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Overview of the Planning Application process

Planning permission is required before starting any building, engineering and mining operations or undertaking a material change of use of building(s) or land. This is known as development. Your local planning authority (LPA) is responsible for deciding whether a development - anything from an extension on a house to a new shopping centre - should be approved.  To get planning permission you need to make an application to your LPA.

Some types of development do not need an application to be submitted to the LPA.  Most of these (called Permitted Development) relate to those who want to carry out small alterations and extensions to residential properties. Some non-residential developments can also be achieved under Permitted Development. If you are unsure whether an application is required, check the website of your LPA about what procedures they have in place to help people determine if planning permission is required or if a development will benefit from Permitted Development.

The Planning Portal has produced a very helpful flow chart which explains the planning application process.

Who can apply? 

Anybody can apply, but, if you wish, you could appoint a planning consultant, architect, surveyor or other professional to apply for planning permission on your behalf. Most planning applications require the submission of detailed plans and when these are required most people consider it better to employ a professional. The Planning Consultants Online Directory  enables you to find an RTPI-qualified consultant working in your area.

You can apply for planning permission for a site even if you don’t yet own it.  If you are doing this, it is advisable to negotiate, with the landowner, a formal option to purchase or lease the land, before applying for planning permission, to avoid others being able to take advantage of a planning permission you have gone to the trouble and expense to obtain.

On the planning application form, there are different certificates to sign depending on the ownership of the land.  One must be completed for every application. Certificate A is used if you have full ownership of the land, Certificate B is used if you don’t own the land but you know the owner(s), Certificate C is where you know some of the owners but not all and Certificate D is where you do not know any of the owners.

Pre-Application Discussions / Consultation

It may be helpful to discuss the acceptability of a proposal with your LPA, before submitting a planning application.  The authority may charge a fee for such discussions. Details of their fees for this and the services they offer should be available on their website, along with contact details.

Fees for planning applications

Most applications for planning permission require a fee to be paid when the application is made. This is set by the government and the fee schedule is usually found of the LPA website. You can calculate the fee for any planning application here.

How do I apply?

You will need to fill in the relevant application form. This can be viewed on the authority's website or on the Planning Portal (a Guide to the Fees for Planning Applications in England).  Most applications are submitted electronically via the Planning Portal or through the authority's website.

I’ve submitted my application, what happens next?

Your LPA has to decide if your application is “valid”. i.e. it has all the necessary plans and other documentation needed for the LPA to determine your application. Once satisfied they will then send you or your agent, as appropriate, a formal acknowledgement of the application which will include a planning application reference number.  The process of determining your application then starts.  The LPA has targets for the time taken to make its decision.  For minor applications this is 8 weeks, for major applications this is 13 weeks and for those that require an Environmental Impact Assessment the target date is 16 weeks.

Who knows I’ve applied?

The Local Planning Authority (LPA), by law, has to “consult” on all planning applications.  This means letting the public know about each planning application they receive.  This can include: displaying a site notice, letting your neighbours know and advertising it in newspapers.  A number of specialist bodies may also be consulted, such as the Highways Agency or the Parish Council.  The LPA may also consult with other internal departments of the Council. National Planning Practice Guidance contains further information on the statutory publicity requirements, statutory consultees and non-statutory consultees on planning permission and heritage applications. It is noted that the table of non-statutory consultees was deleted in July 2019

How is the decision reached?

A case officer will be assigned to deal with your application. 

An important part of their role is to recommend to the Planning Committee, or to the officer(s) who have been granted delegated authority to make a decision on the Committee’s behalf, whether your planning application should be granted permission or refused. The case officer will:

  • Visit the application site to look at, for example, the effect of the proposal on neighbours and on the appearance of the area
  • Consider your application in relation to the planning policies for the site and the type of development proposed
  • Take comments relating to material planning considerations from local residents, Parish/Town Councils and other organisations into account
  • Let you know if changes could be made to your application to make it more likely to be acceptable
  • Prepare a report recommending whether the application should be approved, possibly with conditions, or refused.

The case officer will base their recommendation on whether they consider the proposal to comply with the policies in the development plan (Local Plan and neighbourhood plans) or whether material considerations indicate otherwise.

What are planning conditions?

If your application is approved, conditions are usually imposed. Typical conditions might include: a requirement to start work within a set timeframe or for a stipulation on the external materials to be used on the building, (usually a requirement to match those of the existing building or to use materials that have to be agreed before work commences).

All conditions must be justified in terms of their relevance to planning, the development and their enforceability.  The government have produced comprehensive guidance on the use of conditions and this can be accessed here.

What can I do if my application is refused?

If your application is refused, this is often because the proposal is in conflict with planning policies.  A refusal notice will be issued by the LPA, which should list the relevant policies it conflicts with and the reasons why.

If your application is refused you can submit a modified application to try and overcome the reasons for refusal. Usually, if you submit it within 12 months of the original decision, you would not need to pay another application fee. Alternatively, you can appeal, within 6 months, (or 12 weeks for householder and “minor commercial” applications) to the Planning Inspectorate.  If you wish you can pursue both options at the same time.  If you have been granted planning permission subject to conditions and you object to one or more of these, you can also appeal against these.

Further information on the appeal process can be accessed here.



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