If you can't find the information you need, you can email us at advice@planningaid.rtpi.org.uk


Jargon Buster - Glossary of Planning Terms

Affordable Housing:
Housing, whether for rent, shared ownership or outright purchase, provided at a cost considered affordable in relation to incomes that are average or below average, or in relation to the price of general market housing.

Agricultural (Forestry or Other Rural Occupational) Dwelling:
A dwelling which is subject to a planning condition or legal agreement restricting occupation to someone employed, or was last employed, in agriculture, forestry or other appropriate rural employment.

Ancillary Use:

An ancillary use is something that is incidental to the main use of a building/development. Essentially it is something that is of a minor, casual or subordinate nature. For example, many sandwich shops allow some customers to eat on the premises but this can considered ancillary to the main function as a shop if the majority of sales are to be consumed away from the premises. This is a matter of fact and degree and should the consumption of food on the premises eclipse the sales of food to be eaten off site then a change of use would occur. 

The process whereby a planning applicant can challenge an adverse decision, including a refusal of planning permission or the imposition of an enforcement notice. Appeals can also be made against the failure of the planning authority to issue a decision within a given time, against conditions attached to a planning permission, against the issue of an enforcement notice and against refusals of listed building consent. In England and Wales, appeals are processed by the Planning Inspectorate.

Area Action Plans:
A type of Development Plan Document focused upon a specific location or an area subject to conservation or significant change (for example major regeneration).

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB):
An area with statutory national landscape designation, the primary purpose of which is to conserve and enhance natural beauty. Together with National Parks, AONB represent the nation's finest landscapes. AONBs are designated by Natural England.

Article 4 Direction:
A Direction removing some or all permitted development rights, for example within a conservation area or curtilage of a listed building. Article 4 directions are issued by local planning authorities.

Authorities' Monitoring Report:
A report prepared annually by local planning authorities assessing progress with and the effectiveness of the policies and proposals in their Local Plan.

Backland Development:
Building on land to the rear of existing properties, usually in large residential gardens. This is sometimes seen as inappropriate because of access problems, overlooking/shadowing and preventing future comprehensive planning of the area.

Breach of Conditions Notice:
A notice served by a local planning authority where a planning condition linked to a planning permission has been breached.

Brownfield Land:
See previously developed land below.

Building Control/Regulation:
If a new building is to be erected or an existing one altered, building regulation consent will normally be needed. Building Regulations relates to the technical detail of how development is constructed - the principle of whether a  scheme goes ahead and assessment of how it impacts upon the wider area/people is what planning permission deals with.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government can order that a planning application or Local Plan is taken out of the hands of a local authority – i.e. that it be “called in” for their decision. The application will then be subject to a public inquiry presided over by a Planning Inspector who will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State who will decide whether to approve an application or Local Plan instead of the local planning authority. Call ins are handled by the National Planning Casework Unit.

Change of Use:
Planning permission is required for the "material change of use" of a property. This is a change of the main use of a property, not ancillary uses, e.g. if a shop choses to change part of its customer area to an area where goods to be sold will be stored that is a change of ancillary uses. The Use Classes Order (see the entry below for this) specifies various categories of use and planning permission is not required to change the use of a property from one use to another in the same use class. 

A term often relating to Conservation Areas or Listed Buildings, but also to the appearance of any place in terms of its landscape or the layout of streets and open spaces, giving it a distinct identity.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL):
A system eventually intended to largely replace Section 106 agreements by which local authorities can raise funds from owners or developers of land undertaking new building projects in their area to support the provision of infrastructure needed to serve the development. 

Community Strategy:

A strategy prepared by a local authority to improve local quality of life and aspirations, under the Local Government Act 2000.

Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO):
An order issued by the government or a local authority to acquire land or buildings in the wider public interest, e.g. for the construction of a major road or to regenerate an area.

Conditions (on a Planning Permission):
Requirements attached to a planning permission that limit or direct the manner in which development is carried out. Should these be breached then the Local Planning Authority can take enforcement action.  Pre-commencement conditions are those which require certain details to be agreed with the Local Planning Authority before development can commence.  The Local Planning Authority need to get an applicant's written agreement to such conditions.  For further guidance see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/use-of-planning-conditions#the-use-of-pre-commencement-conditions

Conservation Areas:
Areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character, appearance or setting of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance; permitted development rights may be restricted in these areas.

Core Strategy:
A local plan document. It sets out the long term vision for a local planning authority area, the strategic objectives, and the strategic planning policies needed to deliver that vision. It should help deliver the spatial elements of the Community Strategy (the objectives that affect how your area will look and how it is used).

County Councils:
Responsible for the preparation of waste and minerals development plans and dealing with waste and minerals applications, and dealing with applications for their own development  - for example, schools and libraries. Where one exists the County Council is also the Highways Authority.

Land surrounding and ancillary to a building which is necessary for its function and enjoyment, for example, the domestic garden of a dwelling or the yard of a factory.

 Decision Notice:
A formal, written, legal document which states the decision made by a planning authority on an application made under the Planning Acts (can include planning permission, listed building consent, advertisement consent etc).  The notice includes any conditions attached to the permission or in the case of a refusal the detailed reasons for the refusal.

Design and access statement:
A report accompanying and supporting a planning application to illustrate the process that has led to the development proposal, and to explain and justify the proposal in a structured way.

The legal definition of development is "the carrying out of building, mining, engineering or other operations in, on, under or over land, and the making of any material change in the use of buildings or other land" (Sec 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990); this covers virtually all construction activities and changes of use.

Development Control/Management:
The process whereby a local planning authority determines planning applications. In dealing with planning applications authorities have regard to relevant development plan policies, any local financial considerations and any other material considerations.

Enforcement Notice:
This is a formal notice served by the local planning authority requiring the owner of a property to remedy a breach of planning control, e.g. to demolish an unauthorised building, to require an unauthorised use to cease or to require the conditions on a planning permission to be complied with. It sets out what the alleged breach is, what works are required to remedy the breach as well as the time period within which the works need to be undertaken. An enforcement notice can be appealed up to the day it comes into effect.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Statement:
Applicants for certain types of development, usually more significant schemes, are required to submit an "environmental statement" accompanying a planning application. This evaluates the likely environmental impacts of the development, together with an assessment of how the severity of the impacts could be reduced.

General Permitted Development Order (GPDO):
Regulations made by the government which grants what is effectively a nationwide planning permission for specified minor developments.  There are regular updates - including an update in 2020 to allow certain temporary changes of use in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Green Belt:
A designation for land around certain cities and large built-up areas, which aims to keep this land permanently open or largely undeveloped. The purposes of the green belt are to:

  • check the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas
  • prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another
  • assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  • preserve the setting and special character of historic towns and
  • assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

Green Belts are defined in a local planning authority's development plan with changes only being permissible in exceptional circumstances as part of a Local Plan review. A common mistake is to assume all “green” land is Green Belt. Your local planning authority’s proposals map and Local Plan will clearly set out the extent of the adopted Green Belt and the relevant planning policies.

Greenfield Land:
Land (or a defined site) usually farmland, that has not previously been developed. This should not be confused with Green Belt which is a specific designation.

Habitable Room:
Any room used for sleeping, cooking, living or eating purposes. Areas such as bathrooms, toilets, service rooms, corridors, hallways, utility rooms or similar spaces are excluded from this definition.

Informal Hearing: A procedure for dealing with planning appeals where there is informal discussion of the proposal round a table chaired by the Inspector. Less formal than a Public Inquiry with no cross examination and all questioning led by the appointed Planning Inspector.

Listed Buildings:
A building of special architectural or historic interest. Listed buildings are graded I, II* or II with grade I being the highest. Listing includes the interior as well as the exterior of the building and also any buildings or permanent structures, e.g. walls, within its curtilage. Historic England is responsible for listing buildings in England. 
Listed Building Consent:
Consent required for the demolition, in whole or in part of a listed building, or for any works of alteration or extension that would affect the character of the building.

Local Development Documents (LDDs):
These include Development Plan Documents (which form part of the statutory development plan) and Supplementary Planning Documents (which do not form part of the statutory development plan). LDDs collectively deliver the spatial planning strategy for the local planning authority's area.

Local Development Framework (LDF):
The Local Development Framework (LDF) is a non-statutory term used to describe a folder of documents, which includes all the local planning authority's local development documents. An LDF is comprised of:

  • Development Plan Documents (which form part of the statutory development plan)
  • Supplementary Planning Documents

The local development framework will also comprise of:

  • Statement of Community Involvement
  • Local Development Scheme
  • Authority Monitoring Report
  • any Local Development Orders or Simplified Planning Zones that may have been added.

Local Development Order:
An Order made by the local planning authority (under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) that grants planning permission for a site-specific development or classes of development.

Local Development Scheme:
The local planning authority's scheduled plan for the preparation of Local Development Documents. This essentially provides the timetable for Local Plan production.

Local Enterprise Partnership:
A body designated by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, established for the purpose of creating or improving the conditions for economic growth in an area.

Local Planning Authority:
The local authority or council that is empowered by law to exercise planning functions, often the local borough or district council. National Parks and the Broads authority are also local planning authorities. County councils are the authority for waste and minerals matters as well as the Highways Authority.

Local Plan:
The plan for the future development of the local area, drawn up by the local planning authority in consultation with the community and subject to an examination before an independent Planning Inspector. These set planning policies for the area as well as allocating land for development or protection. A Local Plan is part of the development plan for an area.

Material Considerations:
A matter that should be taken into account in deciding a planning application or on an appeal against a planning decision.

National Park:
The statutory purposes of national parks are to conserve and enhance their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and to promote opportunities for public understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. National parks are designated by Natural England, subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

National Planning Policy Framework:
Designed to consolidate all policy statements (except National Policy Statements referring to Nationally Strategic Infrastructure Projects). This provides a national policy overview that is implemented in Development Plans and can be found here.

Neighbourhood Development Order:
A neighbourhood planning tool that allows communities to essentially grant planning permission for a specific form of development either on a specific site or over a wider area. The process is subject to independent examination and a community referendum as per a neighbourhood plan.

Neighbourhood Plans:
A plan prepared by a Parish or Town Council or a Neighbourhood Forum for a particular neighbourhood area (made under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004). The plan can set out land use planning policies and the allocation of land provided they are in conformity with strategic policies of the local plan and have regard to national policy and guidance. The process is subject to independent examination and a community referendum.

Non Material Amendment

A non-material amendment application under Section 96A of the Town and Country Planning Act is a way of amending an existing planning permission, if the amendment is very minor and is not a material change to the development as approved.  There is no definition of what is ‘non-material’ and this will depend on the development as permitted and the change proposed. An amendment that is material to one permission may be non-material to another.  

Outline Application:
An application for planning permission which does not include full details of the proposal, usually only includes sufficient detail to identify the principles of the proposal; details not submitted at this stage are called 'reserved matters'. If the application is granted, details of the reserved matters are submitted to the local planning authority at a later stage. Essentially an outline consent approves the principle of development; not the detail.

Parish/Town Council:
Where an area is designated as a civil parish, the community it contains may be represented by a Parish or Town Council which is an elected local government body. This provides a limited range of local public services and makes representations on behalf of the community to other organisations; particularly significant to planning in that it can make submissions on behalf of its community when development plan documents are being prepared and on planning applications submitted within the parish. An increasingly important role is in being proactive in the preparation of Parish Plans and neighbourhood planning (in an area covered by a Parish or Town Council it is only these bodies that can lead on neighbourhood planning matters).

Parish Plans:
A community planning tool which assists communities to articulate issues of concern to them. This results in an action plan which can be used to inform and endorse the Parish Council's role in acting on behalf of and representing the community.

Permitted Development:
What is effectively a nationwide planning permission to carry out certain limited forms of development without the need to make a planning application. These provisions are granted under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. It should be noted that local planning authorities have the power to remove permitted development rights through planning conditions or Article 4 Directions so always double check with your council.

Planning Aid England (PAE):
PAE is an organisation that provides free independent and professional planning advice to all callers. Community groups and individuals who are then eligible may receive further professional advice through a network of professional volunteers. We also work with communities to help them understand, and play a role in, the planning process and Neighbourhood Planning. PAE is an independent source of information.

Planning Committee:
Planning committees are made up of elected councillors. One of the key roles of a planning committee is to make decisions on planning applications where the decision making has not been delegated to officers. A planning officer will make a recommendation and the committee will vote on whether or not to go with the recommendation.

Planning Condition:
A condition imposed on a grant of planning permission. Normally used to control the impact of development such as opening hours in the case of a shop, bar or restaurant.

Planning Consultant:
A company that specialises in providing advice on planning matters. The Royal Town Planning Institute has an online directory providing information on planning consultancies based within the UK which can be found here.

Planning Inspectorate:
An executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is responsible for determining planning appeals and other related appeals, e.g. enforcement, listed buildings and the public examination of local development plans.

Planning Obligations:
A legally enforceable agreement entered into under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to mitigate the impacts of a development proposal that cannot be controlled through the imposition of planning conditions.

Previously Developed Land (Brownfield land):
Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure. This excludes: land that is or has been occupied by agricultural or forestry buildings; land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill purposes where provision for restoration has been made through development control procedures; land in built-up areas such as private residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and allotments; and land that was previously-developed but where the remains of the permanent structure or fixed surface structure have blended into the landscape in the process of time. (N.B. This definition comes from the National Planning Policy Framework)

Proposals (or Policies) Map:
An important part of the development plan showing the location of proposals, designations and area based policies in the Local Plan on an Ordnance Survey base map.

Public Inquiry: A formal procedure for dealing with planning appeals akin to a court of law where parties frequently have legal representation and cross-examination takes place.

Reserved Matters:
A planning permission usually outline, may specifically reserve for later consideration some matters not relating to the principles of the proposed development. Matters reserved at outline stage can include access, appearance, layout, scale and landscaping. This can also refer to conditions placed on a full planning permission that require the approval of additional matters such as materials.

Simplified Planning Zone:
An area in which a local planning authority wishes to stimulate development and encourage investment. It operates by granting a specified planning permission in the zone without the need for an application for a planning application and the payment of planning fees.

Site Specific Policies and Proposals:
This document allocates land for specific uses, such as housing and employment, the documents can identify the criteria for control of development on specific sites i.e. details of any specific criteria related to development of that site, like design, access requirements, or level of affordable housing. Any allocations made in these documents will be clearly linked to the Adopted Proposals Map and other planning policy documents like Area Action Plans.

Spatial planning:
Spatial planning goes beyond traditional land use planning to bring together and integrate policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programmes which influence the nature of places and how they function.

This will include policies which can impact on land use by influencing the demands on, or needs for, development, but which are not capable of being delivered solely or mainly through the granting or refusal of planning permission and which may be implemented by other means.

Statement of Community Involvement:
This sets out the processes to be used by the local authority in involving the community in the preparation, alteration and continuing review of all local development documents and development control decisions.

Supplementary Planning Documents/Guidance (SPD/SPG):
Documents which add further detail to the policies in the Local Plan. They can be used to provide further guidance for development on specific sites, or on particular issues, such as design. Supplementary planning documents are capable of being a material consideration in planning decisions but are not part of the development plan, so do not have as much weight in the process.

Statutory Undertakers:
Organisations which have powers derived from statute to develop and operate utility services, such as gas, water , electricity, and telecommunications.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA):

Similar to an EIA but is an assessment of the environmental impacts of policy rather than development.

Sustainability Appraisal (including Environmental Appraisal) (SA):
An appraisal of the economic, environmental and social effects of a plan from the outset of the preparation process to allow decisions to be made that accord with sustainable development.

Tree Preservation Order (TPO):
A mechanism for securing the preservation of individual trees or groups of trees of acknowledged amenity value. A preserved tree may not normally be topped, lopped or felled without the consent of the local planning authority.

Use Classes Order:
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 puts uses of land and buildings into various categories. Planning permission is not needed for changes of use within the same use class unless a planning condition has been imposed restricting this.

Is any material or object that is no longer wanted and requires disposal. If a material or object is re-usable, it is still classed as waste if it has first been discarded.

Waste Local Plan:
A statutory development plan prepared (or saved) by the waste planning authority under transitional arrangements, setting out polices in relation to waste management and related developments.

Written Representations:
A procedure by which representations on planning appeals, development plans and Development Plan Documents are dealt with by change of correspondence without the need for a full public inquiry or informal hearing.

Have more questions? Submit a request
Powered by Zendesk