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Nine steps to a successful planning application

12/02/2018

Any project to extend or construct a building requires planning permission, which can sometimes be a complex process. We’ve outlined nine steps to help you avoid mistakes and apply with confidence.

1. Is planning permission required?

Permission from your local planning authority is needed if you want to:

  • Build new premises
  • Extend or alter existing premises
  • Change the external appearance of a building
  • Change a building’s use

Permission isn’t always necessary for interior changes or small alterations to the exterior such as alarm box installations or fences and walls below a certain height.

Check with your local authority’s planning department to understand whether your changes require permission.

2. Which type of planning permission do you need?

There are two types of planning permission:

Outline permission

This permission can be submitted online and will provide a check whether your new building is acceptable in principle; usually you won’t need detailed drawings. If permission is granted you then need approval of all the details (reserved matters) before construction can begin. If you haven’t started to submit reserved matters within three years your permission will expire.

Full permission

If you want to start work quickly you should make a full application. The application must be accompanied by details of the proposed work, a plan of the site and a fee (usually you need to supply three copies). You also need to provide proof that you own the land/building or that you have informed the land owner.

Compliance with Building Regulations

Your building proposal must comply with the relevant Building Regulations. These are set standards of design and construction that ensure a building meets health and safety requirements, uses fuel and energy efficiently and provides access for people with a disability.

Your building plan will need approval and then regular inspections during construction to ensure regulations are adhered to. A completion certificate will be issued to confirm the building’s compliance at the end of the build process.

3. Drawing up plans and protocols

Simple projects can usually be drawn up by qualified individuals such as draftsmen. Commercial buildings and larger project plans must be prepared by an architect or qualified engineer.

All plans must be to scale and of a reasonable standard. Check if your supplier is able to submit detailed plans during the application as this will save time and money.

4. Researching your application

It’s a good idea to check your plans in advance with anyone who might be affected by the proposal (like residents or businesses) as their views will be taken into account when your application is considered.

You should also know:

  • How your project fits in with the council’s development strategy for the area
  • The size, number, layout and siting of buildings, plus external appearance and height
  • Proposed use, means of access, landscaping and impact
  • Availability of infrastructure such as roads and water
  • The effects on parking and traffic

5. Requesting your application

You can apply online through the planning portal or application forms can be requested from the planning department of your council. The council will tell you how many copies you need to supply and how much the fee will be.

Ask if they foresee any difficulties which could be overcome by amending your proposal, this will save time and trouble later.

Remember that your building provider may be able to submit your application for you and manage the planning permission process.

6. Preparing your application

Permission will be granted on factors such as:

  • Appearance
  • Current land use
  • Impact on neighbours and wider area

Your application should include:

  • Scaled drawings
  • Location
  • Detailed plan and elevations
  • Agent’s brief describing the proposed works

7. Submitting your application

Once you have submitted your application it will be placed on the planning register. The council will notify neighbours or put notices up around the site. Anyone can comment on the proposal, the planning department will assess the relevance of these.

A decision will be made by a planning committee or a senior planning officer.

It usually takes eight weeks for a decision to be made but more complex projects may take longer. You can track the process if you have applied online through the planning portal.

If permission takes longer than you hoped, you can contact the council to ask when a decision is likely. If a decision is not made within eight weeks the council might ask to extend the deadline. If you decide not to wait longer you can make an appeal (“an appeal on grounds of non-determination”).

8. When permission is granted

You can start construction work as soon as permission is granted, or at any time within three years. However if your permission is subject to conditions these must be met before construction begins.

If you need to make any changes to your development you must always check with the council first. Any significant changes will require another application.

9. Your right of appeal

Applicants in England can appeal to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government if:

  • Their local authority doesn’t make a decision on the application within eight weeks and fails to agree in writing an extension to the deadline
  • They think the council’s refusal of their application is unreasonable
  • They are granted permission but with planning conditions that they find unreasonable

In Wales, appeals are made to the National Assembly for Wales.

Appeals can take months to resolve so explore your options first. Appeals must be made within six months and most are dealt with in writing but some involve a public hearing or inquiry.



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