Factsheet D3 - Planning Permission

We briefly covered planning permission as one of the approvals you need in a previous Factsheet but here we take a more in depth look at the requirements of planning permission and how they may affect any project you are planning. If you have a specific planning question, try our Ask An Expert section to see if we can help.

1. What is Planning Permission?

Planning Permission is government controlled legislation that is required prior to constructing many types of building such as houses, commercial and industrial  buildings. Many home extensions will require planning permission.

Parliament has given the main responsibility for planning to local planning authorities (usually council planning departments) and they will determine whether aspects of a proposal such as the design or how the building will impact nearby residents are acceptable.

2. What is Permitted Development?

You can perform certain types of work without needing to apply for planning permission. These are called “permitted development rights”.

In essence this applies to what the Government deems to be non controversial proposals such as many loft conversions, many single storey extensions and garden buildings. Note that there are different rules for some buildings such as flats to rules for houses/dwellings.

Also, in some areas such as Conservation Areas and National Parks,  permitted development rights are more restricted. There are also different requirements if the property is a listed building.

A planning consultant should be able to help advise you on your permitted development requirements.

3. Design Issues

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.

There is no  single definition of good design as 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.

We would recommend using a suitably skilled and experienced designer to provide the best design solution for you.

4. Affect on 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.

A neighbour might take you to court if you are negligent or cause nuisance.

5. Highways and Roads

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.

Many extension projects involve the loss or increase of off street parking spaces and you may be altering access to the property from the highway. These aspects will be considered by the highways authority.

6. Environment


You may need to consider the effects on wildlife of any works you wish to carry out. Animals, plants and habitats such as bats and Great Crested Newts pare protected under their own legislation. 

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.

Environmental Health

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.

An Environmental Impact Assessment is a collection of detailed findings that is submitted alongside and to support a planning application.

7. Retropsective Planning Permission

If you have made a change to your property that requires planning permission and you have not had approval, a local authority can request that you submit a retrospective planning application for the work that you have already carried out. The local authority will make the request to the owner or occupier of the land concerned.

Although a local authority may ask for a planning application to be submitted, it does not mean that planning permission will automatically be granted and the application will be treated in the usual way. If the retrospective application is refused, the local authority can issue an enforcement notice which requires you to put things back as they were.

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

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.

8. Making a Planning Application

Planning applications can be made directly to your local planning authority or through a central government service known as The Planning Portal.

Either way, we would recommend that your architect or designer deals with this for you as completing the application incorrectly can lead to an application being refused or invalid.

9. Planning Appeals

You can appeal a decision made by a local authority on a planning application if you disagree with it or if the application wasn’t determined within eight weeks (for a typical householder development) .

The applicant of any type of planning application is usually entitled to appeal the decision of the local planning authority.

However, there are no third party rights of appeal – so if you have objected to a planning application and it is approved by the LPA then you cannot appeal that decision.

Your Property Team has a number of appeal specialists as members that can help you if you are looking to appeal a decision.

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