Planning permission traps Part 2 – Archaeology and more…

Part 1 of this Planning Traps guide can be found here. Before we start discussing the Part 2 of planning permission traps, it should be mentioned that planning permissions are time sensitive. In fact from the time a specific planning application is granted there are only 3 years until it runs out. And, just because planning permission was granted once, does not mean it will be granted again. However, one saving jewel is that once you start work on a plot and you are within the planning permission time scale, you will be safe and when the current planning permission runs out you will not be affected and can carry on with your build.

You can take advantage of this, even if in reality you are not ready to build yet. What defines ‘work’ on your plot is up for debate, but if you lay some foundations there is a pretty strong chance that you will be covered and will not have to re-apply for planning permission on your plot. In Part 2 of Planning Permission Traps we will cover Archaeology, Access and Visibility, Local Building Looks and Materials, and Listed Buildings.

Discovering Hidden Archaeology on your Land

Discovering ancient burial grounds or Viking swords is a good thing, right? We’ll YES for those interested in history but NO for those looking to develop a plot of land. When you apply for planning permission as standard your land will be checked over by experts to see what is lying beneath your soil. If there is any chance of some historical gems on your land then the experts will need to investigate in more detail and you cannot lay a brick until they are finished. Again, maybe not too bad, until you realise their costs come out of your pocket, and these costs can anywhere from £1000 to £10,000 depending on your location. These figures are for the initial investigation, and you’d better keep your fingers crossed that nothing is uncovered, because if something of interest is found then you can easily double the costs, meaning a staggering 20,000 if you happen to be in an area of particular historical interest.

You’ll want to look over your local Historical Environment Records before you buy a plot of land to develop, and see if there are any listings for items discovered nearby, and also seek advice from experts and get their opinions on whether there is a good chance of things being buried on your plot. To find more information and get contacts of Historical Environment Records in your area visit the Heritage Gateway webpage by following this link [note: clicking this link will open up the Heritage Gateway website].

Access and Visibility Planning Problems

Access for Fire Engines

Actually, this issue will not stop you obtaining planning permission, but it will stop you ever living in you amazing new house once it’s built. To put it simply, the fire brigade must be able to get to your property and their access path must wider than a set limit. To add to this the fire engine must be able to turn round, so this is something that should always be kept in the back of your mind when you are designing your build, and you should seek the advice of experts during the whole design procedure.

Visibility onto Public Highways

This planning stumbling block is brought to you by the Highways Department and is put in place to reduce the chances of accidents happening due to poor visibility when you leave you property and enter a public road, or to put it another way, to stop other road users driving into you when you pull out onto them unsighted. So, when you exit your plot and look to join a public road there are set visibility distances in each direction that you must be able to reach. These distances vary depending on the speed limit of the particular road you are joining, and a lot more detail about this can be found in a .pdf document here [this link will take you to an official webpage].

These distances must be unobstructed, meaning if there are walls or hedges that block your line-of-sight then you need to do something about it. Quite often it will not be something on your land that is blocking the line-of-sight, and if it was you would of course just knock it down or rip it up. Normally however, it is a neighbours hedge or wall that is an issue, and depending on your neighbour, they could play hardball with you. Usually though money talks, so be prepared.

Local Building Looks and Materials

Planners want (or insist) that specific features on your property fall in line with that they think is desirable for the properties in your local area. For example, planners can insist on slate roof tiles rather than cheap, but equally effective, roof tiles. Or, external walls should be faced with a particular stone, or perhaps certain planners will object to flat roof windows or dormer roofs. Unfortunately the planners are king in these realms, and you will simply have to dig deep into your budget or face your entire development being shut down. If you are renovating an old house, and as we’ll discuss next, a listed building, expect to be hit with a lot of extra specifications when it comes to adding, or replacing areas of the property.

Listed Buildings

We all love listed buildings, so even though it can be a huge pain (and expensive pain we should add), complying with planners to uphold our heritage can only be a good thing. However, for developers and builders it can be extremely problematic. Listed, or protected buildings normally tick certain boxes when it comes to being covered, and these include: pre-1700 buildings in anything close to their original form; nearly all buildings dating from around 1700 up to 1840; buildings of particular character and quality from 1840 to 1914; and finally any buildings post-1914 that are of significant quality. These specifications encapsulate around 500,000 buildings in England and Wales alone.

Interiors, exteriors, and outbuildings are all protected under the Listed Buildings Act. If you want to proceed with any sort of work on a Listed building you need to seek consent, and this means delays. To get more advice on this you want to speak to a specialist Listed building officer. Just search Google for Listed building officer in [your local area], or contact local planning departments and let them know you want to do some work on a listed building.


In Part 1 and Part 2 of the Planning Permission Traps guide we have covered many different stumbling blocks for getting planning permission. These included newts and bats, the protection of trees, and the discovery of ancient lost Viking coins (well sort of). Hopefully now you will have a little more understanding about planning permission and more importantly what can inhibit you obtaining planning permission on your land that you want to develop.

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*Great new content is being add to this website all of the time. Click here to get email updates as soon as there is something new on the website.