The Federation of Master Builders

Planning Permission: A Beginner's Guide

Many people about to embark on an extension, renovation or home improvement project are left wondering whether or not they will need to apply for planning permission. If that’s you then please read on as we answer the main questions on this tricky subject.

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What is Planning Permission and do I need it?

Planning permission refers to the approval given by the local authority under the power given to it by the 1948 Town and Country Planning Act to allow the building of, or changes to, a building. Planning permission is sometimes also known as planning consent. You can find out who your local authority is here.

If you live in England or Wales, you can check whether or not you are likely to require planning permission by visiting the Planning Portal.

Those living in Scotland can check by visiting www.mygov.scot whilst those living in Northern Ireland can visit Planning Northern Ireland.

You can also check the Planning Portal’s list of 50 common home building projects for information on planning rules, permitted development limits and building regulations for each one.

It’s always best to contact your local planning department to find out if you require planning permission before you proceed. Not all building work, extensions or home alterations require you to apply for planning permission — some fall under something known as permitted development.

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Building a New Structure or Extending

In the case of complete new builds, conversions and some larger extensions, planning permission will almost always be required — and if you live in a listed building you will need Listed Building Consent.

If you go ahead with a project that requires planning permission without first gaining consent, you may well be forced to demolish any building work or put it right at a later date — a costly exercise. Your local authority might request that you submit a retrospective planning application for work carried out without consent, although this does not mean permission will be granted. If the retrospective application is refused, the local authority could issue you with an enforcement notice meaning you will have to reverse the work.

You should also be aware that properties that have had work carried out to them illegally are unmortgageable — a problem that will most definitely come to light should you try to sell.

 

Renovation Work and Conversions 

Some renovation work needs planning permission, as do most conversions (e.g. changing the use of a building from a barn to a house). Planning permission is not required in all cases, but always check with your local planning department if you’re in any doubt. Minor alterations may well be allowed under Permitted Development.

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Project and image by FMB member A J Field Developments Ltd

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Project and image by FMB member Stonewood Builders Ltd

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Project and image by FMB member Excel Home Design Ltd

Listed Buildings

Anyone living in a listed building must obtain Listed Building Consent from their local authority before starting any building work, including alterations or extensions that will affect the building’s character as a building of special architectural or historic interest — it is a criminal offence to carry out work requiring listed building consent without obtaining it first. You might also need consent to carry out work to any outbuildings in the grounds if your home is listed.

It’s also worth noting that planning permission might be needed in addition to Listed Building Consent. Contact the planning or conservation officers at your local planning authority to find out.

Designated Areas

Buildings located in designated areas, such as a Conservation Area, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or within a National Park, have an extra layer of scrutiny applied to any renovation or extension work. You can check with your local authority if your property lies within one of these areas.

In properties within these ‘designated areas’ permitted development rights tend to be more restricted, and you may well need to apply for planning permission for types of work that would not otherwise require an application.

One of the main restrictions placed on buildings within Conservation Areas tends to be when it comes to demolition. You will need planning permission in order to demolish a building within a Conservation Area unless:

  • The building you are demolishing (garages and outbuildings, for example) is less than 115m3 (measured externally).
  • The building was built after 1914 and was used for agriculture or forestry.
  • You want to demolish a gate, wall or fence less than 1m high abutting a highway or 2m high elsewhere. 

The best advice is to contact your local planning authority to discuss your proposals — they will tell you whether or not your development will be permitted.

What is Outline Planning Permission? 

Outline planning permission gives permission in principle — it does not give permission for the work to begin. It is useful when considering buying a house, or piece of land, with a view to developing it. Outline permission enables you to get a feel for whether your plans are likely to be passed, or flat refused, before you go forward with a fully detailed planning proposal.

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What is Permitted Development?

Permitted Development is designed to allow homeowners to carry out certain projects, such as small-scale extensions, without having to apply for planning permission. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings.

If you live in a designated area, such as a Conservation Area, you may also find that your permitted development rights are more restricted.

If the work you are carrying out does fall under permitted development, there is no need for you to apply to the local planning authority for permission — although occasionally you may need to submit ‘prior notification’ before carrying out the work (see below.)

You can see the list of work that will fall under permitted development below, although it is still recommended that you contact your local planning authority to double check if in any doubt at all. The Planning Portal’s interactive house tool allows you to see which work is likely to require permission too.

Also, permitted development rights do not mean you can ignore other permissions, regulations or consent, such as building regulations approval.

It’s worth knowing that the local planning authority can remove some permitted development rights under something known as an ‘Article 4’ direction. These are issued where the character of an area of ‘acknowledged importance’ could be threatened. This most commonly occurs in Conservation Areas and whilst you would probably be aware if your property is affected by one, you should always check with the local planning authority if you are not sure.

Permitted development rights fall into various categories:

  • Class A: Extensions (enlargement, improvement or alteration). This allows the construction of:
    • a single storey side extension up to half the width of the existing dwelling.
    • a single storey rear extension up to 4m in length for a detached dwelling and 3m long for a semi or a terraced house.
    • in some instances, 3m two-storey rear extensions.

You should note that changes made in May 2019 made it permissible to construct single-storey extensions of up to 8m – or 6m for semi or terraced houses – under Class A, but they will require ‘prior notification’ (see below).

  • Class B: The Roof. Rear dormers and hip-to-gable extensions can be created providing the additional volume does not exceed 50m3 (or 40m3 in the case of semis or terraced homes).

  • Class C: Other roof alterations

  • Class D: Porches

  • Class E: Outbuildings etc. Outbuildings can be erected within a residential curtilage, providing they sit behind the main (usually the front) elevation and do not cover more than 50% of the curtilage. They should not be more than 3m in height (4m for dual-pitched roofs or 2.5m if within 2m of a boundary).

Prior notification

Prior notification is a type of permitted development. It means that before you begin work, you must notify the local planning authority of the details of the project before work can begin.

In the case of prior notice applications, the local planning authority has more input when it comes to deciding factors such as whether the materials you are using are appropriate, whether your proposal is in line with the objectives of the National Planning Policy Framework, and the like.

That said, Prior Notification allows for many projects to be carried out without the need to apply for planning permission. Perhaps most notably for many homeowners, Prior Notification allows for single storey rear extensions to be built up to 8m in depth (or 6m for terraced or semis), providing the boundary neighbours have been informed.

If no objections are received (or considered to have any merit), and the local planning authority is happy that there will be no adverse impacts from flooding, highways or contaminations, then a Lawful Development Certificate will be issued.

Prior notification can also be used to alter the use of non-residential buildings to residential use.

To submit an application for Prior Approval go to:

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How to Make a Planning Application

Along with the application form, you will need to submit the following if you apply online:

  • Location plan.
  • Site plan.
  • Elevations of both the existing and the proposed designs.
  • An ownership certificate.
  • A design and access statement.
  • An ‘Agricultural Holdings Certificate’. This confirms whether any of the land relating to the application is part of an agricultural holding and is necessary even if your application is for a non-agricultural use. The certificate is available from the forms section of your application.
  • The correct fee.

How Long Does Planning Permission Last?

Planning permission lasts for three years from the date when full consent is given, in most cases. In other words, you must begin building work within this time. Once work has formally commenced (which is after the first building regulations inspection) planning permission lasts forever.

How Much Does Planning Permission Cost? 

The cost of planning permission varies depending on where you live in the UK. However, at present the costs are as follows:

England

  • £462 for a full application for a new house.
  • £206 for an extension application (also known as a householder application).
  • Outline applications cost £462 per 0.1 hectares.

Wales

  • £380 for a new dwelling.
  • £190 for a householder application.
  • Outline applications cost £380 per 0.1 hectares.

Scotland 

Northern Ireland

The final cost will be affected by a number of other variables. For example, you may need to pay for surveys, the fees of a design professional, and the cost of subsequent applications that meet changes to your original application. The Planning Portal’s fee calculator offers a very useful guide to planning permission costs.

How Long Does Planning Permission Take?

A decision on your planning application should arrive within eight weeks. However, more involved designs and complex situations often take longer.

  • Once you have submitted your application, a notice will be put up outside your house detailing the proposed works.

  • Your neighbours will receive written notification and be invited to view the plans and pass comment — something known as the ‘public consultation process’ which lasts between three and eight weeks.

  • The authority will consult with the local highways department and, in some cases, the Environment Agency too.

  • Often homeowners are required to make more than one application, taking into consideration revisions to their original plans. You can expect your application to take longer if this happens to your project.

  • Once planning permission is granted, there may be certain planning conditions to be addressed – for example those relating to the materials you will be using, such as bricks or roof tiles.


While you wait for a decision, use the time wisely. If you haven’t already, now is the time to find a builder for the project, source the best deals on materials and draw up a schedule of works.

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Project and image by FMB member Campbell Construction Crieff

Why Might I Be Refused Planning Permission and What Do I Do About it? 

If your application is refused you have two choices. You can either amend your plans in accordance with the local authority’s reasons for refusal and resubmit; or you can make an appeal, free of charge. In either case, you need to ascertain the reasons for your refusal in order to move forward in a way that will result in a positive final outcome.

Once you have submitted your application, there will have been a period of ‘public consultation’ lasting between three and eight weeks. During this time, anyone who might be affected by your proposals is consulted. They may raise objections, although these do not always impact the final decision of the case officer in charge of your application.

If, during this period, it looks like your application will be rejected, you have the option to withdraw the application, make changes you think necessary, and resubmit — free of charge (if done within 12 months).

If your application is refused, you will receive a formal notice of refusal, listing the reasons the application has been declined. If there is anything on the notice you don’t understand (planning jargon can be difficult to decipher), you can ask the planning committee or the case officer.

Reasons for refusal vary, but range from your building work being outside the development boundary to it having a negative impact on the surrounding environment. Sometimes, the privacy rights of neighbouring homes are cited as a reason for refusal, or the changes you are making are deemed out-of-keeping with the local street scene.

If you choose to launch an appeal, then it must be lodged within three months. Details of how to appeal are sent out with refusal notices, which usually states which local planning policy your application contravenes — as a result of this, any appeal you lodge must show how this will no longer be the case.

If you decide to stick with your original plans, your appeal should include all the reasons why you think your application should have been granted permission. You must also complete forms that will be sent to you from the council. It can help to use the services of a planning consultant, although you will need to factor in the cost of doing this.

The council must respond within six weeks of your appeal being submitted, after which you have three weeks to respond again. Then a planning inspector will visit your site and give their decision on the appeal within two to six weeks of their visit — appeals can take from around five months.

Resubmitting your application, with an amended set of plans, that take into account the original reasons for refusal, is likely to be more straightforward than the appeals process.

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