When do you need planning permission?
Planning permission may be required for the following:
building any new structures on a plot of land
making any major alterations to buildings (eg constructing an extension)
most changes to 'use classes' of building or land (ie where the premises will be used for a different purpose)
Whether or not planning permission is required often depends on the individual policies of each local planning authority. For example, stringent rules can apply to; an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Conservation Area and listed buildings.
When don't you need planning permission?
Certain building projects do not require planning permission. These types of projects come with 'permitted development rights':
certain outdoor signs and advertisements (subject to limits and conditions)
industrial premises and warehouses (subject to special rules)
demolition (although approval must be sought from the local planning authority)
Other projects which have no impact on neighbours and the environment, as well as those that benefit the local community (eg Neighbourhood Planning and Community Right to Build), may not require planning permission. However, it’s important to check with the local planning authority.
How does the planning permission process work?
Before submitting a formal planning permission application, it is useful to have an informal discussion with a local planning officer. This pre-application advice, which may incur a charge, can help you understand how any local planning policies could affect your application and reduce the likelihood of submitting an invalid application.
Most planning applications are submitted online through the Planning Portal. This can be done personally or handled by an architect, solicitor or planning consultant. Specific planning consents may need to be applied for (eg listed building consent), as well as building regulations approval (submitted via a separate application). The application should include:
location plan and site plan
any necessary supporting documentation (eg ownership certificate and design and access statement)
completed standard application form
relevant application fee, and
any specific documentation required by the local planning authority
Once the application is submitted it will normally take a few days for the local planning authority to validate the request (if it is deemed invalid, reasons should be given in writing). The application will then be publicised and consulted upon (eg views/opinions may be sought from neighbours) before being sent to the planning committee or a senior planning officer who will make a decision. The majority of planning applications will receive a decision within eight weeks - but more complex applications can take up to 13 weeks.
Requirements to receive planning permission
Planned builds must meet certain requirements in order to be approved. Specific requirements vary somewhat depending on, for example, the area land is located in.
For example, from February 2023, all planning applications for residential buildings in Greater London over 30 metres tall must have at least 2 staircases for fire safety purposes to be considered for final approval. This regulation may be rolled out to the rest of England in future, so property developers should monitor developments carefully.
What happens if you don't get planning permission?
In England and Wales:
If planning permission has been refused, the local planning authority must give written reasons for their decision. It can be useful to find out from them whether changing the plans will make a difference; if so, another application with modified plans can be submitted free of charge within 12 months of the decision of the first application. Another option is to appeal the decision.
If planning permission has been refused, the local planning authority will provide reasons in its decision notice. If you don’t agree with the decision you can request a review by the planning authority’s local review body or appeal to the Scottish Ministers.
How do you appeal a planning permission decision?
Applicants of planning permission can appeal if the local planning authority has refused permission, imposed conditions or if their decision is delayed. Normally appeals are submitted online. Third parties (eg neighbours) who have objected to a planning application that has received approval cannot appeal against the decision.
Read the government’s guidance for more information.