Do I Need Planning Permission? Full Guide


Planning permission is an essential requirement for many building projects. Whether you want to add an extension to your home or convert a building on your land, you’ll require planning permission. People who live in listed buildings are often unable to make any changes to their homes without needing to submit a planning permission application.

If you’ve never submitted a planning permission application before, then the process can seem quite daunting. Fortunately, in this guide, we’ll answer all the important questions you might want to ask so you can decide if you want to follow through with an application or not. If you do, you’ll know exactly what the process will entail once you’ve finished reading the guide.

What Exactly is Planning Permission?

Discussing project plan

Planning permission is an essential form of building regulations that ensures people build and develop property in a reasonable manner. Without planning permission, people could quite simply do what they want, and that would lead to problems very quickly.

Each time a significant piece of construction work is done, it needs to be rubberstamped by the local authority first. That means that all new buildings or a major development to an existing building will need permission from the local authority.

There is both a national framework for planning permission, as well as policies that are specific to your local body – both need to be abided by for a successful planning permission application.

What Does a Planning Permission Application Cost?

There are several costs that you will entail when you apply for planning permission.

The first is the cost of the application itself. The amount that you need to pay will depend on what it is that you’re applying for. For example, if you want to put in a planning permission application for a completely new, single dwelling, then you will need to pay £462.

But if you’re just seeking an extension to your original house, then this costs £206. Both of these prices are for England. In Wales, the cost of an application for an extension is slightly lower, costing about £190.

There are other costs that you will incur, however, if you want your development to receive planning permission. Most people employ someone to work for them on the planning permission procedure. You will likely need to get surveys done on the house or land.

You’ll also have so pay for someone to produce the design of the work that’s to be done too. Most people will use an architect for this. It’s often handy to have an expert who understands the building regulations in your area so that you don’t fail your application. Once all these costs are considered, then you’re probably going to need to pay a minimum of £2,000 for the whole application.

How Long is Planning Permission Valid?

Building study and equipment

In most cases, your planning permission will remain valid for three years. This period begins on the day you have received complete consent from the local authority. There are, however, some cases where a different period is given. Generally, three years is the standard amount of time.

Who Needs to Get Planning Permission?

Anyone who wants to create a new dwelling will need planning permission. You need permission both when you’re constructing a whole new building, as well as if you are turning a building into a new dwelling. For example, if you live in a large home and want to split it in two, then you will still need planning permission.

You will also need planning permission for the development of a listed building. Listed buildings are one of the most susceptible when it comes to building regulations, and you will need permission to do almost anything with a listed building.

If you plan to make a large extension, then you’ll need planning permission, and you’ll also need permission if you want to create an outbuilding if it’s of a certain size. There are also places referred to as ‘Designated Areas, ‘ which are often conservation areas. Development on these areas will also need planning permission.

What is Permitted Development?

Building plan

If someone has permitted development rights, they will be able to do specific work without having to apply for planning permission. Permitted development rights tend to cover smaller pieces of work to a building, such as adding a porch to the front of a home or extending the home at the back.

Permitted development rights also cover such things as putting lights on your roof or putting a satellite dish on your home. Permitted development also covers outbuildings.

There have been some recent changes in regards to permitted development in 2019. If you’re unsure whether the job you want doing will fall under permitted development or if you’ll need planning permission, then it’s best to contact a qualified surveyor.

They should be able to answer all your questions. It is, of course, much easier and cheaper if you can do work to your building via permitted development rather than planning permission. Permitted development means there’s no need to worry about being refused permission from the building regulations authorities.

How Long Does the Planning Permission Process Take?

In theory, it will take two months or eight weeks to put in the application and find out if it has been granted or refused. The truth, however, is that the planning permission can take a lot longer if you’re planning on doing an alteration to your building or constructing a self-build that is quite complicated. You may need to get ecological surveys done, for example, which is common if there are bats nesting in an out-building or your loft.

This will occur before the planning permission is officially put in, though. If you use an architect or a surveyor to help you with your planning permission, they will cover every eventuality before the application is being submitted. They know what all the building regulations are, so they will want to be sure that your application is in tip-top shape before they send it to the authorities.

Once the application has been sent to the local authority, then your neighbours will have an opportunity to raise complaints about the application. The necessary bodies will also be informed.

For example, the Highways Agency will need to check that there aren’t any issues related to roads on your land or next to your land. And the Environment Agency will also need to check that your work won’t harm the local environment.

Do I Need to Employ a Planning Permission Expert?

Architect discussing plan

It’s up to you, of course, if you use a planning permission expert or don’t use one. If you’re planning a significant development, live in a listed building, foresee problems, or simply want the whole process to be as painless as possible, then it might be a good idea to use a planning permission expert.

Why? They know absolutely everything about building regulations. It means that your self-build or extension to your original house will be secured planning permission if the expert that you use recommends it. The expert might also simply tell you that there’s no use in applying for planning permission because you just won’t get it.

What Does an Application for Planning Permission Compose Of?

When all the work has been done, and you’re ready to submit your planning permission application, then you will have several documents.

The documents that your application will include will be the following:

  • The application form – Five copies are required from the authorities
  • A copy of the ownership agreement – Signed
  • All the relevant plans
  • A statement for both the design and the access
  • A cheque or cash for the fee

Don’t worry, though. Once it gets to the point that you put in the application, then the authorities will provide you with lots of information, so that you know exactly what needs to be submitted. Of course, if you use a planning permission expert, then they will also ensure that everything is in order when you send it in.

What Might Harm My Chances of Getting Planning Permission?

Two main areas contribute to planning permission getting rejected.

The first is that you have material problems that the authorities cannot accept. This can range from issues to do with highway safety that your work will impact upon, to the layout not adhering to building regulations.

Some of these problems can be fixed with a second application, whereas in some cases, it’s just unlikely that you’ll end up with planning permission whatever you try.

The second problem area when it comes to getting planning permission is neighbours. Whether you’re making a change to an original house or creating a self-build, the people who live nearby are going to be extremely important to your chances of getting planning permission.

It can always help to have a word with your neighbours before putting in a planning permission application. They may tell you that they’re concerned about the work for one reason or another, so you can either reassure them or see if you can reach a positive solution together.

If your neighbours can prove that the work would cause them to lose privacy or for them to lose natural light because of your development, then there is very little chance your application will be granted.

Can Any Alterations Be Made to a Design After Planning Permission Has Been Granted?

It depends. It’s usually fine if you’re only making slight changes that don’t have any material impacts on the work. But you may want to check first. If you have decided to go in a completely different direction, then you will need permission from the authorities again.

What Can Be Done If Planning Permission Has Been Refused?

Rejected concept

You can apply again if you so wish, but it’s only worthwhile doing so if you think that you’ll get planning permission a second time around. Usually, you will be given the opportunity to make the required alterations to the application that the local authorities have requested without needing to put in a whole new application.

If there seem to be solid, material reasons why the planning permission was rejected, then it might be a good idea to use a planning permission expert for your next application.

Is There Any Way to Circumvent Planning Permission When Building a House?

The strange way in which the law works is that building without planning permission isn’t exactly illegal. The problem, of course, is that if you spend a lot of money on building a house and the local authorities find out about it, then they have the right to demolish it. And the demolition will likely be done at your cost too.

If you do a smaller project and the authorities find out, there are some cases where it would be possible to apply for planning permission retrospectively. This is a risky and expensive process, though, and it is not recommended.

Once again, in theory, if you do build without the authorities finding out, and they don’t find out for a significant amount of time, then you can no longer be forced to destroy the work. The amount of time depends on the work that’s done, but it will usually be between four and ten years.

The truth is, you need planning permission for lots of jobs, and it’s best getting it. Otherwise, you’ll end up out of pocket in the long run. If you’re asking yourself: Do I need planning permission? and the answer is ‘yes,’ then you need permission. Doing any work without it will just cause you problems.

Is It Harder to Get Planning Permission in Rural Areas?

Generally, the process is a lot harder, but it’s not impossible. It completely depends on where you are in the countryside. Just remember, without planning permission, you can’t do anything.

What Are The Most Important Things About Planning Permission to be Aware Of?

House planning concept

  • You don’t necessarily need to own a piece of land to put in a planning permission application for changes to be made to it.
  • On average, most planning permission applications will be processed, and you will find out if you’re successful or not in about eight weeks.
  • Neighbours can have a significant impact on the success or failure of your planning permission. But they will be ignored by the authorities if their claims cannot be substantiated.
  • You don’t need permission from the authorities for all building projects on your home. For specific jobs, the Permitted Development scheme can be used instead.