Understanding planning permission

Nick Adams - Director at Nick Adams Architects

Understanding planning permission Expert Opinion

Nick talks us through some of the most common questions about planning.

What is planning permission?  Think of planning permission as asking if you can do some building work on your property, it will either be granted (maybe with conditions) or refused. Parliament has handed responsibility for planning to local councils. So, if you have any questions about a particular case, your first port of call should be the planning department at your local council. It is your responsibility as the property owner to seek planning permission and if required, it should be granted before you begin building work.

What is the difference planning permission and permitted development and how do you choose which route to take?
You can perform some building work without the need to apply for planning permission, these are call “permitted development rights”. You can find out if you need planning permission or if you can complete your works under permitted development by using the planning portal guides.

Permitted development right vary between types of buildings and for example flats, maisonettes and commercial have different rights to dwellings. Rights are also more restricted in some areas of the country, known generally as ‘designated areas’, these can include:

  • Conservation Areas
  • National Parks
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • World Heritage Site

If you want to be certain that the existing use of a building is lawful for planning purposes or that your proposal does not require planning permission, you can apply for a 'Lawful Development Certificate' (LDC). It is not compulsory to have an LDC but there may be times when you need one to confirm that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning control purposes.

What do I need to provide to make an application?
As a minimum, you must provide the following documents for your planning application to be valid:

  • Standard application form
  • Most planning applications require two plans to be submitted as supporting documents:
    • Location plan – which shows the site area and its surrounding context.
    • Site Plan (sometimes known as a block plan) – which shows the proposed development in detail
  • An ownership certificate
  • Agricultural holdings certificate – this is required whether or not the site includes an agricultural holding.
  • Design and access statement (if required) – this should outline the design principles and concepts that have been applied to the proposed development and how issues relating to access to the development have been dealt with.
  • Correct application fee

A Design and Build Contractor or Architect can help you with the plans for your application and preparing it for submission.

How much does it cost to make an application?
The fee associated with a planning application depends on the type and scale of the development. In England, for a typical householder application the cost is £206.

Will it take long to get a decision?
Most planning applications are decided within eight weeks, unless they are unusually large or complex in which case the time limit is extended to 13 weeks.

What happens if I’m refused permission?
If the local planning authority refuses permission or imposes conditions, it must give written reasons. If you are unhappy or unclear about the reasons for refusal or the conditions imposed, talk to your local authority planning department.

If your application has been refused, you may be able to submit another application with modified plans free of charge within 12 months of the decision on your first application. Alternatively, if you think the authority's decision is unreasonable, you may wish to consider making a planning appeal. Making an appeal should always be the last resort.

How long does planning permission last?
Planning permission expires after a certain period. Generally, unless your permission says otherwise, you have three years from the date it's granted to begin the development. If you haven't started work by then, you will probably need to reapply or apply to extend the permission before it expires.