Frequently Asked Questions: Planning Regulations

How do I know if I need Planning Permission?

This is not an easy question to answer and will largely depend on several factors including:-

  1. The type of house you live in. For example, the regulations will vary depending on whether the house is detached or attached.
  2. If the property has been the subject of any previous alteration and extension work.
  3. If the Local Authority has removed Permitted Development Rights to your property meaning that certain works that would otherwise have been permitted no longer are.
  4. If the property is Listed or occupies designated land. Designated land includes national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.
  5. Relation of the proposal to the highway. Normally, if your proposal extends toward the highway, it is likely that the proposal will need permission.
  6. If you live in a flat. Flats do not have Permitted Development Rights and therefore any extensions would require planning permission.

How do I make a Planning Application and who do I make it to?

Making a planning application can be a daunting prospect and we therefore recommend you seek the assistance of a town planner, architect or trained draftsman to assist you with this process. If you feel you are capable of undertaking this yourself, the next step is to have plans of your proposal drawn up and complete the necessary planning application forms. Please also remember that you may require Building Regulations Approval even if you do not need Planning Permission.

However, experience has often shown that investing in professional assistance is money well spent for several reasons. Firstly, it is likely that the person working on your behalf has developed a professional relationship with your Local Authority and has a working knowledge of policies. Secondly, your scheme is likely to be realistic and hopefully be arrived at within your financial budget.

How long does the Planning Application Process Take?

Normally, the Local Authority has 8 weeks in which to determine your householder planning application. If the Local Authority is unable to determine the application within this timeframe, you should receive written confirmation that the Local Authority intends to extend the period of determination. If the Local Authority fails to do so, you can appeal on the grounds of non-determination. However appeals take time (normally between 5 and 8 months for written representation appeals) and it may prove advantageous to negotiate an agreement with the Local Authority.

If I don't feel confident in submitting an application, whom can I get to do this on my behalf?

There is no correct answer to this. A competent builder for example can often be as capable as an architect in producing plans that are "fit for purpose" for a single storey extension for example. However, as experience often shows, it is advantageous to appoint an agent local to you who has developed a good working relationship with the Local Authority knowing what they expect and having an understanding of policies local to you. Often, this can save you valuable time and anxiety.

What happens if my application is refused?

If your planning application is refused, despair not. You essentially have 2 courses of action available to you. The first approach is to ask your agent to negotiate an amendment with the Local Authority and arrive at a scheme that both you and the Local Authority are happy with. This will then mean that you will have to re-submit the amended planning proposal and await a decision by the Local Authority. In some instances, if the Local Authority fails to reach a decision, you can appeal on the grounds of non-determination.

The second course of action is to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. Only the person who made the application for planning permission can appeal. Essentially there are 3 appeal routes open to you but by far the most popular for householder applications is the written representations route. Whilst the written representation procedure is the most popular and "speedy" for householder appeals, you should appreciate that an appeal decision can still take between 5 and 8 months from registration to decision.

If you wish to appeal, you must do so within 6 months of the decision having been made by the Local Authority. If you fail to do this, it is likely that the appeal will not be valid.

Can I apply for planning permission for development that I have already carried out?

Yes, planning law does allow people to make retrospective applications.

Where unauthorised development takes place and there is a reasonable chance that it might be approved, the Council will normally invite you to submit a such a retrospective application. This is in line with Government advice in Planning Policy Guidance Note 18 (PPG18). In considering retrospective applications, the Council should not normally be swayed in either direction by the fact that the development has already taken place. Permission should not be refused just because the development was unauthorised and permission should not be granted just because the development is already there and would be expensive to remove or alter. As with any other planning application, the Council may impose conditions on retrospective applications. It may be that such conditions can help to remedy any perceived problems with the development, without the need for demolition or other more drastic action.

What is a 'retrospective planning application'?

I've heard that the owner of a site or a developer can apply for planning permission once they've started work. Is this true?

In some cases, yes, but an owner or developer should never rely on 'retrospective permission' to get unauthorised works granted permission.

Retrospective permission means that permission is granted after the work has started. Anyone doing this is taking a considerable risk and may face formal enforcement action.

Enforcement officers will only encourage an owner or developer to make a retrospective application if they consider that they might be granted planning permission for the development.

However, enforcement officers can only advise on this. The retrospective application will normally be dealt with by planning officers in exactly the same way that they deal with any application for planning permission.

What is a designated area?

A designated area is an area which has been recognised for its quality and policies have been put in place to protect it. Examples of designated areas include national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage sites. If you own a property which is located within a designated area, you should seek professional advice before carrying out any works.

What works can I carry out to a Tree that is located in a Conservation Area?

Anyone proposing to carry out work to a tree in a conservation area must give 6 weeks prior written notice to their local authority (i.e. District or Borough Council for example). This allows the opportunity to consider making a Tree Preservation Order on any tree of quality, value or public amenity, which requires further protection in the interests of visual benefits to the character and appearance of a conservation area. You do not need to give notice if you want to work on trees less than 7.5 centimetres in diameter, measured 1.5 metres above the ground (or 10 centimetres if thinning to help growth of other trees).

There are also exceptions to trees that are dead, dying or dangerous, but there is also a duty, in certain circumstances to replant. Except in an emergency you are advised to contact your Trees and Landscape Officer before cutting down or carrying out any works to trees within a conservation area as it is an offence for which you could be prosecuted.

What is an Article 4 Direction?

In vulnerable areas, the local planning authority may introduce specific controls to help protect features of importance to the character or appearance of a conservation area by serving what is known as an Article 4 (2) Direction. This means that works identified in the Direction would constitute development and therefore permission involving an application would be required. For example, if you live in a conservation area in which an Article 4 (2) Direction applies, it may not be possible to replace doors and windows, roofing materials or indeed demolish without prior consent from the local planning authority; meaning you will have to apply for permission before you carry out any proposed works. If in doubt, please contact your local planning authority.

Do I need Planning Permission to re-roof my house or to insert roof lights or skylights?

Quite simply, you do not normally need to obtain planning permission to re-roof or indeed insert roof lights or a sky light subject to the following limits and conditions:

What you should appreciate is that certain other restrictions may apply to your particular property. For example, you may live in a Listed Building, Conservation Area or an area covered by an Aricle 4 Direction meaning that certain works which could normally be undertaken will be the subject of control . If you are in doubt, please contact our relevant local authority. When contacting them, all you normally require to tell them is the address of the property and if any works have been carried out to the property that you are aware of.

Do I need Planning Permission to replace my existing windows?

Normally, you will not require planning permission to replace existing windows. However, this is not always the case. For example, if your house is Listed, is located on Designated Land* or is the subject of an Aricle 4 Direction, you may well require planning permission or indeed listed building consent. Therefore, we recommend that before you carry out any works, you first check with your local planning department.

* Designated land includes national parks and the Broads, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, conservation areas and World Heritage Sites.

Kitchens and Bathrooms

Planning permission is generally not required to install a kitchen or bathroom unless it forms part of an extension you intend carrying out.

However, it is worth recognising that if your property is listed, you should consult your local planning authority as certain works may mean you will require listed building consent. For example, if you intend as part of the works to install a new flue to serve the oven or stove you intend fitting.

What is a Highway?

A Highway includes all public roads, footpaths, bridleways and byways.

What is a Party Wall and how may this affect any work I may wish to do to my Property?

Essentially, The Party Wall Act exists to make it easier to undertake building work on or near a boundary with a neighbouring property. It extends common law rights to allow a building's owners to undertake work that will affect a party wall or structure shared with one or more neighbours.

Its intention is to prevent disputes between owners by allowing independent assessment of the risk from construction work and by agreeing any action necessary to prevent damage. The Act also provides an agreement for access to carry out works, monitoring, and for resolution of disputes.

If your building work is either on the boundary of a neighbour's property or on or up to the neighbouring wall, you will need to observe the terms of the Act. You may also need to comply if you are excavating on, or within 6m of the boundary, depending on the depth of your excavation.

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What is a Listed Building?

It is a building or structure which is officially designated as being of special architectural, historical or cultural significance. Today, there are approximately 500,000 buildings in the United Kingdom which enjoy this designation. Apart from buildings, listing extends to and includes structures such as bridges, sculptures, war memorials, mileposts and milestones.

If you live in a listed building, you may not demolish it, extend or alter it without the prior consent from you local planning authority. As owner of a listed building, your responsibility extends to repair and maintenance and failure to do so can result in criminal prosecution. Living in a listed building can therefore limit the options available for significant expansion or improvement. For example, if you wish to change the existing windows with replacement double glazing, you would require consent. The listing also covers both the exterior and interior so that major changes to the floor layout for example would require approval before any changes were implemented.

Owning a listed building is both a pleasure and a responsibility. If you intend to buy a listed building with the intention of undertaking large scale alteration works, it is recommended that in the first instance, you contact your local planning authority and discuss the proposals with them.

What is a Conservation Area?

In the United Kingdom, the term Conservation Area nearly always applies to an area (usually urban) considered worthy of preservation or enhancement because of its special architectural or historic interest. Today, more than 8,000 have been designated.

It is the protection of the quality and special interest of an area as a whole that is intended. Accordingly, if you intend to undertake demolition work in a Conservation Area, you will require prior consent to do so. Whilst the designation does not stop development from taking place, it does require that any new developments preserve or enhance the historic character of the area. Therefore, there will be a greater emphasis on the use of appropriate materials and high quality design.

What can I do if I want to be certain that the existing use of my building is lawful for planning purposes or that my proposal does not require planning permission?

The answer to this is to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate. Whilst not compulsory, they are extremely useful if for example you wish to sell an existing business or to have formal confirmation that the extension you may wish to carry out does not require planning permission. Once you are in possession of the necessary paperwork (from your local authority), the form will ask for specific information which will assist the planning authority in the determination of your case.

Please be aware that you will pay a fee and your application can in certain circumstances be refused. Given the complexity of the information the planning authority require, it may prove beneficial to seek the assistance of a planning consultant to help you with this. If your application is refused, or is not determined within the prescribed time limit, you can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

Can I extend my Garden into the adjoining fields?

It is highly likely that you would require planning permission to this.

Whilst you may own the adjoining fields, in planning terms, you would be changing its use from agricultural land to residential garden. Our advice to you is to check with your local planning authority before you do this.

Can I convert my Office into Residential Accommodation?

You would require planning permission for the change of use. Whilst planning permission would be required, in certain circumstances, the local planning authority may well look favourably on this (dependant on the location of the unit and present planning policy). The reason for this is that the unit will help contribute toward meeting your local authority housing targets and a town centre location would meet the government's sustainability principles by reducing the need to travel with shops and public transport closer to hand.

Can I use my Holiday Home to Live in Permanently?

If the property you intend to live in was built specifically for that purpose of providing holiday accommodation, then there may well be planning conditions limiting its occupation. For example, I played golf at a leisure resort recently and one of the stipulations was that the accommodation provided on site could not be lived in permanently. If you wanted to pursue this, you would have to apply to your local planning authority for a change of use.

Can I Construct a means of Access from the Road to my House?

You will require planning permission if you answer Yes to any of the following:-

  1. Is the means of access onto a classified road? A classified road will include all trunk roads, A and B roads and some other roads.
  2. Will the means of access be constructed independently of any other development such as a garage?

What is Green Belt and what is its purpose and role?

The idea of Green Belt goes back to the 1940s and the Abercrombie Plan for Greater London. A policy which has proven extremely successful in containing growth across the entire country and not simply the Greater London area. The purpose of land designated as Green Belt is to contain the outward growth of settlements and to prevent coalescence of these and other settlements in the area. Essentially, to stop settlements becoming physically joined by the built form and in doing so, losing their essential character. Therefore, when land is washed over by a green belt policy designation, it means it is often very difficult to get planning permission for proposals which would otherwise be granted on land not designated as green belt. One obvious example is if you wished to build a new house on land designated as green belt. In most cases, you would have to demonstrate very special circumstances sufficient to override that designation. From my experience, this often proves challenging and if this is your case, I recommend you employ the services of a planning consultant to work on your behalf.

As many of you will be aware, the government has set some extremely challenging housing targets that local authorities will have to meet over the next 20 years or so. In order to deliver the necessary housing and employment and associated infrastructure, many councils are having to review their green belt boundaries by "rolling them back" in order to provide the necessary land supply in order to build.