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Jargon buster - glossary of planning terms

Affordable Housing:
Government policy, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), uses the following definition of affordable housing for planning purposes:  

“Social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. Affordable housing should include provisions to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision.”


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.



The dictionary definition of amenity is the “pleasantness or attractiveness of a place”. Therefore, in planning terms, as used in the National Planning Policy Framework, “amenity” is often used to refer to the quality or character of an area and elements that contribute to the overall enjoyment of an area. Residential amenity is an overall term for the living conditions of the occupiers of residential properties, such as privacy, peace and quiet, daylight and sunlight etc.


Ancillary Use:

A secondary use related to but not essential to the primary use of buildings or land. For example, a building may have a primary use as a restaurant (Use Class E) but also have an incidental takeaway use (sui generis). The secondary use can change, expand or decrease without constituting a material change of use, as long as it remains subservient to the primary use. The question of whether a use is incidental or whether a material change of use has occurred is a matter of fact and degree.


The process whereby a planning applicant can challenge an adverse decision, including a refusal of planning permission. 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 and conservation area consent. In England and Wales, appeals are processed by the Planning Inspectorate.


Area Action Plans:
A type of Development Plan Document focused upon specific locations, or key growth areas subject to conservation or significant change (for example major regeneration or growth areas). The document sets out planning policies to guide development proposals. Not all Local Planning Authority areas have Area Action Plans.

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.  In November 2023 AONBs became known as ‘National Landscapes’, however the legal definition remains as AONB. 

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


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:
Proposals for vacant and under-used land, usually to the rear of existing buildings. Common challenges associated with backland development include problems with access and movement and impacts on local amenity by reason of overlooking or overshadowing adjacent or adjoining property.

Breach of Conditions Notice:
A notice served by a local planning authority where a planning condition linked to a planning permission has not been adhered to. A breach of condition notice is similar to an enforcement notice, however there is no right of appeal and only the person who the notice is served on can be prosecuted.

Brownfield Land:
See previously developed land below.

Building Control/Regulation:
If a new building is built, an existing one is altered or its use materially changed, then building regulation consent will normally be needed. This process is distinct from the planning system and approvals from both are usually necessary. Building regulations are intended to protect people’s safety, health and welfare. They also set standards for accessibility, energy use, security and water use.


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.


This is a government publication used to explain policy and regulation more fully, setting out written policy that would be a material consideration in the determination of any relevant planning application. Many circulars include a direction or requirement to take specific action or provide guidance on carrying out specific aspects of national planning policy.

Change of Use:
Planning permission is required for the material change of use of a property or land.  Depending on how buildings and land are used, result in them falling within different use classes which are set out in the Use Classes Order (see the entry below).  Planning permission is not normally required to change the use of a property from one use to another in the same use class.  If planning permission is required for change of use, there may be permitted development rights (see the entry below ‘General Permitted Development Order’) which allow change of use without having to make a planning application.


A term often used in the description of landscapes and conservation areas, going beyond just visual impact and appearance to include factors such as topography, the pattern of vegetation and the layout of streets and open spaces, that give areas distinct identities. Character can also be derived from intangible aspects, including the ambience or feel of a place.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL):
CIL is a planning charge 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. It only applies in areas where the local authority has approved and published a charging schedule setting out its levy rates.  Most new development that creates net additional floor space of 100 square metres or more, or creates a new dwelling, is potentially liable for the levy.


Community Right to Build 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 proposal or classes of development.

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 of a planning permission which need to be adhered to. Failure to comply with a condition could render a planning permission unlawfully implemented and a Council could take enforcement action to rectify the situation. Conditions vary in terms of requirements and can cover a vast array of disciplines. Conditions follow a standard format, typically with a trigger for action (such as pre-commencement, or prior to occupation etc) followed by the requirement (such as the requirement for the submission of details for written approval by a Local Planning Authority or for undertaking the development in a particular way). For further guidance please see: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/use-of-planning-conditions

Conservation Areas:
Areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character, appearance or setting of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. The impacts of new development upon the Conservation Area must be considered and permitted development may be restricted.

County Councils:
In relation to planning, a County Council is 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.

The land surrounding and directly connected to a building. For example, the garden of a house or the service 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, certificates of lawful development, prior approval, 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. They provide a framework for applicants to explain how a proposed development is a suitable response to the site and its setting, and demonstrate that it can be adequately accessed by prospective users. They can be used to illustrate the process that has led to the development proposal, and to explain and justify the proposal in a structured way.


Design code:

A set of illustrated design requirements that provide specific, detailed guidelines for the development of a site or area. The graphic and written components of the code should build upon a design vision, such as a masterplan or other design and development framework for a site or area.

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 of determining planning and related applications. The local planning authority departments that determine planning applications are also usually called development control or management.


Development Plan:

The development plan is defined in section 38 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 and includes adopted local plans, neighbourhood plans that have been made, and published spatial development strategies, together with any regional strategy policies that remain in force (but not supplementary planning documents). Neighbourhood plans that have been approved at referendum are also part of the development plan, unless the local planning authority decides that the neighbourhood plan should not be made.


Discharge of conditions:

Most planning approvals have conditions attached to them which stipulate what needs to be done before construction work commences. Some of these require further information to be provided or for certain actions to be undertaken. The applicant will need to apply to the council with a discharge of condition application to demonstrate that these subsequent follow up actions have been implemented. This is provided for under Section 74(a) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.


Enforcement Notice:
This is a formal notice served by the local planning authority requiring the owner of a property or land 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:
Some types of development require an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) to be undertaken, and the resulting Environmental Statement to be submitted with the planning application. This enables the Local Planning Authority to have sufficient environmental information on the impacts of the development when making the decision.  The EIA assesses the impacts of the development upon different aspects of the environment (e.g. ecology, noise, air quality) and recommend mitigation where necessary. The mitigation can then be secured through planning conditions or legal agreements, if the development is granted planning permission.


Financial Viability: 

Whether the money made from a development is greater than the money spent on developing it. The process of assessing whether a development is financially viable is called financial viability assessment. If an assessment finds that a developer would not make enough profit, the development may be considered unviable, and the developer may be able to negotiate reductions in the amount of affordable housing and other infrastructure they have to provide.  


General Permitted Development Order (GPDO):
Regulations made by the government which grants what is effectively a nationwide planning permission for specified minor developments.  The GPDO is regularly updated.  It also sets out the range of exclusions which apply, for example within conservation areas, designated landscapes and World Heritage Sites.  Permitted development rights can also be removed by a local planning authority either by a condition on a planning permission or by an Article 4 Direction (see entry above).


Green Belt:

A designation for land around certain cities and large built-up areas, which aims to keep this land permanently open. 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 and with justification, as part of a Local Plan review. Not all “green” land is Green Belt. A local planning authority’s proposals map will clearly set out the extent of any adopted Green Belt in the plan area.

Any development in the Green Belt is significantly restricted, with some exceptions which are set out in the National Planning Policy Framework.


Greenfield Land:
Open land that has not previously been developed. This could include agricultural or any other undeveloped site. Not all greenfield sites are covered by designations and this should not be confused with Green Belt, or other designations such as local parks, local green space or registered parks and gardens, which will apply to specific areas or sites only.


Habitable Room:
Normally considered to be any room used for sleeping, cooking, living or eating purposes. Enclosed spaces such as bathrooms, toilets, service rooms, corridors, hallways, utility rooms or similar spaces are excluded from this definition, although what precisely is encompassed within the term “habitable” can vary depending on the context.


Informal Hearing:

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


Listed Buildings:
A building identified as being of special architectural or historic interest by the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport on the advice of Historic England. Listed buildings are graded I, II* or II with grade I being the highest and are included within the definition of “designated heritage asset” in the NPPF. 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 that pre-date July 1948.
Listed Building Consent:
This type of consent is legally 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):
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 where the impacts would be acceptable, and in particular where it would promote economic, social or environmental gains for an 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 plan that sets out the timetable for delivering planning policy documents.


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.  From April 2024 the Government will no longer fund Local Enterprise Partnerships (LEPs) as it is anticipated that local and combined authorities will take on the functions delivered by LEPs.

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:
A plan for the future development of a local area. It is prepared by a local planning authority in consultation with the local community and subject to examination by an independent Planning Inspector. A Local Plan contains planning policies for an area. It also allocates land for new development and designates areas for protection. A Local Plan is part of the development plan and used to determine planning applications.


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


Minor Material Amendment:

The details of an existing approved development can be amended by an application to vary or remove the conditions attached to the original planning approval, without having to submit an entirely new planning application. For example this could include minor adjustments to door and window sizes and the use of slightly different building materials. This is often also called a Section 73 application as provision for this is made under Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.


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 (NPPF):
A document setting out the government’s main economic, social and environmental planning policies for England. The policies set out in the framework apply to the preparation of local and neighbourhood plans and to decisions on planning applications.

Neighbourhood Development Order:
This allows communities to essentially grant planning permission for a particular type of development in a particular area, subject to certain limitations. The process is also subject to independent examination, where specific checks will be carried out to ensure that the Order 1) is consistent with national planning policy, 2) is consistent with the development plan for the local area, 3) complies with EU and human rights requirements, and 4) does not damage local heritage assets. This is then followed by a local 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) that give communities the power to develop a vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth to their local area. This is a powerful tool for local people to plan for the types of development to meet their community’s needs. The process is subject to independent examination and a community referendum.


Outline Application:
An application for planning permission which does not include full details of the proposal, and 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 created to enable communities to contribute to the decision and plan making processes of their Parish Councils.


Permission in principle:

An alternative way of obtaining planning permission for minor housing-led development. As it separates the principle of the development from technical matters, it is more streamlined that other planning application processes. The permission in principle consent route has two stages: The first stage is called the ‘permission in principle’ stage - this establishes whether a site is suitable in principle. The scope of the consideration of the application is limited to the location, land use and amount of development. The second stage, which is called the ‘technical details consent’ stage, is when the detailed development proposals are assessed and is similar to a full planning application or a reserved matters application.


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 and support to help individuals and communities engage with the planning system and get involved in planning within their local area. It also works with communities to help them understand, and play a role in, the planning process and Neighbourhood Planning. PAE is separate from both central and local government and provide completely independent and impartial planning advice.

Planning Committee:
A Planning Committee is comprised of elected members of a Council which is typically chaired by the leading political party of the Council. The committee typically is representative of the Councils political split. A Planning Committee tends to be a formal in-person setting (although during the pandemic Committees were online, and following this some Councils run hybrid options with live streaming available for interested parties to watch). Case Officers present an application with a professional recommendation to the Committee to vote on. Normally a senior Officer (typically a Head of Planning) alongside Counsel would be present to support the Committee in making a determination. Members of the public, as well as interested parties are able to participate, but how can vary between Councils.


Planning Condition:
A condition imposed on a grant of planning permission (in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act 1990). They are normally used to enhance the quality of the development being granted approval and minimise its impact.


Planning Consultant:
A company or individual who specialises in providing advice on planning matters. The Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) has an online directory of planning consultants in the UK.


Planning Enforcement:

Planning enforcement is the process of investigating and dealing with breaches in planning control, such as: where building work, or changes in the use of land require planning permission and have been undertaken without such permission and also where conditions attached to a planning permission have not been complied with.  Enforcement action is discretionary and local planning authorities have responsibility for taking whatever enforcement action they consider is necessary, in the public interest.


Planning Inspectorate:
An executive agency of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, responsible for determining planning and other related appeals, e.g. enforcement and listed buildings; national infrastructure applications; rights of way casework and the public examination of local plans.

Planning Obligations/Section 106 Agreement:
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.


Pre-Application Planning Advice: 

A service offered by most local planning authorities where prospective applicants seek advice on their development before submitting a planning application. A fee will usually be charged for using this service, although some local planning authorities offer free informal advice by telephone or email.  The applicant usually submits initial documents and plans to an authority. Officers will then give written advice on whether the development is likely to be acceptable and suggest areas for improvement, where possible. Pre-application advice is non-binding, i.e. when a formal decision is made on the application it cannot be assured of approval based on previous advice given by officers.


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 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.


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:
A term introduced to imply that wider factors than just the use of land or buildings have to be taken into consideration. A spatial plan will make clear that to achieve all its objectives other non-land use matters will be important - e.g. the provision of community, education, primary healthcare, transport, utilities or other services.


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):

An assessment of the environmental impacts of plans and programmes.


Strategic Flood Risk Assessment:

A study to assess the risk to an area or site from flooding, now and in the future, and to assess the impact that any changes or development on the site or area will have on flood risk to the site and elsewhere. It may also identify, particularly at more local levels, how to manage those changes to ensure that flood risk is not increased.


Sustainability Appraisal (including Environmental Appraisal) (SA):
An assessment of the economic, environmental and social impacts of plans and programmes. Its role is to promote sustainable development by assessing the extent to which the emerging plan, when judged against reasonable alternatives, will help to achieve relevant environmental, economic and social objectives.


Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS):

An alternative approach from the traditional ways of managing runoff from buildings and hardstanding. They can reduce the total amount, flow and rate of surface water that runs directly to rivers through stormwater systems. SuDS could include the storage of rainwater for later use, the use of infiltration techniques, such as porous surfaces, green and blue roofs, the attenuation of rainwater in ponds or open water features for gradual release and the attenuation of rainwater by storing in tanks or sealed water features for gradual release.


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 (as amended) categorises uses of buildings and lands. The change in the primary use of buildings or land from one use class to another usually requires planning permission. For example, the change of use of an industrial building (Use Class B2) to a house (Use Class C3). However, where the existing and proposed use fall within the same class, permission is not usually required. For example, the change of use of a shop to an office (as both fall within Use Class E).


Is any material or object that is no longer wanted and has been disposed of or requires disposal. If a material or object is re-usable, it is still classed as waste if it has first been discarded.  There are many different types of waste including household, business/commercial, construction and demolition, vehicle waste, healthcare waste, and hazardous waste.

Waste Local Plan:
A statutory development plan prepared by the Waste Planning Authority (normally the County or Unitary Authority), which sets out policies to guide decisions on planning applications for developments associated with the management of waste produced in the area.

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. More information about this process can be found here.



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