How to apply for planning permission

Ensure that your project gets the go-ahead with this helpful step-by-step guide to applying for planning permission and the planning permission approval process

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Applying for planning permission can be a little confusing if you've never done it before – but with a little know how, the process can be smooth. And, on the off-chance that the planning permission is refused, it's helpful to know what to do next, too. So, if your dream home transformation project requires planning permission, follow this step-by-step expert guide to know what to expect when applying.

Find out all you need to know about planning permission – and whether your project requires it – in our guide.

1. Where to apply for planning permission

You’ll need permission for significant extensions and renovation projects, and you can apply either through your local authority or online through the Planning Portal 
(see planningportal.co.uk). Anyone 
can apply for planning permission but
 in most cases it’s either the homeowner or a designer who will manage the application. It will cost £206 to submit an application in England. Visit your local authority’s website for pricing in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

2. Seek advice before applying for planning permission

In order to decide whether your proposal has a realistic chance of success, you should consider engaging the local authority in pre-application advice. This is, in many ways, ‘planning permission-lite’, requiring the submission of a sketched scheme, forms and written documents to outline your intentions.

Local authorities vary in their approach 
to this, with some charging between 
£100 and £200, while others offer it 
for free. Their response will give you a good, but non-binding, indication as to your scheme’s chances of success and 
if it needs amending before submission.

3. Gather the paperwork you need

Your pre-application advice will highlight any special reports that you may need to compile, such as an ecological survey. However, in the majority of cases, you will have to submit an application form, an ownership certificate, a location plan, before and after elevations and floorplans. The strict criteria will be listed in your local authority’s validation requirements, which can be found online. You will probably also have to submit a design and access statement, explaining the thinking behind the proposed scheme and justification for it.

4. Tips for planning application success

  • Study local policies before you draw up your scheme. Most clearly specify what the planners look for in terms of size, scale and materials.
  • Use the pre-application stage 
to talk to the local authority about your scheme, and amend it in line with their suggestions before formally submitting.
  • Keep up to date with progress. By phoning the local planning office at key points of the process, particularly after the end of the consultation period, you can sense whether the proposed scheme is likely to be approved. If not, withdraw and resubmit it for free.

5. How planning permission applications progress

Once submitted, your local authority’s planning department will validate the application to check all the required documentation and fees have been supplied, for which you’ll receive a confirmation. Councils have 
a target to respond to applications within eight weeks of receipt, so around 90 per cent of decisions are made within this time. During this period, statutory consultees are notified, including the highways department, parish council, and your neighbours, and are invited to respond if they are unhappy with the proposals.

Generally, planning decisions are made in one of two ways: either by the local planning committee if they are particularly controversial, usually in the case of new houses or larger housing developments, or, in the case of most householder projects, delegated to 
a planning officer to decide.

5. Take note of planning conditions

If you’re lucky to receive an approval for your plans, be 
sure to make note of the conditions attached, as they are just as important. Most approved applications come 
with notes, such as requiring the local authority to approve the exterior materials before commencement of work, or perhaps having sign off on 
a landscaping scheme.

You’ll need 
to formally apply to discharge these conditions and receive a letter to confirm so, as failure to do this will invalidate your approval. 
You may need to tweak your design after gaining approval, for which you have two options: either use the minor amendments route, which is designed for issues like new window positions, 
or submit a new planning application.

The minor amendment route costs £28 and takes 28 days to decide, while another full planning application would take eight weeks but is free if applied for within a year of the original.

6. Reasons your planning application may be rejected

To make a decision on which applications to approve, your local authority will take into account what are known as ‘material considerations’, which can include (but are not limited to):

  • Overlooking/loss of privacy
  • Loss of light or overshadowing
  • Parking
  • Highway safety
  • Traffic
  • Noise
  • Impact on listed building and Conservation Area
  • Layout and density of building
  • Design, appearance and materials
  • Government policy
  • Disabled access
  • Proposals in the development plan
  • Previous planning decisions
  • Nature conservation

7. Objections to your planning application

While neighbours are consulted and invited to comment, together with parish councils (in England and Wales), only objections based on material considerations are taken into account. If the neighbours do not object and the officers recommend approval, then they will usually grant planning permission for a householder application using what are known as delegated powers.

If there are objections or the application is called into a committee by one of the local councillors, the decision will be made by a majority vote by the local planning committee. At the planning meeting, you or your agent have an opportunity to address the planning committee, but this time is limited to three minutes maximum.

8. What to do if your planning application is rejected

If the news is not so good and permission has not been granted, look carefully at the reasons given for the rejection. If it is because 
your scheme is in breach of local planning policy, then you will need to redraw it. If you don’t believe it is, you will have a more serious 
case for appealing the decision. 
In either instance, a conversation 
with a planning consultant (see rtpiconsultants.co.uk) is probably 
a wise course of action.

5 more planning permission tips and tricks

  • Most planning decisions should take no longer than eight weeks from the point of application.
  • The objections of neighbours and local people may well not have any impact on the final decision.
  • If you think you are going to get a refusal, you can withdraw your application at any time up to the day itself, and resubmit free of charge.
  • You can submit an infinite number of planning applications on any one site — and choose which to use, as long as it is current.
  • You can make an application on any piece of land in the country, without having to own it.

More on planning your project: