PLANNING: Everything You Need to Know

It’s a long process, can throw up some unknowns and is usually considered a thoroughly painful experience. But, the fact is, you have to go through it, and you have to play it by the book.

Depending upon where you are in the country you, your architect or the person acting as your agent may need to prepare additional documentation to fulfil local requirements as well as the standard planning forms, plans, elevations, site plan and location plan.

We don’t recommend you try this on your own unless you have experience of the process already – it’s not always straightforward.

The type of project you are about to embark on will determine the type of planning permission you need. These days it is usually dealt with using a special online tool known as ‘The Planning Portal’. We have explained some of the most common types of planning permission that are most likely to be relevant to you – but there are plenty more where they came from!


Just because the plot has OPP, don’t be fooled into thinking you’ll get approval for whatever you decide to put in under reserved matters. The scheme will still need to meet the approval of the planners in the same way that Full Planning applications would (see next section).

Types of planning

Outline Planning Permission (OPP)

Outline is like a ‘decision in principle’ – just like applying for a mortgage. People who obtain outline know they can build something, such as a ‘three-bed two storey dwelling’, but that’s about it.

Outline applications rarely need detailed plans, but if the site is in an AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty) or a Conservation Area more detailed plans may be required.

If you have bought a building plot with OPP you will need to do some more work in order to obtain full planning approval. This process is known a Approval of Reserved Matters – the ‘reserved matters’ being the bits highlighted on the OPP that are reserved for you to deal with – explained in the next section.

Approval of ‘Reserved Matters’

Where outline planning consent is granted, certain details will be ‘reserved’ for future approval and will require submission of this type of application. No work can commence on the site until the approval of the Reserved Matters has been granted.

You will need to supply detailed plans and elevations, a site plan plus a description or samples of the materials you intend to use.

Full planning permission

Unlike applying for Outline Permission and then Reserved Matters, Full Planning Permission is a one-stage process.

It will require submission of detailed plans and elevations, a site plan, a location plan, possibly a Flood Risk Assessment depending on geographic location, and depending upon the site maybe a tree survey, bat survey, Protected Species survey – the list goes on. Having said that there’s no need to be too concerned as additional surveys like these are rare.

Listed building consent

If you are planning on carrying out any works to a listed building you will require Listed Buildings Consent. This is in addition to any other form or planning application and is usually dealt with by the Conservation Officer in conjunction with a Planning Officer.

The main planning application and Listed Buildings Consent should be applied for at the same time.

Permission to carry out work on protected trees

If trees on your property are protected by a tree preservation order (TPO) you will require permission to fell, prune or carry out other works to them.

If it is intended to carry out works to trees within a conservation area, the council must usually be given 6 weeks prior written notice before work begins. Where tree works form part of a wider planning application, the details will be dealt with as part of that application and no separate tree works application is needed.


Permission is vital!

You can’t start without it – your Local Authority will not be happy! They will issue an enforcement notice forcing you to stop. If you don’t, they’ll make you stop! You can’t argue with it – and there have been plenty of cases where peoples homes have been bulldozed because they tried to get away with it. Our view is that anyone who tries to get away with building anything without the correct planning permission must be mad.

Building Regulations – also vital!

You might not need planning permission for certain schemes, such as an extension. However, building regulations approval is usually necessary. Regulations are regulations – you must meet or exceed them in order for the building to become lawful. Just like planning enforcement, the Local Authority can stop the build if requirements are not met. The sort of things covered by Building Regulations are structural integrity, fire safety, disabled access, noise, insulation, heating systems and so on.

You would apply for Building Regulations approval in a similar way to applying for Planning Permission – the two go hand in hand, but don’t do Building regulations until you’ve got your planning permission – because if you don’t get your planning permission, your Building Regulations approval is totally useless!

Don’t go it alone

Planning can be a minefield , and we don’t recommend having a go at it yourself unless you know what you’re doing. Seek advice from a local agent or architect. We say ‘local’ because they will know the intricacies involved with planning applications in your area.

The plot will (almost) always determine the design

If you’re reading this chances are you’ve already started looking at the type of home you would like to build. Our advice is always to find a plot where you want it and then consider the type of property you think will realistically obtain planning approval.

If you have a three-storey detached property in mind but the only plot you can find is right in the middle of a street with only single storey buildings, you can forget it.

You might have dreams of contemporary open-plan living with clean rendered walls and glass everywhere. Nice thought, but if the only plot you can find is in the back yard of William the Conquerors holiday home, chances are you won’t get permission.

Know the Rules of the Game

Planning decisions are based upon planning policy. You can download planning policies but they might not make a lot of sense to you.

They will to a planning professional, which is another reason not to go solo when it comes to planning.

Love Thy Neighbour

Not always easy, but it can pay dividends if you keep neighbours on your side. They will be given the opportunity to object to your application, so don’t give them any ammo.

If you’ve just bought the plot, pay them a visit to introduce yourselves. Try to gauge their feelings towards the prospect of building next door to them and if they appear to be unduly concerned try to put their minds at ease.

See it from their point of view – for years they had the pleasure of overlooking an orchard, and suddenly they have to come to terms with looking at a brand new building that will spoil their view. Not ideal from their point of view, and that’s before you take into account of three to nine months of noise and dust during the building process.

The Party Wall Act

You may have heard of this, but you probably have never come across it before.

It can be complicated, but basically some new builds and extensions will be subject to The Party Wall Act. Complying with this is a legal requirement. The planning process and Building Regulations have nothing whatsoever to do with the Act, so just because you have planning permission it doesn’t mean you can get started.

Keep the chainsaw in the garage – for now

There is such a thing as a ‘TPO’ – ‘Tree Preservation Order’. If a tree is protected by a TPO, you will need permission from your Local Authority to do anything to it.

Most trees within a Conservation Area are likely to be protected by TPO’s, but a TPO can be present anywhere. If in doubt, check with the Local Authority (call and ask for the Tree Officer).

Do Your Homework!

Get stuck into some research – if you’re visiting our web site you’re making a good start. There’s a lot to take in, and we can help with it so feel free to call us to discuss your project.

The more research you do, the better. Never take anyone’s word for it – always get a second opinion (at least!).

Read magazines, watch relevant TV programmes (and learn from the mistakes you will inevitably see!), speak to others who have built their own home, seek recommendations for companies to work with and above all try to enjoy yourself in the process.