How to apply for planning permission

Key information
  • The average cost of a planning application is £2,000
  • Architects and planning consultants can give you a better chance of success
  • Any revisions you make will lead to more costs

Understanding planning permission is a crucial part of any building project. But getting to grips with all the required documentation and how much it’s going to cost can be a finicky process.

In this guide to planning permission, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the planning process in order to attain planning approval and get your project off the ground.

Do I need planning permission?

Do I need planning permission?

Before you submit a formal application for development, it’s worth checking if you actually need planning permission in the first place. Both residential and agricultural developments permitted development rights may apply to you meaning your property could benefit from consent for development without having to make a planning application. Read our Addland guide to permitted development rights to discover what sort of projects can be pursued under these rights.

The planning portal is a useful tool here. They have extensive guides that fill in the gaps about planning permission, and the varying planning policies of LPA's, for home improvements, as well as for commercial and residential developments. Note that planning permission is not only needed for infrastructure, hedgerow removal and tree works can also need planning.

Once you’re clear you need planning permission, you can turn your attention to assembling the paperwork you need to get your project across the line.

What do I need to apply?

what do I need to apply

The planning application process always involves a certain amount of paperwork. A valid application will need a set of accompanying planning application forms in order to be registered, as well as some application fees. You can find an exact list of what you'll need by contacting your relevant Local Planning Authority (LPA) or a pre-application advice service. The basic planning conditions required are:

  • The completed 1APP application form, which you can get from your LPA.
  • A location plan showing the current site and its surroundings, and a site or block plan that details your proposed development.
  • An ownership certificate for the property.
  • A design and access statement. 

If you’re going to be applying by posting a paper application for planning permission rather than online, you’ll need to include at least three copies of each document, although some planning authorities may ask for more. Although they recommend you apply online, a paper application won't hinder you compared to if you made an online planning application. All the relevant forms are available to download and print from the Planning Portal website, but be sure to download the correct application form. Ensure to include your contact details and email address when making a paper submission. However, if you decide to make an online application, the planning portal will tell you what you need to submit to meet the national requirements.

If you're planning to alter or enlarge your own house, you'll be making a 'Householder Application' - specifically for homeowners (as opposed to, say, developers), doing things like extending their houses or building conservatories.

Your LPA may also specify additional documents depending on your project and where you’re building. If so, these should be specified on the planning authority’s website.

Applying for planning permission if your house is listed

listed building

Listed buildings are those of special architectural or historic interest. They’re considered to be of importance to the nation, and so afforded more protection against change by the planning system. If you want to change or demolish a listed building, you’ll have to obtain Listed Building Consent (LBC) from your local planning authority; in some larger cases, such as those of historic buildings or some country houses or estates.

Listed buildings come in three categories of ‘significance’:

  • Grade I (buildings of the highest significance: just 2.5% of all listed buildings are Grade I, and include cathedrals, palaces, and stately homes).
  • Grade II*.
  • Grade II (90% of all listed buildings are Grade II, including many homes).

As with normal planning permission, your first point of contact will be with your local authority (use the Planning Portal). For listed building consent, however, you may also need to consult with the authority’s Conservation Officer, who can advise you on all the consents and work required on older or listed buildings – they can be reached via your local authority. Historic England is a strong source of information if you’re thinking of making changes to an older building, and have a range of resources on their website.

How much does it all cost?

In addition to the documentation, your planning application will also have to include the correct planning fees. The exact amount you’ll need to pay differs depending on where you are in the UK and what permissions you’re applying for. The planning fee to build a new single dwelling is currently £462 in England and Wales, and slightly less in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Keep in mind that the cost of producing all the required plans and surveys is often more than the planning fees. £2,000 is a realistic minimum to set aside for architect and planning consultant fees, although this can vary across a wide range depending on your project’s complexity. Remember also that any revisions or appeals you may have to make will incur more costs.

Do I need to hire an architect?

Not necessarily. If you know what you’re doing you can produce your own plans using CAD software, meaning you can avoid paying for an architect.

However, it’s important to remember there’s a reason architects and planning consultants charge what they do. Their expert eye can head off problem areas in your proposal that might otherwise lead to its rejection, such as small details like ensuring your site has suitable visibility splays, and insuring floor plans match elevations or costly issues later in the build. The national planning policy framework offers further current guidance for understanding what different projects can look like.

Common rules for applying for planning

  • Drawings and proposals of the site need to be at a recognisable metric scale.
  • Ensure the project does not have an adverse impact on air quality or cause nutrient pollution by undertaking an air quality assessment, or a nutrient neutrality assessment.
  • If your property is located in a potential flood zone, a flood risk assessment will be necessary. - Find all flood zones across England and Wales using Addland Professional.

How long will the process take?

You should receive a decision from your LPA within 8 weeks of submission. Approval for more complex applications can take longer, although you can file an appeal if you don’t have a decision after 13 weeks.

The planning committee will grant planning consent based on your project’s development plan, its infrastructure needs, and how it will impact the surrounding area and environment, including planning obligations should the development need it. They'll also consult members of the public likely to be affected, although objections from neighbours won’t necessarily result in your application being rejected.

Once granted how long planning permission lasts differs between consent types. For full or householder planning permission usually in minor applications you have three years from the date of the planning decision to the date you need to implement "material operations" by commencing works. Whereas for a grant of outline planning permission (mainly for major applications and commercial development) you have three years until you need to submit your reserved matters, then two years after this to implement the grant. Read our Addland guide on how long planning permission lasts to learn more about this and assess what options there are when planning permission closes in on its expiration date.

Can I change my application once it's been submitted?

If there are changes you'd like to make to your original application once it's been submitted, you can access your application in the Planning Portal using your application reference - this guidance note should help. The Local Planning Authority will receive a notification and begin its validation process; if your proposed changes are non-material amendments (minor and not a significant change to your permission), they will be more likely to be approved.

What might invalidate my planning application? 

If a planning application is presented and does not meet the national information requirements, the application will likely be made ‘invalid’. Common reasons for an invalid application form include:

  • Incorrect application Documents – approach your LPA to make sure you have the necessary national and local individual application form.
  • Unsigned forms/certificates – being thorough in filling out your forms go a long way to making a valid application.
  • Incorrect application fees – use the online fee calculator to submit the correct application fees.
  • A missing outline – a valid application will have a red line outlining all the land in the proposed development. Addland lets you see the outlines of every single plot of land in England and Wales. 

If your application is deemed invalid, you will not have to resubmit all documents but your planning application will be put on hold until the correct application documents are received. Your LPA will likely notify you of their reasons in writing unless there are clear omissions that can be addressed with an email or over the phone. Checking all documents before you submit them, and working closely with your planning officer, will help to ensure you have a valid application.

Planning permission glossary

Getting to grips with planning can sometimes feel like learning a new language. Below are some of the essential terms and phrases to help you decipher any planning documentation that comes your way.

  • Planning consent: another word for planning permission. Put simply, whether you can or can't do
  • Planning consent: another word for planning permission. Put simply, whether you can or can't do a certain piece of work on your building.
  • Application type: there are four main types of applications - full/detailed planning application; householder application; outline permission; and reserved matters application.
  • Decision notice: if permission is granted, the decision notice sets out any conditions that must be observed during any building work, on your building or piece of land. The time limit on notice is usually about 3 years from the date of the decision.
  • Detailed plans: in planning terms, these are all the architectural and engineering documents up to the preliminary design stage. They should give anyone considering your application a full picture of what work you're planning to do.
  • Building regulations: these rules cover the structural elements of development. Like planning permission, building regulations approval also comes from Local Authorities. Building regulations approval can also now come from private sector Approved Inspectors who can check and approve your plans in the same way a Local Authority inspector would, for a fee.

If you’re looking for land for your dream self-build project, find it with Addland, the UK’s most advanced online land marketplace.

Published: 26 April 2021
Last updated: 25 May 2023

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