result in what is called a breach of condition notice, to which there is no right of appeal — not to mention it could be enforced through the courts by prosecution.

Conditions might be as simple as requiring that materials must match existing ones, or that all boundary treatments must be agreed.

How are Applications Decided?

The local authority will base its decision on what are known as ‘material considerations’, which can include (but are not limited to):

  • Overlooking/loss of privacy
  • Loss of light or overshadowing
  • Parking
  • Highway safety
  • Traffic
  • Noise
  • Impact on listed building and Conservation Area
  • Layout and density of building
  • Design, appearance and materials
  • Government policy
  • Disabled access
  • Proposals in the development plan
  • Previous planning decisions
  • Nature conservation

Neighbours will be consulted and invited to comment, together with parish councils (in England and Wales), but only those objections based on material considerations are taken into account. If the neighbours do not object and the officers recommend approval, they will usually grant planning permission for a householder application using what are known as delegated powers.

What If Someone Objects?

If there are objections or the application is called into a committee by one of the local councillors, then the decision will be made by a majority vote by the local planning committee. At the planning meeting, you or your agent will be given an opportunity to address the planning committee, but this time is limited to a maximum of three minutes.

Can I Get Permission for a Home in the Countryside?

Many believe it is harder to get planning permission if you are building a home in the countryside. However it certainly isn’t out of the question as our guide to planning permission in the countryside explains.

In fact, under Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework, it is even possible to build in green belt land, if your project can be shown to be of particular architectural merit and worth.

Do I Need a Planning Consultant?

Many people will appoint a planning consultant before they even buy a plot, to work out the potential of a development. This could save you thousands of pounds on buying a project that turns out not to be feasible.

Planning consultants have full knowledge of the ever-changing planning policies that any project will be subject to. So, whether you are extending, renovating or building a new home, their help could be indispensable — especially if your project is in an area of which carries restrictions such as a Conservation Area or AONB.

How Long Does it Take to Get Planning Permission?

Once your application has been submitted, the planning department will check that all of the information it requires has been received together with the correct fee. Local authorities are supposed to determine planning applications within 10 to 12 weeks of registration, and the majority of straightforward householder applications will be dealt with within this timeframe.

A sign is posted outside the address relating to the proposed development and any neighbours likely to be affected are written to and invited to view the plans and to comment. This is known as the public consultation process and it takes three to eight weeks. The authority will make statutory consultations to the local Highways department, and where necessary the Environment Agency as well as others.

What Happens if my Planning Application is Refused?

In England around 75% of applications are granted. If your application is refused, you can either amend and resubmit having dealt with the reasons for refusal, or you can make an appeal to the planning inspectorate.

Around 40% of householder applications that are refused are later granted at appeal.

How Long Does Planning Permission Last?

Planning permission is typically granted for three years — meaning you must begin work in that time or face reapplying.

If you were granted planning on or before 1st October 2009, and it has not already run out, you can apply to extend it. The form is available here on Planning Portal and is subject to a fee of £50.

Can I Alter my Plans once Full Permission has been Granted?

You can make minor alterations by applying for a non-material amendment. However, major alterations could involve a further application for Full planning permission, so discuss your plans with your LPA first.

What Happens if I Carry Out Works Without Approval?

While it is not illegal to develop land without planning permission, it is not lawful and, consequently, if you have failed to get consent for your project, then the local planning authority can take action to have the work altered or demolished. In this instance, you can make a retrospective planning application and if this is refused you can appeal the decision. If you lose, it can prove very costly.

There is a legal loophole: if no enforcement action is taken within four years of completion, the development becomes immune from enforcement action (10 years for a change of use). The development then becomes lawful — but this is too great a risk to take.

Altering a listed building without prior permission is, however, a criminal offence, and in extreme cases it can lead to prosecution and unlimited fines — and even imprisonment. So do ensure you apply for approval first.

Standardised Forms

Since April 2008, all local planning departments use the same application form, known as 1APP, you can find the appropriate form for your area and complete the application process online at the Planning Portal.

For further advice on planning, buy How to Get Planning Permission by Roy Speer and Michael Dade.

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