How to obtain planning permission

Last updated: March 2024 | 3 min read

Embarking on home transformations like an ambitious extension or significant renovation in the UK? This guide is your go-to resource for unravelling the complexities of planning permission. We'll guide you through common challenges, including neighbourly disputes over party wall agreements and objections to your plans. Learn the essential steps to ensure your dream project smoothly secures approval, avoiding any unwelcome surprises.

Understanding planning permission basics

What is planning permission?

Planning permission refers to the official approval needed in the UK for certain types of development or building work. It's a key step in the process of making alterations to an existing building or constructing a new one.

Local planning authorities are responsible for granting or denying planning permission. This process ensures that any development is carried out in a way that's beneficial and appropriate for the local area and its residents.

The importance of planning permission for homeowners

For homeowners, obtaining planning permission is a necessary step for many types of building projects. It's not just a formality; it's a legal requirement for certain developments. Failure to obtain planning permission when it's needed can result in enforcement action from the local planning authority.

This might include being ordered to undo any work that's been done. Understanding and adhering to the planning system is therefore crucial for any homeowner considering a building or renovation project.

Do I need planning permission?

Common projects requiring planning permission

In the UK, various home improvement or construction projects often require planning permission from your local planning authority. This process ensures that your proposed changes align with specific planning policies and regulations.

Extensions and conversions

For homeowners contemplating an extension or conversion of their existing property, planning permission is usually necessary. These projects can significantly alter the building's footprint or use, affecting the local environment and neighbourhood.

Significant renovations

Significant renovations that change the structure or external appearance of a building often need planning permission. This includes alterations to roofs, facades, and structural changes.

New buildings

Erecting a new building on your property almost always requires planning permission. This includes outbuildings, garages, and even some garden structures, depending on their size and use.

Changing a building's use

Transforming a building from one use to another, for example, converting a residential property to a business premise, typically requires planning consent. This change can have broader implications for the local area and its infrastructure.

Exceptions: When planning permission is not required

Certain projects can proceed without planning permission, falling under 'permitted development rights'. However, these rights are subject to specific limitations and conditions.

Smaller alterations

Minor home improvements like installing new windows, doors, or a fence often don't need planning permission. These are considered too small to impact the wider community significantly.

Internal remodelling

Most internal remodelling efforts do not require planning permission, as long as they don't alter the building's external appearance or footprint.

Certain outbuildings and extensions

In many cases, small outbuildings and extensions fall within permitted development rights, especially if they meet specific size and location criteria.

Repair and maintenance work

Routine maintenance and repair work, including like-for-like replacements, typically don't require planning permission. This work is essential for property upkeep and doesn't generally affect the building's overall structure or appearance.

Specific rules for listed buildings and conservation areas

Even under permitted development, if your property is a listed building or in a conservation area, you might still need to obtain listed building consent or follow specific regulations.

Checking with your local planning authority

Always consult your local planning authority or a planning consultant before starting any project. They can provide detailed advice tailored to your situation, ensuring you comply with all relevant regulations.

Starting with your local planning authority

Identifying the relevant local planning authority

Your first step in the planning permission journey involves identifying the relevant local planning authority. Each area in the UK is governed by a local planning authority, responsible for making decisions on planning applications. Homeowners and prospective buyers must approach their respective local authority for guidance and approval.

The local council website offers detailed information about the planning department, including contact details and submission procedures. Engaging early with your local planning authority can provide clarity on regulations and requirements specific to your area.

Utilising the planning portal for preliminary information

The planning portal serves as a valuable tool for preliminary information on planning permission. This online resource offers comprehensive details on planning policies and application procedures.

Homeowners can access a wealth of information, including guidelines on various types of projects, planning application forms, and fee calculators. The planning portal is an essential starting point for anyone considering applying for planning permission, providing a foundation for understanding the process and requirements.

Preparing your planning application

Key components of a planning application

A planning application consists of several key components. The application form is the core element, requiring detailed information about the proposed project. Alongside the form, a location plan and a site plan are mandatory, providing a clear visual context of the development.

For most applications, a design and access statement is necessary, explaining the design principles and accessibility considerations. Supporting documents may include detailed drawings, reports on environmental impact, and an ownership certificate. Ensure all components are accurately completed to avoid delays.

Creating effective planning application drawings

Effective planning application drawings are crucial for a successful application. These drawings should provide a detailed and accurate representation of the proposed development. They typically include floor plans, elevations, and cross-sections, giving a comprehensive view of the project.

High-quality drawings facilitate the local planning authority's understanding of your proposal, increasing the likelihood of a favourable outcome. Consider engaging with a professional architect or designer to ensure your drawings meet the required standards.

Understanding the role of a design and access statement

The design and access statement plays a vital role in planning applications, particularly for significant projects or those in sensitive areas. This document explains the design rationale and how the proposal aligns with local planning policies.

It also addresses how the development ensures accessibility for all potential users. A well-crafted design and access statement can greatly influence the decision-making process, highlighting the thoughtfulness and suitability of your proposal within the local context.

Applying for planning permission

Step-by-step guide to submitting your application

Applying for planning permission begins with a thorough assessment of your project's needs. Start by gathering detailed information about the proposed development. This includes dimensions, purpose, and materials.

Next, prepare an accurate location plan and detailed drawings of the development proposed. These should show the site's layout and how the new development integrates with its surroundings. Consult the local planning authority's website for specific requirements and forms.

Fill out the application form meticulously, ensuring all details are accurate and complete. Attach all necessary documents, including plans and ownership certificates. It's advisable to seek professional advice from planning consultants to ensure compliance with local regulations.

Navigating the planning portal website for application submission

The planning portal website offers a streamlined platform for submitting your planning application. First, create an account or log in if you already have one. Navigate to the section for 'planning application submission'. Follow the prompts to upload your application form and accompanying documents. The website is user-friendly and provides guidance at each step.

Ensure that all uploaded documents are clear and legible. Once all documents are uploaded, double-check for completeness. Before submission, review the planning portal's checklist to ensure no crucial element is overlooked.

Paying the planning fee: What to expect

Paying the planning fee is a crucial step in the application process. Fees vary based on the type and scale of the proposed development. Check the local planning authority's fee schedule for exact amounts. Fees can usually be paid online via the planning portal. Some local authorities also accept cheques or bank transfers.

Ensure the correct fee is paid to avoid delays. Keep a receipt of the payment for your records. If in doubt about the fee amount, contact the local planning authority for clarification.

After submitting your planning application

What happens post-submission?

Once your planning application is submitted, the local planning authority will begin its assessment. They will check if the application is complete and meets the necessary criteria. The authority then validates the application and assigns a planning officer to it. A statutory timeframe for decision-making starts from the date of validation.

Your application will be made available for public viewing, and neighbours may be notified. The planning officer may visit the site for evaluation. You will receive an acknowledgment of your submission and be informed about the next steps.

Communicating with the planning officer

Effective communication with the planning officer is key. They are your primary contact throughout the process. Respond promptly to any queries or requests for additional information. It's beneficial to engage in constructive discussions if there are any concerns.

Be open to suggestions that might improve the chances of your application's success. Remember, the planning officer is there to help guide you through the process.

Addressing any objections or concerns

Objections or concerns raised by the public or statutory consultees are common. Review these objections carefully. If necessary, adjust your plans to address valid concerns. You can submit amended plans or additional information in response. Discuss potential modifications with the planning officer. Demonstrating willingness to cooperate and adapt can be crucial in securing planning consent.

Understanding the decision process

How planning decisions are made

Local planning authorities play a pivotal role in the decision-making process for planning applications. These decisions hinge on the alignment of your proposal with the National Planning Policy Framework and the local development plan.

The local authority scrutinises each application, assessing various factors, such as environmental impact, the effect on the neighbourhood, and adherence to local policies. Your involvement with the local planning authority doesn't end with submission. Stay proactive, engage in discussions, and understand that they are your primary point of contact throughout this journey.

The role of the planning committee

In some instances, a planning committee, comprised of elected local councillors, determines the fate of your planning application. This typically occurs for more significant or controversial projects.

Your application's details are presented in a public forum, where you may also have the opportunity to speak. Understanding the committee's dynamics and preparing for possible public representation can significantly influence the outcome.

Timeframe: How long does it take to get planning permission?

Patience is key when waiting for a decision on your planning application. Typically, the decision process for minor applications takes up to eight weeks, while major applications may take up to thirteen weeks. However, these timeframes can vary.

It's wise to maintain regular contact with your local planning authority to stay informed about any delays or additional information requirements.

If your planning application is refused

Understanding the reasons for refusal

When a local planning authority denies planning permission, it's essential to comprehend the refusal's basis. The decision letter from the local authority will outline specific reasons, often linked to non-compliance with the development plan or material considerations. These reasons might include issues with design, impact on neighbors, or environmental concerns. Reviewing these points carefully will aid in refining your application for resubmission.

Options for appeal and resubmission

You have options after a refusal. Firstly, consider modifying your plans to address the concerns raised. Engaging with a planning officer can provide valuable insights into necessary changes.

Alternatively, you can appeal to the planning inspectorate, a process requiring submission of an appeal form and potentially, further details or revised plans. Remember, the appeal process can be lengthy, so weigh this against the possibility of quicker success through resubmission.

Special considerations in planning permission

Conservation areas and listed buildings

Planning permission in conservation areas or for listed buildings involves additional scrutiny. For listed buildings, you'll need listed building consent, which focuses on preserving the building's historical significance.

Similarly, in conservation areas, extra care is taken to ensure new building work preserves or enhances the area's character. Always consult with your local authority for specific guidelines and possible exemptions under permitted development rights.

Handling environmental impact assessments

For larger or more complex projects, an environmental impact assessment (EIA) might be necessary. This assessment, often coordinated by the environment agency or local highways department, evaluates the proposed development's impact on the environment.

Preparing for an EIA involves gathering detailed plans and studies on aspects like wildlife, traffic, and noise. Early consultation with relevant agencies can streamline this process and prevent delays in your application.

Complying with building regulations

Difference between planning permission and building regulations

Planning permission and building regulations serve distinct purposes in UK construction and renovation projects. Obtaining planning permission primarily concerns the aesthetics and impact of a project on the surrounding environment. In contrast, building regulations focus on safety, energy efficiency, and accessibility standards. Homeowners must often secure both approvals for their projects.

Obtaining building regulations approval

Securing building regulations approval involves a detailed review of the project's construction methods and materials. Homeowners must submit full plans or a building notice to their local building control body.

Full plans require detailed drawings and specifications, while a building notice allows for smaller, less complex projects to start quickly. Compliance with building regulations is verified through inspections during and after construction.

Practical tips from former planning officers

Insider advice for successful applications

Former planning officers emphasize the importance of thorough preparation for a successful planning permission application.

This includes understanding local planning policies, engaging with neighbours early in the process, and considering potential environmental impacts. Clear, accurate planning drawings and a well-prepared application can significantly improve the chances of approval.

Common pitfalls to avoid in the planning process

Avoiding common mistakes can streamline the planning process. Key pitfalls include underestimating the importance of local policies, neglecting neighbour consultations, and submitting incomplete or inaccurate application forms.

Being aware of and respectful towards conservation area and listed building constraints is also crucial.

Frequently asked questions

Can I undertake a retrospective planning application?

If you've already begun or completed building work without the necessary planning permission, a retrospective planning application is your next step. This application is similar to a standard planning application, but it's submitted after the work is done.

The local planning authority then assesses your project as if the work had not yet started. Remember, there's no guarantee of approval, and if your application is refused, you might need to modify or remove the work done.

How to obtain listed building consent?

Listed building consent is mandatory for any alterations to a listed building that affect its character. Start by consulting your local planning authority to understand specific requirements. Submit an application detailing your proposed changes.

It's advisable to seek advice from a conservation officer or a specialist in historical buildings. Remember, undertaking unauthorized work on a listed building is a criminal offense, so it's crucial to obtain this consent before starting any work.

What are permitted development rights?

Permitted development rights allow you to undertake certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These rights depend on factors like your property type, location, and whether any previous changes have been made.

Common examples include small extensions or loft conversions. However, it's wise to check with your local planning authority or obtain a lawful development certificate to ensure your project falls under these rights.

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