Planning Permission

There is a great deal of mystery around planning permission, however it is fairly simple to understand the basics. Firstly, there are two types of planning permission which relate to building a new home. These are outline and full planning permission.

Full planning permission allows a proposed development to be built subject to some initial conditions. These usually focus on obtaining prior approval of external materials, landscaping and other fundamental issues, especially detailing the date by which a project must be commenced by. These must be outlined formally and agreed with the local authority planning department, usually before work begins, otherwise any approval will be invalidated.

Outline planning permission means that in principle a development has been granted though it does not provide permission to commence work. An application for ‘reserved matters’ , such as the size of the proposed construction, its appearance, position, landscaping and access, will need to be submitted and further approved before work can take place. Should detailed plans deviate significantly from the original outline planning proposal full planning permission will need to be obtained.

Improving your chances of Success

It is wise to seek pre-application advice from your local planning authority planning officer. He/she can assess the liklihood of your application being successful and will be able to advise you on whether any additional documents or surveys may be necessary to validate the application. Pre-application advice is sometimes freely given, however many local authorities charge for the service, and while there is no nationally fixed fee you should expect to pay between £50-£100 for the facility. It is important to note that advice tendered by a planning officer as part of pre-application advice is not binding on any final decision.

Choosing an architect or architectural designer with knowledge and experience of dealing with your local planning authority can save on delay and may well improve your chances of success. If the application is potentially contentious, seeking advice from a professional planning consultant may also be money well spent.

It is also a very good idea to approach your neighbours prior to submitting your application. They may be concerned about how your proposals will affect their own property. Discussing your plan with drawings and sketches will help them visualise what you hope to achieve. Consider whether you should amend your plans to take their worries into account before submitting your application.

Making an Application

A planning application can be made digitally at or you can submit paper forms. You may apply for planning permission on your own behalff, or  appoint an agent, such as your architect, to make the application for you. You do not need to own the land to be able to make an application, it is not uncommon to make the purchase of land conditional on achieving outline planning permission, however you must inform the owners beforehand .

How much does it cost?

An application for a new build will set you back about £400, with extensions and remodels around half as much. However, the biggest cost is going to be the preparation of architectural drawings, surveys and reports..

How long does it take?

Providing everything is satisfactory, you will receive a letter giving you the reference number and a date (eight weeks for minor applications, 13 weeks for larger) by which you should have received a written decision. It will advise you that if you do not have that determination within the allotted timescale, you have the right to extend the period or seek to appeal against their non-determination.

Most single home applications are granted approval by the case officers using delegated powers. Where there are other issues or a large number of valid objections, the planning committee of elected officials will debate the application. Both will take the recommendations of the case officer into account but need not necessarily abide by them. You are entitled to lobby members of the committee for support and objectors may well choose to do likewise. Some local authorities permit applicants to address the committee directly, during a hearing. If an application is recommended by the planning officers for refusal, withdrawing the application and making some amendments can be a better tactic than allowing it to be refused and then trying to appeal; the latter can be a exhausting process. Understanding the reasons for likely refusal and modifying the design accordingly, it is often better to make a fresh (and free) application.

Tips for Success

  • If you can, apply for a little more than you expect to build so that you have something to sacrifice should you need to make a compromise.
  • If elements of your design are contentious, remove them, get approval for the main scheme, and then reapply for the more controversial aspects later.
  • Consider combining what you can achieve using Permitted Development rights to extend and alter your home with what can be achieved through obtaining planning permission.