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Planning Permission: A Step by Step Guide

Planning Permission

Whether you’re considering a small home improvement project or a major renovation, understanding the intricacies of planning permission is crucial. In this guide, we’ll walk you through every aspect of the process, from the basics to the nitty-gritty details. So, let’s get started on your journey to transforming your home!

What is Planning Permission?

Planning permission is a formal approval granted by your local planning authority that allows you to carry out specific building work or changes to your property. It ensures that your project complies with local regulations and is safe for you and your neighbors.

Understanding planning permission is essential because it distinguishes legal construction from unauthorised work. Without it, you risk penalties and having to undo any unapproved changes.

Why is Planning Permission Important?

Planning permission serves several vital purposes:

Legal Compliance: It ensures that your project complies with local zoning regulations and building codes.

Safety: Planning authorities assess projects for safety, considering factors such as structural integrity and fire safety.

Environmental Impact: It helps mitigate environmental concerns, such as the impact on wildlife and drainage.

Neighbour Relations: The planning process allows neighbors to voice concerns and ensures projects don’t adversely affect them.

What are Permitted Development Rights?

Permitted development rights grant homeowners the freedom to make certain changes to their properties without the need for planning permission. These rights often cover minor alterations and extensions within specified limits.

Permitted development rights exist to simplify and streamline minor home improvements while preserving overall control over major developments. However, they come with limitations to prevent overdevelopment and protect the character of neighborhoods.

Limitations and Conditions

Permitted development rights vary based on location, property type, and local restrictions. Some common limitations include:

Size Restrictions: Limits on the size of extensions, conservatories, and other additions.

Materials: Requirements for materials used in construction to ensure they blend with the existing property.

Location Considerations: Prohibitions on projects near listed buildings, in conservation areas, or areas with specific planning policies.

Understanding these limitations is essential for homeowners to determine whether their project qualifies for permitted development or requires planning permission.

See our Permitted Development blog if you want to find out more!

Do You Need Planning Permission?

Understanding the scope of your project is the first step in determining whether you need planning permission. Here are some common types of home improvement projects:

Extensions: Expanding your living space, including single-story and double-story extensions.

Loft Conversions: Transforming your attic into a usable room.

Conservatories: Adding a new room with plenty of natural light.

Outbuildings: Erecting structures like sheds, garages, and garden offices.

Each project type may have specific planning requirements and limitations.

Location Matters

The location of your property plays a crucial role in determining whether planning permission is required. Key considerations include:

Conservation Areas: Properties in conservation areas often face stricter planning regulations to protect historical and architectural heritage.

Listed Buildings: If your property is listed, any changes require special consideration to preserve its historic character.

Zoning and Local Policies: Local authorities may have specific zoning policies affecting your property. It’s important to understand these policies before starting a project.

Planning Permission
Aa Drafting Solutions

Common Home Improvement Projects

House extensions are a popular way to increase living space, but planning requirements can vary depending on the scale and location of the project. Here’s an overview:

Single-Story Extensions: Typically require planning permission if they extend beyond certain limits.

Double-Story Extensions: Often need planning permission due to their larger impact on a property.

Rear Extensions: The placement of the extension, especially in relation to boundaries, can influence planning requirements.

There are various factors that could make it ineligible for an extension to be carried out under Permitted Development rights. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

Property Type: For detached houses, single-storey extensions extending beyond 4 meters from the rear of the house will necessitate planning permission, while for terraced and semi-detached properties, this limit is 3 meters. However, larger extensions of up to 8 meters for detached homes and 6 meters for semi-detached homes can be constructed under Prior Approval. Different rules apply to maisonettes and ground floor flats.

Land Area: If the extension exceeds half the land area of the original house as it stood in 1948, it may not qualify for Permitted Development.

Materials: If the materials used for the extension visually differ from the rest of the house, it may not be permitted.

Proximity to Boundary: Two-storey extensions located closer than 7 meters to the property boundary may not be eligible.

Positioning: If the extension extends forward from the principal or side elevation facing onto a highway, it might not qualify.

Height: If the height of a single-storey extension exceeds 4 meters or is higher than the tallest part of the existing roof, it may not be permitted.

Balcony or Veranda: Including a balcony or veranda in your extension design may also impact its eligibility under Permitted Development rules.

Loft Conversions

Loft conversions offer an opportunity to transform underutilised attic space into a functional room. Planning considerations for loft conversions may include:

Dormer Windows: Adding dormer windows often requires planning permission due to their impact on the building’s exterior.

Velux Windows: Roof windows, like Velux, are usually covered by permitted development rights, but restrictions apply.

Homeowners should check whether their loft conversion plans align with permitted development or necessitate planning permission.


Conservatories are a popular choice for homeowners seeking to create additional living space with plenty of natural light. Key considerations include:

Size Limits: Planning permission may be required for conservatories beyond a certain size.

Materials and Design: The materials used and design features must align with planning regulations and not impact neighbors’ amenity.

Understanding size limitations and design requirements is crucial when planning a conservatory project.


Outbuildings, such as sheds, garages, and garden offices, can serve various purposes. Here’s what homeowners should know:

Size and Placement: The size and location of outbuildings can influence whether planning permission is needed.

Use: The intended use of the outbuilding, such as storage, a home office, or a gym, can impact planning requirements.

Homeowners should review the specific planning regulations governing outbuildings based on their project’s characteristics.

Swift Direct Blinds

What are the Different Types of Planning Permission?

Different types of planning permission are available, each tailored to specific projects and constructions:

Full Planning Permission: This type of permission grants approval for a project based on a detailed design being presented. However, it’s crucial to demonstrate that your project aligns with the planning conditions associated with the permission to validate the approval. These conditions must be formally cleared by the local authority through a written confirmation before commencing the work.

Outline Planning Permission: Unlike comprehensive permission, outline planning permission doesn’t provide specific design details. Instead, it offers a “permission in principle.” It doesn’t authorize the initiation of the work but is often used to assess the feasibility of a construction project. To move forward, an application for “reserved matters” must be submitted and approved, including aspects such as the proposed house’s size, appearance, location, landscaping, and access. If your detailed plans substantially deviate from the original outline permission, you may need to apply for full planning permission.

Householder Planning Permission: This category of permission pertains to making alterations or extensions to an individual house within the property’s boundaries.

The Planning Permission Process

Where to Start: The Planning Portal

The Planning Portal is the central online resource for planning permission applications in the UK. It provides homeowners with access to:

Interactive Guides: Step-by-step instructions to navigate the planning process.

Application Forms: Digital forms for submitting planning permission requests.

Local Planning Authority Information: Details about the planning authority responsible for your area.

Utilising the Planning Portal simplifies the application process and ensures you’re following the correct procedures.

Creating an Account

Creating an account on the Planning Portal is the first step to submitting a planning permission application. Benefits of having an account include:

Save Progress: You can save your application progress and return to it later.

Access to Previous Applications: Your account keeps a history of past applications.

Communication: The portal allows for direct communication with your local planning authority.

Homeowners should create an account to streamline their planning application process.

Completing the Application Form

The planning permission application form is a critical document that requires careful completion. Key details to include in the form are:

Project Details: A thorough description of the proposed work, including its purpose and scale.

Site Information: Information about the property, including its location, size, and boundaries.

Supporting Documents: Any required documents, such as architectural plans and site maps.

Completing the application form accurately and comprehensively is essential to avoid delays or refusals.

Required Documents and Drawings

Accompanying your planning permission application with the appropriate documents is crucial. Here’s what homeowners need to include:

Architectural Plans: Detailed drawings that illustrate the project, including elevations, floor plans, and sections.

Site Map: A map that shows the property, existing structures, and the proposed changes.

Supporting Documents: These may include design statements, heritage assessments, or environmental impact reports, depending on the project’s nature.

Understanding the specific documents required for your project is essential for a successful application.

A Flowchart Of The Planning Permissionprocess, Produced By The Rbkc.

A flowchart of the planning process, produced by the RBKC.

Planning Fees

Embarking on a planning application can be a risky endeavor, and it’s important to be prepared for the costs involved. The less you’re willing to invest, the riskier it becomes. This is because obtaining accurate survey drawings and having the correct technical information can be a substantial expense, but they are essential both for securing permission and ensuring that your approved plans can be successfully executed.

Planning fees are calculated based on the scale and complexity of your project.

While it might be tempting to cut costs during the consent process, doing so can lead to financial repercussions down the line, especially if errors emerge that render your project unviable.

The fees for submitting a planning application vary across the UK, and here are the current charges:

In England: £462 for a full application for a new single dwelling or outline planning permission per 0.1 hectare. For householder applications in England, the fee is £206.

In Wales: £460 for a full application for a new single dwelling or outline planning permission per 0.1 hectare. Householder applications in Wales cost £230.

In Scotland: £401 for a full application for a new single dwelling or outline planning permission per 0.1 hectare. Householder applications in Scotland are £202. If planning permission is granted subject to conditions, additional costs of £116 per application apply for approving details and materials (multiple conditions can often be combined into a single application).

Since April 2008, all local planning departments use the standardized 1APP application form, which can be accessed on the Planning Portal website for your region.

In addition to the application fee, there are other expenses to consider. While specific figures can vary, an average specialist consultant’s report typically costs a few thousand pounds, and planning drawings for a new house are likely to range from £3,000 to well over £10,000 for larger projects. As a rough estimate, planning applications for a single dwelling are unlikely to cost less than £25,000. For more modest domestic extensions, the cost typically falls in the range of £2,000 to £3,000.

Payment Methods

Local planning authorities accept various payment methods for planning fees. These methods typically include:

Online Payment: Secure online payment through the Planning Portal or your local authority’s website.

Cheques: Mailed or delivered to the local authority’s offices.

Bank Transfer: Direct transfer of funds to the authority’s bank account.

Knowing the accepted payment methods simplifies the fee payment process.


Typical Processing Times

You should hear something back within 8 weeks, however this time can significantly depend on several factors, including:

Complexity: More complex projects often require longer processing times.

Local Authority Workload: The workload of your local planning authority can impact the speed of processing.

Objections: If neighbors or organizations raise objections, it can extend the processing time.

Understanding the potential delays and timelines helps homeowners plan their projects effectively.

Expediting the Process

In some cases, homeowners may need to expedite the planning permission process. Strategies for expediting include:

Pre-application Consultation: Meeting with planning officers before submitting the application to address potential issues.

Engaging with Neighbours: Open communication with neighbors can prevent objections that might delay the process.

Addressing Concerns: Promptly addressing concerns raised during the application review can speed up approvals.

Knowing how to expedite the process can be especially useful when time constraints are a consideration.

How Long Does Planning Permission Last?

Planning permission has a limited lifespan, typically lasting for three years from the date when full consent is granted, unless specified differently in your permission documents.

If you find yourself nearing the expiration of your planning consent, you have several options at your disposal. Firstly, you can initiate what’s known as a ‘material start’ on your project. This means you only need to commence the project within the three-year window, not necessarily complete it.

However, if you require more time to plan and execute your project effectively, you’ll need to reapply for planning permission. Keep in mind that the previous option of simply renewing existing planning permission is no longer available, so you must submit a fresh application. It’s important to note that there are no guarantees of receiving planning consent a second time, and the planning policies in place may have evolved significantly over the three-year period.

It’s worth mentioning that planning permission is linked to the land itself. This means that a piece of land can be bought or sold without the planning permission expiring. In fact, having planning permission in place can enhance the value of the land for potential developers.

Given these considerations, it’s advisable to exercise caution when purchasing land with planning permission that is nearing its expiration date. In such cases, the consent may lapse before you have the opportunity to commence your project, potentially resulting in excessive costs. This is particularly pertinent for permissions that were difficult to obtain or in instances where planning policies have undergone substantial changes.

What Documents Are Needed?

Your Local Planning Authority may have specific requirements that planning drawings must meet for acceptance. These requirements typically involve including sufficient details about your proposal and the site, as well as adhering to a recognizable metric scale.

When submitting your planning application, you will generally need to include the following:

Location Plan:

-Scaled at either 1:1250 or 1:2500, preferably on A4-sized paper.

-Should depict all nearby buildings and roads adjacent to the site.

-The application site, along with any land necessary for access to the construction, should be outlined or shaded in red.

-Any other adjacent land that you own or control should be outlined or shaded in blue.

-North Arrow: Indicating the orientation of the map.

-Scale: Displaying the scale of the map to ensure accurate measurements.

-Boundaries: Clearly marked property boundaries.

The site map helps planning authorities understand your project’s location and its relationship with the surrounding area.

Site/Block Plan:

-Offers a closer view of the development site, typically at a scale of 1:100, 1:200, or 1:500.

-Must display the development in relation to site boundaries and existing buildings, complete with measurements.

-Include details about structures, roads, footpaths, public rights of way, and trees, unless these are not affected by the development.

-Specify the amount and type of hard surfacing and details about boundary walls or fences.

Elevations and Floor Plans:

-Elevations depict the appearance of each side of the building, showcasing details such as window and door sizes, as well as external building materials. For extension applications, this part should be emphasized.

-Floor plans offer a top-down view of the property, outlining the layout and dimensions of the proposed project. When adding an extension, highlight the relevant part, and include the existing building’s floorplan for the floor to which the extension is connected (e.g., ground floor for a single-story extension).

If you’re working with professionals like architects or design and build companies, they usually have experience in creating these drawings. However, if you’re undertaking a self-designed project or collaborating with a contractor, you may need to seek external assistance for producing these plans.

Supporting Documents

Depending on the nature of your project, additional supporting documents may be required. These could include:

Design and Access Statements: Explaining the design principles behind your project and addressing access issues. These aren’t always needed for Householder Applications but it can greatly benefit you in some instances.

Heritage Impact Assessment: Necessary if your property is near a listed building or in a conservation area.

Environmental Impact Reports: Required for projects with potential environmental implications.

Understanding which supporting documents are necessary for your project ensures your application is complete and compliant.

Example of a Site Location Plan at 1:1250

Credit: UK Planning Maps


Example of a Site Plan at 1:200

Credit: UK Planning Maps

Plans And Elevation Examples

Example Planning Drawings

Credit: Creative Building Designs

Additional Requirements

Specialist Reports

In some cases, specialist reports or surveys may be necessary to support your planning permission application. Common examples include:

Ecological Surveys: Required for projects near environmentally sensitive areas or habitats.

Arboricultural Reports: Assessing the impact of your project on trees, particularly protected or significant ones.

Flood Risk Assessments: If your property is in a flood-prone area, an assessment may be needed.

Knowing when and how to obtain these specialist reports ensures your application meets all requirements.

Is it Necessary to Inform My Neighbours When Applying for Planning Permission?

While there’s no legal obligation for you to inform your neighbours when you’re submitting a planning application, it’s important to note that neighbours will typically be notified and given the opportunity to provide their input. This process also extends to parish councils in England and Wales. However, it’s essential to understand that only objections based on what are known as ‘material considerations’ are taken into account during the decision-making process.

In cases where neighbours do not raise objections, and the planning officers recommend approval, planning permission for a householder application is often granted through delegated powers.

Building projects, no matter how well-planned, can sometimes cause concerns among neighbours. These concerns may not always be rational, but people often develop strong emotional reactions to changes that they fear could impact their homes, views, property values, or the character of their neighborhood.

Given these sensitivities, it can be beneficial to consider reaching out to your neighbours to discuss your building plans in a friendly and open manner. Sharing your intentions and addressing their concerns beforehand may help alleviate any apprehensions they have when engaging with the local council.

In situations where objections are raised or if a local councilor calls for the application to be reviewed by a committee, the decision will be made through a majority vote by the local planning committee. During the planning meeting, you or your representative will have a limited time, usually a maximum of three minutes, to address the planning committee.

Face-to-face meetings can be valuable for clarifying the reasons behind objections. Any requested modifications should align with planning policies and demonstrate consistency with recent decisions made in the area.

The Planning Permission Decision

Approval or Refusal: The Decision-Making Process

Local planning authorities carefully review planning applications to ensure they comply with regulations and policies. They consider factors such as:

Planning Policies: Your project’s alignment with local planning policies.

Amenity: How your project may affect the amenity of neighboring properties.

Environmental Impact: Assessing the impact on the environment and wildlife.

Safety: Confirming the project’s safety and adherence to building regulations.


If your application is approved, it means that your project complies with the regulations and policies in place. You can proceed with your project, but it’s crucial to understand and comply with any conditions attached to the approval. In some cases, planning permission is granted with specific conditions. See below to read more.


If your application is refused, you have the right to appeal the decision or make amendments to address the reasons for refusal. It’s essential to carefully review the refusal notice and consider your options.

Planning Conditions

Types of Planning Conditions

Planning conditions are requirements imposed by local planning authorities to ensure that your project complies with specific regulations and policies. Common types of conditions include:

Materials: Stipulating the use of particular materials to maintain the project’s visual character.

Landscaping: Requiring landscaping to enhance the project’s appearance and integration into the environment.

Construction Phases: Specifying the sequence of construction to minimize disruption to neighbours.

Environmental Mitigation: Imposing measures to mitigate the project’s impact on the environment.

Understanding the types of planning conditions that may apply to your project is crucial for successful implementation.

Compliance and Documentation

Complying with planning conditions is essential to avoid legal complications. Key steps include:

Record Keeping: Maintaining detailed records of construction activities and compliance efforts.

Site Inspections: Cooperating with site inspections by planning officers to verify compliance.

Documentation: Providing required documentation to demonstrate adherence to conditions.

Proper documentation and compliance efforts ensure that your project remains within the bounds of planning permission.

Making Amendments

Reasons for Amendments

There are various reasons you might need to make amendments to your planning permission:

Design Changes: Alterations to the project’s design due to unforeseen issues or evolving preferences.

Technical Adjustments: Changes required to meet building regulations or unforeseen site conditions.

Community Feedback: Addressing concerns raised by neighbors or local authorities during the planning process.

Understanding the reasons for amendments is crucial when navigating the process.

Requesting Amendments

To request amendments to your planning permission, follow these steps:

Contact Your Local Authority: Reach out to your local planning authority to discuss the proposed changes.

Formal Application: If significant changes are needed, you may need to submit a formal application.

Supporting Documentation: Provide any required documentation to support your request.

Effective communication with your local authority and providing necessary documentation streamlines the process of making amendments.

Appealing a Decision

Grounds for Appeal

You have the right to appeal a planning permission decision if you believe it’s incorrect. Valid grounds for appeal include:

Planning Policies: If you believe the decision doesn’t align with local planning policies.

Procedural Errors: If you identify errors in the decision-making process.

Material Considerations: If you have new evidence or circumstances that weren’t considered during the initial review.

Understanding the grounds for appeal is crucial when challenging a planning decision.

The Appeals Process

The appeals process involves several steps:

Submission: Prepare and submit your appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, typically online.

Evidence: Present your case, providing relevant evidence and documentation to support your appeal.

Inspector’s Visit: An inspector may visit the site to gather additional information.

Decision: The inspector will issue a decision, either upholding the original decision or allowing your appeal.

Navigating the appeals process requires careful preparation and presentation of your case.

Is It Possible to Modify My Design After Receiving Planning Permission?

Prior to a decision being reached on your planning application, you have the flexibility to withdraw it at any point. This means that if you anticipate a possible rejection, you can withdraw your application up to the very day of the decision and reapply without incurring any additional fees.

Once your planning permission has been granted, you do have the option to make minor adjustments by applying for a non-material amendment. However, if your proposed alterations are substantial, it may necessitate a new application for full planning permission. To navigate this process smoothly, it’s advisable to consult with your local planning authority to discuss your plans beforehand.

What Are the Consequences of Building Without Planning Permission?

While constructing on land without obtaining planning permission is not illegal, it is deemed unlawful. Consequently, if you proceed with a project without the necessary consent, the local planning authority has the authority to take corrective measures, which may involve altering or even demolishing the work. In such a situation, you do have the option to submit a retrospective planning application, and if it gets denied, you can appeal the decision. However, it’s essential to be aware that losing such an appeal can result in substantial financial expenses.

It’s crucial to note that making alterations to a listed building without obtaining prior permission is considered a criminal offense. In extreme cases, this can lead to prosecution, unlimited fines, and even imprisonment. Therefore, it’s imperative to ensure that you apply for and secure the required approval before embarking on any construction project

What is the 4 Year Rule?

A Legal Loophole to Be Aware Of: After the completion of a development, there exists a window of opportunity within which no enforcement action can be taken for a specified period, typically four years (or ten years in the case of a change of use).

During this time frame, it’s possible to seek a Certificate of Lawfulness if you can demonstrate that the building has remained in consistent use for the past four years. This can lead to the development being deemed lawful. However, it’s important to emphasize that this approach carries a substantial level of risk. It’s essential to note that any changes intentionally concealed will not be eligible for gaining approval through the ‘four-year rule’ over time.

Find a Professional to help with gaining planning permission on your project. Search our directory here.

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