Planning permission

New buildings, alterations or extensions to existing structures and changes of use of land and buildings may all require 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, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or a Conservation Area will generally be subject to far more stringent rules than other parts of the country. Listed buildings and Conservation Areas will generally be subject to more stringent rules.

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 which 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.

Prior to submitting a formal planning permission application, it can be 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 either be done personally or handled by an architect, solicitor or planning consultant. Various 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 has 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 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.

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.

In Scotland:

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.

Applicants of planning permission can lodge an 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 which has received approval cannot appeal against the decision.