Planning permission is required to turn a piece of land into a viable building plot or when making significant alterations to an existing home, or when making smaller home improvements to a listed building or a property in a designated area. We advise Clients and act on their behalf to secure planning permission from the local authority in order to proceed.

Planning permission applications can be time-consuming and stressful, especially if the design or the proposed works are something non-standard. We provide our clients with advice on what the planning process involves and what the planners are likely to approve.

We have provided here a guide for what can make a successful application — from explanation of cases that need planning permission to how long the process should take and what the options are if an application is rejected.

What is Planning Permission?

Planning permission is the consent of the local planning authority on a proposed building project. The planning system aims to deter inappropriate development. We encourage clients to think about it as a design guide rather than simply a regulatory necessity. The building of a new dwelling, or extensive changes to existing buildings, usually requires planning permission. Simple improvements to listed building would also required planning permission and the same may apply if the property is in a designated land or a conservation area. Planning permission is often the key that turns a piece of agricultural land into a viable building plot. Decisions on whether planning permission is granted are made in line with national guidance (in the form of the National Planning Policy Framework) and the local planning policies set out by the local authority – these are sometimes contained in the council supplementary planning guidance (SPG).

When Do I Need Planning Permission?

  • Usually, planning permission is required if the Client intends to create a new dwelling from greenfield land or by subdividing an existing home.
  • Larger outbuildings or extensions, or builds/improvements in Designated Areas or involving Listed Buildings, are also likely to require planning permission.
  • Smaller additions and improvements can normally be made under Permitted Development and we can advise our Clients if permitted development rights would allow the project to be progressed through the planning system using the permitted development route.

How Much Does a Planning Permission Application Cost?

The cost of submitting a planning application varies across the UK, but is currently £462 for a full application for a new single dwelling in England. For home improvers, an application in England for an extension currently costs £206, whereas in Wales the cost of a typical householder application is currently £190.

This excludes the cost of preparing the plans and documents (the design fees) in readiness for submission and any accompanying surveys (such as the measured survey and the ecological surveys) which may be required. In some cases, our Clients may need to make more than one planning application in order to reach agreement with the council and make revisions to the plans accordingly. This may involve further design fees. A minimum budget of around £2,000 is probably realistic for getting planning permission.

How Long Does Planning Permission Last?

A planning permission expires after three years from the date full consent is granted to begin building, unless stated otherwise. If planning permission is granted and the client does not start and then decides to start building works when the expiry date is imminent, it may be best to reapply to ensure adequate time is left to plan effectively.

Are There Different Types of Planning Permission?

  • Full Planning PermissionThis grants permission for a project with a detailed design. But before going full steam ahead on site, the planning conditions attached to the consent must be discharged. They must be satisfied formally by letter by the local authority, usually before commencing work — otherwise the approval is invalidated.
  • Outline Planning PermissionThis grants permission in principle, but does not include design specifics. It is important to note that outline planning consent does not provide permission to start work. An application for ‘reserved matters’ – which may include the size of the proposed house, appearance, position, landscaping and access – will need to be submitted and approved before work can take place.
  • If your detailed plans deviate significantly from the original outline planning then you’ll likely need to submit for full planning. Also, if you are keen to start your project quickly, then it makes sense to apply for full planning permission.

How Long Does it Take to Get Planning Permission?

We usually follow up with the local planning authority to check if the planning application has been approved after eight weeks — although more complex schemes can take longer.

A lamp post sign is placed outside the address relating to the proposed development and any neighbours likely to be affected are written to and invited to view the plans and to comment. This is known as the public consultation process and it takes three to eight weeks. The comments are available to view in the public domain through the planning portal of the local authority. The authority will make statutory consultations to the local Highways department, and where necessary the Environment Agency as well as others.

Realistically, for “ambitious” planning applications where the client and the agent want to achieve the maximum potential for their property, more than one application would be required following revisions or changes to the design. We therefore advise Clients to allow for four-five months for each cycle (4-6 weeks for the design to be developed plus 8-14 weeks for the local authority to reply). In our experience most local authorities are stretched and under-resourced. Our experience shows that local authorities are very unlikely to meet the government statutory guidance on deciding on applications within 8 weeks.

Securing planning permission doesn’t necessarily mean that work can start immediately, as most planning permissions come with conditions attached to the consent. Such conditions include but are not limited to type of cladding (brickwork, façade), type of roof lights if approved in Conservation Areas, roofing materials, bikes storage, types of bins to be provided and their location. Approval may be required for the choice of products to ensure meeting the local authority consent conditions.

Do you provide advice on development potential of land plots?

If you are considering investing in a plot of land, we can provide advice on the potential of a development. This could save you thousands of pounds on buying a project that turns out not to be feasible. We have experience in the dynamic and changing planning policies.

Whether your intention is to extend, renovate or build a new home, our advice would not only help you consider various options, costs and planning feasibility. This is particularly critical if the project is in a Conservation Area or An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a listed building or a land that has been turned down for development before.

What Does a Planning Application Include?

  • an application form
  • the signed ownership certificate
  • a site plan, block plan, elevations of both the existing and proposed sites,
  • a Design and Access Statement
  • a Heritage Statement if applicable
  • the correct fee

What’s a Design and Access Statement?

A design and access statement accompanies each planning application in unprotected areas and changes of use projects. Statements are used to justify a proposal’s design concept and the access to it. The level of detail depends on the scale of the project and its sensitivity.

Most authorities will have guidance notes also referred to as Supplementary Planning Guidance to set out the policy, vision and planning restrictions of the local authority. The design and access statement will communicate to planners how the design satisfies the national and local planning guidance.

What’s a Heritage Statement?

A heritage statement is required when the application is in a Conservation Area. It will demonstrate how the proposed development complies with the protections applicable to each Conservation Area.

What Factors Affect the Granting of Planning Permission?

The local authority would base its decision on ‘material considerations’, which usually include but are not limited to:

  • Overlooking/loss of privacy
  • Loss of light or overshadowing
  • Parking and provision of car parks or bike sheds
  • Highway safety
  • Traffic
  • Noise
  • Impact on the street scene and particularly the high street if applicable
  • Waste management (general waste, recycling, number and locations of bins)
  • Impact on listed building and Conservation Area
  • Layout and density of building
  • Design, appearance and materials
  • Government policy
  • Disabled access
  • Proposals in the development plan
  • Previous planning decisions
  • Nature conservation

Neighbours will be consulted and invited to comment but only objections based on material considerations are considered in the decision-making process. If the neighbours do not object and the officers recommend approval, they will usually grant planning permission for a householder application using what are known as delegated powers.

What If Someone Objects?

We advise Clients to be prepared for comments by neighbours who can be affected by proposed works. People are very attached to their properties and communities and have the statutory right to be part of the process in making decisions that may affect their home, their view or their property’s value – or even just the street they live on. The planning system is very democratic, reflects our culture and at the same time allows for considerate development.

We always advise our Clients to communicate with their neighbours, transparently and politely, by sharing the plans. We would also recommend that minor changes are incorporated if possible without undermining the intended works to avoid local objections.

In cases where objections are received or the application is called into a committee by one of the local councillors, then the decision will be made by a majority vote by the local planning committee. We can represent the Client in such meetings as we are sometimes given an opportunity to address the planning committee, but this time is limited to a maximum of three minutes.

We can also represent the client in face-to-face meetings during site assessment carried out the planners. This can be very helpful in thrashing out the justification for objections. Requests for changes should be based on planning policies and they should be consistent with other recent decisions in the area. We therefore research planning approvals in the area and include details of precedents in the application.

Can the Design be Changed Once I Have Planning Permission?

We advise Clients to consider the details of their application prior to formally submitting the application. Usually, we can make minor alterations by applying for a non-material amendment. However, major alterations could involve a further application for full planning permission. The reason for this is that major alterations would require a new consultation which means an application would need to be remade to allow the local authority and affected neighbours sufficient time to comment and evaluate the proposal.

What Happens if I Planning Permission is not Granted and a Planning Application is Refused ?

We track our success rate and are well above the national average as around 80% of our applications are accepted. In England around 75% of applications are granted. If the application is rejected, we advise Clients on how to amend and resubmit after addressing the reasons for refusal. In rare cases, we can can make an appeal to the planning inspectorate. Around 40% of householder applications that are refused are later granted at appeal.

Can I Build Without Planning Permission?

We strongly advise against this approach. Developing land without planning permission is not lawful. If an owner fails to get consent for a project, the local planning authority can take action to have the work altered or demolished. In this instance, a retrospective planning application can be made and if this is refused the owner can appeal the decision. If the appeal is lost, the works can prove very costly.

There is a legal loophole: if no enforcement action is taken within four years of completion, the development becomes immune from enforcement action (10 years for a change of use). The development then becomes lawful — but this is too great a risk to take. Please also note that it is very difficult to sell a property without having building control completion certificate. This is a separate matter but also relevant to building without obtaining the correct consents and permits.

Altering a listed building without prior permission is, however, a criminal offence, and in extreme cases it can lead to prosecution and unlimited fines — and even imprisonment. So do ensure you apply for approval first.

Is Planning Permission possible for a Building a Home in the Countryside?

We encourage Clients to explore the development potential of land in the country side. The common belief is that it is harder to get planning permission when building a home in the countryside. However it certainly isn’t out of the question. Under Paragraph 79 (formerly Paragraph 55) of the National Planning Policy Framework, it is even possible to build in green belt land, if your project can be shown to be of particular architectural merit and worth.

What are the key considerations when planning a development

  • A Client can make a planning application on any piece of land— you don’t have to own it
  • A planning decision should take no longer than eight weeks but Clients should allow for 12-16 weeks for the design and the local authority to make a decision if only one cycle of applications is made.
  • The objections of neighbours may well not have any impact on the final decision but it is crucially important to communicate transparently and politely with neighbours by sharing the plans.
  • An application can be withdrawn at any time — so if you think you are going to get a refusal, you can withdraw it at any time up to the day itself, and resubmit free of charge
  • We can submit an infinite number of planning applications on any one site — the Client can choose which one to use. As long as it is current, the Client doesn’t have to use the most recent