Planning Permission

Your responsibilities:

Planning Permission, in simple terms, is like asking if you can do a certain piece of building work. It will be granted (possibly subject to certain conditions) or refused.

Certain types of work are covered by ‘permitted development’. This means that they can be carried out without planning permission, so long as they comply with the permitted development rules and restrictions.

Parliament has given the main responsibility for planning to local planning authorities (usually, this is the planning department of your local council). Therefore, if you have any queries about a particular case, the first thing to do is to contact your local planning authority.

It is your responsibility for seeking, or not seeking, planning permission. If required, planning permission should be granted before any work begins.

Lawful Development Certificates    If you want to be certain that the existing use of a building is lawful for planning purposes or that your proposal does not require planning permission you can apply for a “Lawful Development Certificate” (LDC).

It is not compulsory to have an LDC but there may be times when you need one to confirm that the use, operation or activity named in it is lawful for planning control purposes.

You apply to your local council for an LDC. The council will give you the forms you need. The application must provide sufficient information for the council to decide the application or else it may be refused. You will have to pay a fee. This will be broadly similar to what you pay for a planning application.

Often the issues involved in LDCs are complex and if you decide you need to apply for a certificate you might benefit by obtaining professional advice. Your LPA’s planning officers can also help. They will tell you about the sort of information needed to support your application.

If your application is partly or wholly refused or is granted differently from what you asked for, or is not determined within the time limit of eight weeks, you can appeal. Appeals are made to the Planning Inspectorate.

Failure to obtain or comply with planning permission  The failure to obtain planning permission or comply with the details of a permission is commonly known as a ‘planning breach’

A planning breach usually occurs when:

* A development that requires planning permission is undertaken without the permission being granted – either because the planning application was refused or was never applied for

* A development that has been given permission subject to conditions breaks one or more of those conditions.

A planning breach in itself is not illegal and the council will often permit a retrospective application where planning permission has not been sought.

However, if the breach involves a previously rejected development (or the retrospective application fails) the council can issue an enforcement notice requiring you to put things back as they were.

Your local planning authority can serve an enforcement notice on you when they consider you have broken planning control rules. Normally this will be because they consider what you are doing, or have done, is harmful to your neighbourhood.

The decisive issue for the local planning authority should be whether the breach would unacceptably affect public amenity or the existing use of land and buildings meriting protection in the public interest.

It is illegal to disobey a enforcement notice unless it is successfully appealed against. You can appeal against both refusals of permission and enforcement notices but if the verdict comes out against you and you still refuse to comply you may be prosecuted.

Permitted Development Rights

You can make certain types of minor changes to your house without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called “permitted development rights”. They derive from a general planning permission granted not by the local authority but by Parliament. Bear in mind that the permitted development rights which apply to many common projects for houses do not apply to flats, maisonettes or other buildings.

In some areas of the country, known generally as ‘designated areas’, permitted development rights are more restricted. If you live in a Conservation Area, a National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Norfolk or Suffolk Broads, you will need to apply for planning permission for certain types of work which do not need an application in other areas.

There are also different requirements if the property is a listed building.

The general advice is that you should contact your local planning authority and discuss your proposal before any work begins. They will be able to inform you of any reason why the development may not be permitted and if you need to apply for planning permission for all or part of the work.

Permitted Development Rights withdrawn  You should also note that the local planning authority may have removed some of your permitted development rights by issuing an Article 4 direction. This will mean that you have to submit a planning application for work which normally does not need one.

Article 4 directions are made when the character of an area of acknowledged importance would be threatened. They are most common in conservation areas. You will probably know if your property is affected by such a direction, but you can check with the local planning authority if you are not sure.

Factors affecting planning permission

There are many factors that will affect whether or not you need to apply for planning permission or affect your chances of gaining planning approval.

You should think about the following:

* Your neighbours

* Design

* Nature and wildlife

* Environmental health

* Roads and highways


Your neighbours

Let your neighbours know about work you intend to carry out to your property. They are likely to be as concerned about work which might affect them as you would be about changes which might affect your enjoyment of your own property.

For example, your building work could take away some of their light or spoil a view from their windows. If the work you carry out seriously overshadows a neighbour’s window and that window has been there for 20 years or more, you may be affecting his or her “right to light” and you could be open to legal action. It is best to consult a lawyer if you think you need advice about this.

You may be able to meet some of your neighbour’s worries by modifying your proposals. Even if you decide not to change what you want to do, it is usually better to have told your neighbours what you are proposing before you apply for planning permission or before building work starts.

If you do need to make a planning application for the work you want to carry out, the council will ask your neighbours for their views.

If you or any of the people you are employing to do the work need to go on to a neighbour’s property, you will, of course, need to obtain his or her consent before doing so.


Everybody’s taste varies and different styles will suit different types of property. Nevertheless, a well-designed building or extension is likely to be much more attractive to you and to your neighbours. It is also likely to add more value to your house when you sell it. It is therefore worth thinking carefully about how your property will look after the work is finished.

Extensions often look better if they use the same materials, and are in a similar style to the buildings which are there already. It is impossible to give a single definition of good design in this context: there may be many ways of producing a good result. In some areas, the council’s planning department issues design guides, or other advisory leaflets, which may help you. It is always advisable to use a suitably, qualified and experience architect.

Nature and wildlife

You may need to consider the effects on wildlife of any works you wish to carry out. Animals, plants and habitats may be protected under their own legislation (badgers for example), under the ‘Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981′ (for example, bats, see below), or under European legislation (EU protected species, such as the Great Crested Newt).

Natural England can provide advice on what species are protected by legislation, and what course of action should be taken. Your local planning authority should also be able to advise on any species or habitats that may be affected by your proposals.

Even when your development proposal benefits from permitted development rights, the legal protections for wildlife still apply.


Some houses may hold roosts of bats. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 gives special protection to bats because of their roosting requirements.

Natural England must be notified of any proposed action (eg, remedial timber treatment, renovation, demolition and extensions) which is likely to disturb bats or their roosts. They must then be allowed time to advise on how best to prevent inconvenience to both bats and the owners.

Environmental health

Environmental Health covers the safety of people living or working in an area.

Any proposed development which could cause, for example, air pollution, unfit housing or unhygienic food preparation premises would be the concern of environmental health officers (EHOs).

Such developments may also require an ‘Environmental Impact Assessment’ to be submitted. Environmental Health Departments work alongside planning departments in most local authorities.

Roads and highways

Roads and Highways are the responsibility of the local highways authority, which will need to be consulted where highways are affected during or after construction work.

If your local council is not the highways authority for the road involved they will be able to help you contact the right person.

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