LAST UPDATED: 3rd January 2023 by The Editorial Team
Summary: Self build planning permission overview, legal consents and step by step guide to applying for planning permission
Planning permission in the UK
In the United Kingdom, planning laws are designed to regulate the use and development of land in order to ensure that it is used in a way that is sustainable and in the public interest. These laws are administered by local authorities, and they set out the rules and regulations that apply to the use and development of land within their jurisdiction.
Planning laws in the UK are complex, and they can be quite technical. They cover a wide range of issues, including the use of land for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes, as well as the development of public infrastructure and the protection of the environment.
When you plan to build, extend or alter the use of a property you will generally need to consider two separate legal issues, planning permission and building regulations (or building control).
All self builds and the majority of building projects which involve conversions or extensions will require planning permission.
Unlike building regulations, the application of planning permission differs significantly from area to area due to differing local development plans, local interpretation of the regulations and the significant degree of subjectivity involved in the process. For example, permission may depend on an appropriate design, which is of course an area very much open to debate.
Therefore while national planning guidance will give you an indication of whether you need planning permission or not and which minor works you can carry out without permission, it is essential that you contact your local planning authority as early in the process as possible to obtain local guidance and advice.
If you are planning to develop land or make changes to a property in the UK, it is important to understand the relevant planning laws and to obtain the necessary planning permission before proceeding. Failure to do so could result in fines and legal action.
There are two levels of planning permission, and you will encounter building plots with either of these.
Outline Planning Permission
Outline planning permission (OPP) is simply permission for the principle of development on a site, for example, a 4 bed house. This means that the details of the size, dimensions, materials and access can be decided at a later date. If a plot is granted OPP, you will still need to make a supplementary application for full planning permission at a later date and no building work can be undertaken on OPP alone. OPP status is usually valid for three years at which point a reapplication will need to be made.
Detailed Planning Permission/Full Planning Permission
Detailed (or full) planning permission (FPP) outlines exactly what is going to be built including dimensions, room layouts and building materials. As soon as FPP is granted building work may commence. Sometimes conditions of approval will be attached and these must be complied with during the project. Detailed planning permission is valid for three years.
Step by step guide when applying for planning permission
The precise process will depend on your local authority, but the general process is as follows:
- You will need to prepare and submit an application to your local planning authority. This will typically involve providing detailed plans and supporting documentation, such as a design and access statement, a site location plan, and any relevant specialist reports. You may also need to pay a fee to cover the costs of processing your application. The local authority receives the planning application. If any mistakes are identified, the application is usually returned.
- Once the application is verified, it will be entered into a statutory register. At this point an 8 week period begins in which the application should be considered. 13 weeks for more complex applications.
- The application is then allocated to either a planning officer or for committee consideration. Usually simple planning applications never go to a planning committee and are instead decided at officer level. It is recommended that you meet the planning officer before you start the application, they will indicate the likelihood of your application being approved or not.
- There then follows a period of public consultation for the application. The extent of this will depend on the impact of the development and the type of area but it will always include local neighbours. This process normally lasts 3 weeks.
- Once the local authority has received all the necessary responses, the Planning Officer will assess the proposal against the local planning policies. The Planning Officer will then make a decision regarding the application or a recommendation for the planning committee.
- If there is a problem with your application, the Planning Officer may contact you to try and resolve it. It is more likely though that it will be refused. You will then need to re-submit an amended proposal or appeal against the decision.
Other regulations and consents
Finally, if you plan changes to an existing property you may need to consider other regulations and consents including the following:
- Conservation Areas – protection of property and fences, walls etc.
- Tree Protection Orders – protection from removal and alteration of trees
- Rights of Way – protection for rights of way from development
- Listed Building Consent – consent to demolish, extend or alter
- Protection of Wildlife – e.g. protection of newts in nearby ponds
The planning portal is a great resource when making an application.
- How to find a building plot
- Evaluating a building plot
- How to get a self build mortgage
- Self build construction options
- Self build architect and design considerations