What you need to know about planning permission

Extending your home or making improvements? You could need planning permission.

Lady writing in note book

Getting planning permission can seem like a daunting process, especially if it’s your first time. But if you’ve done your homework, your chance of success could be higher than you think. In fact, in 2023 Local Authorities in England approved 87% of all planning applications.1

1 Source: Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government 

Want to get started? Use these handy checklists to see if you need planning permission. Then, if you do, get your planning application going in five steps .

Do you need planning permission?

The key to making any changes to your property is: do your research. Not everything requires planning permission. But it’s always best to check before you go ahead with any work. Finding out later down the line could prove far more costly. Depending on the project, you could even be forced to remove the construction if it doesn’t meet regulations.

Things you may need planning permission for includes:

  • Extensions
  • Fencing and walls
  • Sustainable updates
  • Windows and doors
  • Gardens.

Extension checklist:

If you’re thinking of extending, check to see if any of the following apply. These are some scenarios that require planning permission:

  • Extending the property by more than half the area of land around the house as shown in a 1948 plan of your house.
  • You want to extend upwards, higher than the highest part of the roof.
  • Extending wider than the principal elevation of the front or side of your property.
  • Building a single-storey extension that extends more than 8 metres beyond the rear wall of a detached house, or 6 metres for any other type of house.
  • Building a single-storey extension that is over 4 metres high.
  • Extending to the side of your property by more than half the width of the original house.
  • Using materials that are noticeably different to those used on the original property.
  • Including a veranda, balcony or other type of platform.

These scenarios also apply to garages, sheds, conservatories and outbuildings. For example, you could build a garage without planning permission as long as you use similar materials to the original property, and that it’s no more than 4 metres high and doesn’t take up more than half the land in the 1948 plan of your house.

Fence and wall checklist:

You’ll need to get planning permission if your project include a fence or wall that is:

  • Over 2 metres high
  • Is next to a road and over 1 metre high
  • Will form a boundary with a listed building
  • Or if your property is a listed building.

Sustainable updates checklist:

Making your home more energy efficient? This can mean big changes for your home. The good news is that most don’t require planning permission. Chances are you won’t need permission for things like:

  • Solid wall insulation
  • Solar panels
  • Ground source heat pumps.

(If you live in a listed building or a conservation area then you’ll need permissions if the work is going to change the original plans of the building).

If you’re interested in learning more about making your home more energy efficient and green schemes available, visit our Eco Home Hub.

Windows, doors and gardens

Unless your property is listed, you shouldn’t need planning permission to change the windows and doors. If it is listed, there may be restrictions on the kind of materials you can use to update them.

Similarly, making landscaping changes to your garden rarely needs permission. But if you’re paving over your front garden, it’s worth checking first. You may require permission if you’re not using porous materials.

Five steps to getting planning permission

1. Do your research and get advice

Speak to a builder or an architect as early as you can. They will help you find out if you need planning permission. If you’re undertaking large-scale work, like a new building, a large extension or are making changes to a listed property, then you’ll probably need planning permission. 

2. Make clear plans

The more detailed your plans and the more information you can include to send to your Local Authority, the better. That’s where your builder or architect will be invaluable. They will help you make clear plans to show the finished result. 

3. Ready your reports

You may need to request special reports or surveys to show that your development won’t lead to any problems for the area and neighbourhood around you. The authority handling your application may enquire about:

  • Waste collection. So bin lorries can still access and remove your waste.
  • Utilities. How your property will connect to the gas and electricity network.
  • Sewage. That you can access the local sewage lines without impacting them.
  • Flood risk. To show that your property is not at a high risk of flooding.

Professional surveys could include:

  • Noise survey. If there is a risk that your building work could cause disruption.
  • Sustainability plan. To show that your development will not impact the environment.
  • Sightline survey. To ensure your building doesn’t obscure protected sight lines.
  • Right to light survey. Making sure that any changes don’t cast a shadow over your neighbour’s property.
  • Tree survey. Should you need to chop down any old trees.
  • Endangered animal survey. Animals like owls, bats and badgers are protected and you won’t be able to do anything that disturbs them.
  • Archaeological survey. You may have to dig up previously un-excavated land.
  • Heritage statement. For listed buildings and property in conservation areas.
  • Contamination survey. If you’re planning to build on brownfield land, this will show if the soil is contaminated.

4. Organise and submit

Once you’ve made your plans and gathered all the relevant surveys, you’re ready to submit to your Local Authority. You can submit your application online. But if you choose to do it in person you’ll need to include:

  • Five copies of the authority’s planning application form
  • Your Certificate of Ownership for the land or property
  • Design and Access Statement explaining how your building is suitable for the proposed site and its setting, and how it will be accessed
  • Payment.

You can see how much your planning application will cost using the Planning Portal’s online calculator.

5. Wait for the verdict

It’s well-known that applying for planning permission requires some patience. Most Local Authorities take between 6-8 weeks, however this could be longer if your project is large and/or complex.

If your planning is granted, you’ll be notified in writing. You should make a start on your project within three years. Planning permission consent expires after three years. The planning approval applies to the land. If you sell your property within three years of approval, then this will include the approved plans.

What to do if your planning application is rejected

If your application is rejected, or approved subject to conditions which you don’t find acceptable, you have two options:

  • You can appeal to the Secretary of State.
  • You could submit a modified version of your proposal within 12 months, without incurring an extra fee (subject to your Local Authority).

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