Ins and outs of planning permission

Planning permission can seem like a road to nowhere sometimes, and understanding the critical factors as to whether something gets accepted or rejected can seem like an impossible task. Here we’ll cover some of the important information that will help you understand the whole planning permission process.

Planning permission is not concerned with how good your build quality is, but it is concerned with where your build will be and how it will impact on the environment and those around it. It is your local council who you have to satisfy, and within your local council it is the planning officers who hold your fate.

Theoretically your acceptance or rejection is decided by elected councillors, but really they are guided heavily by the planning officers. In fact, there is a chief planning officer who can decide on their own, although rarely is this the case and instead they make recommendations that are usually upheld.

Different types of planning permission

In total there are 7 types of planning permission that you may come across when starting out on this process. While the general mechanics of submitting an application are relatively straight forward (albeit time consuming), you may end up being granted one of the following:

1 – OUTLINE: This is something you would look at getting when you are making initial enquiries as to whether a development would be possible in principle, but no detailed drawing etc. would be submitted. Simply, outline permission can turn a standard piece of land into a building plot. Once granted an outline permission only lasts 5 years, and if you want a detailed application to build something in particular then you have to do this within 3 years.
2 – FULL APPLICATION: This covers the principle application as mentioned above plus the detailed application, and therefore agrees that you can build what you want to build. This full application lasts for 3 years.
3 – APPROVAL (AKA RESERVED) MATTERS: This is the process of converting an outline permission into a detailed permission (i.e. you can build what you plan too).
4 – RENEWAL: If your initial agreement is nearing its end date then you can renew or extend it. However, if your permission has expired then you will need to start the whole application procedure again.
5 – RELAXATION: This relates to when you already have planning permission but it came with lots of add-on conditions. You ca apply to have some of these conditions removed, although success rate are not great.
6 – AMENDMENTS: Amendments most commonly occur when you buy a plot what already has detailed planning permission and you actually want to build something a bit different. You can apply for amendments rather than seeking a new full application. This is a good option because there are currently no charges for amendments, however be careful because if the changes are too drastic then you will be asked to submit a brand new application.
7 – EXTENSIONS / CONVERSIONS: If you are going to modify or add to an existing structure you may not need planning permission, but you should check with your local council’s planning department. You can also get advice at:

The application process

Simply the planning application process consists of lots of forms and a cheque. While local variations apply you can be expected to put forward for following bits of information, with online applications encouraged. If you do fill out physical forms then be warned you can need up to 6 copies of all of the following: Existing site plan, proposed site plan, location plan, layout plans and elevations of any existing structures or proposed dwellings, details of materials to be used, trees to be felled, and a design and access statement.

In addition to this planning officers often like to see a 3D drawing of your proposed build as it helps visualise how the build will impact on its surroundings and any neighbours. An ownership certificate is also required for the plot, although if you don’t own the land you can still apply but you need to notify the owner of your intentions.

How much does planning permission cost?

It depends on the size of your plot, with costs being £385 per 1,000 square metre. If you go for a preliminary planning request and then later go for a detailed request you will have to pay £385 twice, which means you may be tempted to go straight to the full planning application. However, this means you will need all of your drawings ready that costs a fair amount of money, which could be wasted if the planners feel the land is not suitable and will not even consider the drawings.

How long does a decision take?

Theoretically a decision should be made within 8 weeks, but in practise this can take longer, which is annoying. There is some commitment (AKA pressure) from the government to speed this process up which seems like a good thing, but ultimately it means planners are making more decisions more quickly and as a result more applications are being rejected because if there is any high concern rather than investigating further the application is rejected. That last statement may be argued by planning officers of course.

How likely is it to get planning permission approved?

Planning PermissionA definitive answer is tricky, but around 1 in 3 applications are rejected. To help your chances you need to be flexible because the chances are that there will be some concerns and you will have to compromise. A decision is normally made by a committee who meet once a month. Hopefully you will be successful in your planning application, but if you are not some of the refusal reasons may include: Lack of parking, no room for a car to turn around, house to big, not enough garden, house too high, overlooking neighbours, bad choice of materials, not in keeping with neighbourhood, and even the build can be in the wrong position on the plot.

What to do if your planning is rejected

A refusal is not always the end. You can contact your councillors and charm / convince them that your planning permission should be given the green light, and see if they can overrule the original decision. You can also get in touch with your neighbours and see if they would add weight to your bid by saying they think it’s a great idea to develop the land, although in a lot of cases neighbours feel the opposite so be careful here.

You can appeal your decision which is free, although it can take about 6 months. You need to write down why you feel the decision was wrong and an independent expert (QC or architect) will visit your plot and make a decision. About 1 in 3 applications are overturned like this, so you need to make your mind up whether 6 months is worth the wait (and potentially the expense if you are making payments on the land). Also, you can’t edit your original application so you have to work with that.

An alternative is to simply submit a new application, where you can address all concerns from the original (unsuccessful) application. This will increase your chances of success considerably, although your initial plans may need to be altered significantly, which isn’t ideal.


Gaining planning permission is a fantastic outcome, but it can be difficult to get to this Holy Grail. There are ways to improve your chances, such as getting neighbours approval and being flexible to planners suggestions and concerns. Be prepared for a bit of hassle and wasted time, and hopefully you will get to where you want to be in the end. Get advice from your local planning officers or check out

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