Planning permission: what it is, why you need it and how to get it

Our guide to planning permission covers all you need to know from what it is, when you need it and when you don’t. It includes information on how much planning costs, how long it takes and what you should do if planning is refused (although this rarely happens).

What is planning permission?

Planning permission is the consent your local planning authority (LPA) awards so you can proceed with your proposed building project. Planning rules are in place to stop inappropriate development.

You may need planning consent for a house extension, barn conversion or to build a new dwelling. When you secure planning consent on a piece of land its value will increase as it will become a key asset for future development.

Why do I need planning permission?

When you gain planning consent you can move forward with your proposals lawfully. Without it you may be reported to your LPA’s enforcement team who may require that you apply for retrospective consent or demolish the works. Therefore, we always advise that you seek consent for your proposals to make sure you can proceed with the works with legal certainty.

What about listed buildings?

Working on a listed building without permission is a criminal offence that can lead to prosecution, unlimited fines and even imprisonment. We’ve worked on many heritage properties and listed buildings and offer a range of planning services tailored to ensure your proposals will gain consent.

How much does planning permission cost?

Planning fees vary across the UK as they are set by each country’s government.

In England they are currently £206.00 for householder applications (extension works etc.) and £462.00 for a new dwelling.

In Wales it’s a little less at £190 for householder applications and £380.00 for a new dwelling.

There are also a wide range of further fees for other development types, but this gives a general sense of the most common.

Our own fees vary and are a direct reflection of the level of work required. We tailor our quotations to provide optimum value for your individual project and needs, taking time to understand your brief and any technical and planning constraints the project may have. Because we have offices on either side of the England / Wales border, we have experience working with both the English and Welsh planning authorities.

How long does it take to get planning permission?

Planning applications are divided into two categories, minor and major applications.

Minor applications cover much of the work we’re involved in. The LPA has a statutory period of eight weeks from the date they validate the application to reach a decision. Major applications take longer, at 13 weeks.

Once the LPA has validated the application, they will place a notice outside the site and write to the neighbouring properties inviting them to comment on the application. This is referred to as the public consultation process and takes between three and nine weeks.

In addition to neighbouring properties, the authority will also contact statutory consultees such as the parish council, local highways department, the Environment Agency and other bodies whose specialist knowledge or interest in the development will help the LPA reach their decision.

Throughout the consultation period, we liaise with the planning officers to see how the application is proceeding and check if there are any issues which require amendments. This proactive approach gives us time to resolve any concerns with both you and the LPA. And it’s why we have such a high success rate: in 2019 94% of the planning applications we submitted were approved.

What do you send to the LPA with an application?

All planning applications are submitted online via the Planning Portal. Typically we need to provide the following documents:

  • Existing floor plans and elevations
  • Existing site plan and location plan (usually from an Ordnance Survey map)
  • Existing street scenes (where relevant)
  • Proposed floor plans and elevations
  • Proposed site plan
  • A design and access statement (DAS)
  • Completed planning application forms including declarations of ownership

You pay the fee directly to the LPA via the planning portal’s payment system.

What type of application do I need?

There are several types of planning application including Householder, Full and Outline.

Householder applications typically deal with house extensions, remodelling works or works within the grounds of the home.

Full applications are detailed planning applications that include all the information the LPA requires at the submission stage.

Outline applications establish a principal for development and may not cover details such as what a project may look like, how large it is or its position and orientation on the site. For example, outline consent may be granted for the development of five houses on a parcel of land where the details are unknown and will be dealt with later under what is known as a “reserved matters” application. This covers the “reserved matters” listed in the outline approval.

You can use an outline application to establish a principal of development. This is very useful when you want to explore the feasibility of developing a piece of land while limiting any associated costs such as explorative works.

What happens if my application is refused?

In the rare event your application is refused you have several options. For example, you can make amendments to address the reasons why the LPA refused the application. And you can challenge the refusal through an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS)

What are permitted development rights and what can I do with them?

Permitted development rights (PD Rights) are a series of rights you may have on your property to complete certain development works without the need for planning consent.

They can be for minor activities, such as building a shed in your garden, but can also allow you to complete an extension – all without the need for planning consent. There are limitations on such extensions which you can see guidance on here.

We always advise you make sure PD-based alterations to a property are acknowledged as being lawful. To secure this acknowledgement you should make an application of lawful development to your LPA. This will ensure that, if the works are reported or if you sell the property, you can proceed without delay.

The fee for a PD application is half that of the householder planning fee. The LPA have eight weeks from the date they validate your application to reach a decision.

What happens once my planning permission is granted?

Congratulations! You can lawfully proceed with your proposals.

Planning approval requires that works start within a set period: three years in England and five years in Wales. This requirement is to start the works, not to complete them. Once works have begun the approval has been secured in perpetuity.

The next stage is typically to obtain building regulations approval. This covers the more technical requirements of the proposals rather than the use and aesthetic aspects dealt with at the planning stage.

You can find out more about building regulations in our article here.