Planning permission

Planning permission

Planning law regulates how plans and decisions are made about the future of cities, towns and countryside.

Your local planning authority (LPA) is responsible for deciding whether a development - anything from an extension on a house to a new shopping centre - should go ahead.

Good planning ensures that we get the right development, in the right place, at the right time. It makes a positive difference to people's lives and helps to provide homes, jobs, and better opportunities for everyone. At the same time, it protects and enhances the natural and historic environment, and conserves the countryside and open spaces that are important to everyone.

Most new buildings, changes to existing buildings or the local environment need planning permission. Planning applications are usually dealt with by your local authority. Local councils also prepare draft plans for their area. Appeals against refusal of planning permission and inquiries are dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate in England & Wales or the Planning Appeals Commission (PAC) in Northern Ireland.

Many types of building work will require separate permission under building regulations.

The role of the local council

Councils should try to ensure that development is allowed where it is needed, while ensuring that the character and amenity of the area are not adversely affected by new buildings or changes in the use of existing buildings or land.

The present position is that major works need planning permission from the council, but many minor works do not. Councils can use planning controls to protect the character and amenity of their area, while individuals have a reasonable degree of freedom to alter their property

Developmental control

Most people only come into contact with the planning system when decisions have to be taken about whether something can be built in their area.

Most new buildings or major changes to existing buildings or to the local environment need consent - known as planning permission.

Each application for planning permission is made to the LPA for the area.

The application must include enough detail for the LPA to see what effect the development could have on the area.

If the planning application is in line with the approved plan, the applicant can usually expect to receive planning permission within eight weeks for householders. Approval for larger, commercial developments often takes longer.

Permitted development

Some types of minor building work - such as a boundary wall below a certain height - do not need planning permission.

This is because the effect of these developments on neighbours or the environment is likely to be small, and the government has issued a general planning permission to authorise them. This is known as 'permitted development'.

Some areas have special protection against certain developments because they contain attractive landscape (like national parks) or interesting plants and wildlife, or because there is a need to control the spread of towns and villages into open countryside (like the greenbelt).

Some smaller areas of land also contain ancient monuments that must not be damaged. Some buildings are specially protected or listed because of their architectural or historic interest.

Your LPA can let you know whether you need permission.

If the local authority refuses permission, the person applying can appeal to the government or to the Planning Appeals Commission in Northern Ireland.

In England and Wales, appeals are dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate.

For more information see our 'Work on your land' and 'Permission to install Sat/TV/radio aerials' sections.

Getting involved

The purpose of planning has always been to make where we live as pleasant and efficient a place as possible. The best way of making this happen is to involve you in deciding how your local community is planned.

All members of the community (you, businesses, community groups and other members of the public) can contribute to the process of preparing plans.

Statement of Community Involvement (England and Wales)

Your LPA has an obligation to set out how it will involve the local community in a 'Statement of Community Involvement'. This statement forms an important part of the local development framework and the LPA's policy on involving the community.

It is better to get involved in planning at an early a stage to make sure that your views are heard.

Draft plans are also examined at inquiries by independent inspectors from the government, and everyone has an opportunity to contribute to those.

Local residents must be told about planning applications. They must be advertised to give people (known as 'third parties') the opportunity to give their views for or against them and also to object or make suggestions which could lead to further consultation with other bodies and local councils.

Your council and developers may also want to consult you about big proposals for development before a planning application is made.

Further information

The planning system is complicated and can put people off commenting on proposals for a new house or getting involved in the planning process. For assistance you can contact the following:

  • The staff in your local planning authority
  • Planning Aid - a charity set up by planners to offer free and unbiased advice
  • Qualified planning agents, consultants or other professional advisers
  • Your local elected councillor or Member of Parliament
  • The Commission for Local Administration if you feel that the local council has made a mistake in its decision-making process

You can also use the Planning Portal or Department for Infrastructure (Northern Ireland) to find out more about planning in your area.

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