Planning permission: What you need to know

Applying for planning permission is often an essential part of making big changes to your home. Read our guide for tips on how to get it right.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 26 November 2021  | 4 mins read

When might I need to apply for planning permission?

Planning permission is consent given from your local council for a proposed building project.

You’ll usually need planning permission to build something new, make a big change to your building, like adding an extension, or for changing the use of your property.

Your local authority can advise you on whether your project will need it and they'll decide if your application is approved or refused.

Key points

  • Applying for planning permission is usually essential if you want to build something new or make a significant change to your home
  • You’ll need detailed plans and drawings to show what the building will look like and how it will impact your neighbours
  • Once your application is approved it’s valid for three years and means your property can be sold with the benefit of planning permission
  • Not having the right planning permission or building regulation approval can invalidate your home insurance

What type of planning application do I need?

There are different types of planning applications to suit different situations. The main types of planning permission include:

  1. Householder planning consent

    Needed for typical building projects for existing homes, like extensions, conservatories, loft conversions and dormer windows.

  2. Full planning consent

    Required if you’re wanting to change the number of properties on the site, or the use of a property - for example, changing from commercial to residential. It's also needed if you're carrying out works to a flat.

  3. Outline planning consent

    Used to find out if your plans are likely to be approved before you commit to any substantial costs, like buying a house or a piece of land to develop.

  4. Reserved matters

    If you’ve had your outline planning consent approved, this is the remaining information that wasn’t initially disclosed. It includes the layout, scale and appearance of the plans.

  5. Listed building consent

    if your building is classified as listed, and is of historical interest, you’ll have to follow extra conditions before any work can start.

How do I apply for planning permission?

Before you start, make sure you’ve got all the supporting information ready. You may need to use the services of experts like architects, structural engineers, and surveyors to help you.

A standard householder application usually requires:

  • Accurate floor plans of your current layout
  • Detailed drawings of the proposed new design, drawn to a specified scale
  • A location plan

The simplest and easiest way to apply is online through your local authority’s planning portal. Or you can download and print planning forms to complete and return.

What’s the difference between planning permission and building regulations?

Planning permission is used by local authorities to manage how towns and cities are developed. It’s there to protect the surrounding space and make sure the external appearance of your building is in keeping with the local environment.

Building regulations are a set of standards to make sure work is done correctly and safely - for example, removing a load-bearing wall. Before work starts, you’ll need expertly produced technical drawings and structural calculations for the builders or contractors to use. These need to be approved by your local authority once planning permission is received.

Important terminology for planning application drawings

To give a clear picture of what your building will look like, and how it will impact your neighbours and the appearance of the neighbourhood, you may need to include drawings of:

The building plan - this gives a bird’s-eye view of the interior of the building and shows where rooms, windows and doors are. You’ll need one for each floor of the property.

The principal elevation - this is a straight-on view of the front face of the house. Most principal elevations face the road and are where the front door is found.

Side elevation - this will show the sides of the property and what it will look like to neighbours, or as you see it from the street.

Rear elevation - this shows a straight-on view of the back of the property, including where the doors and windows are situated.

Eaves - if your building project involves the roof, you’ll need to show details and measurements of the eaves - these are the parts of a roof that project over the wall it covers.

Curtilage - this is the land that immediately surrounds your house and goes up to the boundary. It’s usually a garden but can include things like parking areas and vegetable plots.

Property boundary - you’ll need to show the correct position of your plot and where the boundary lines are.

Unless the project is very simple, it's unlikely you'll be able to produce the drawings yourself. Instead, it’s often best to use an experienced draughtsperson, or employ specialists like architects or surveyors to advise and supply the required information.

How long does the application take?

Once you’ve submitted your application, it typically takes up to eight weeks for the local planning authority to confirm whether it’s approved.

If the project is complex it can take up to 16 weeks for a decision to be made and your local authority may apply for an extension.

Can I change my planning application?

Yes, this is possible if the changes aren’t too major. To do this you can amend your application on the online planning portal, using the ‘amend’ function.

Once you’ve made your changes you’ll need to re-submit your planning application - and you may need to pay an extra fee.

The local planning authority will then need to validate your amended application and confirm any additional costs that need to be paid.

However, for more substantial changes you’ll need to submit a new planning application.

How much does a planning application cost?

This depends on the type and scale of the project and where you live - the typical cost for a householder application is £206 in England, whereas in Wales it’s £190.

For online applications in England, there is also a service charge of £23.33 + VAT.

You’ll also need to factor in costs for any services, plans, or drawings that you commission from architects or other specialists.

For example, detailed illustrations for planning applications can start from £1,500 and you may need to pay extra if you need to make changes later on.

What happens after you apply?

Step 1 - Your application will be checked to make sure it’s complete and valid. If it’s not, you’ll be notified and will need to supply any additional information within 28 days.

Step 2 - Once the application is valid and registered, a public consultation period starts that lasts for 21 days, usually starting within a week of the application being submitted.

Step 3 - A planning officer will visit the site to assess the impact of the proposed project and prepare a report, taking into account any views expressed during the consultation period.

Step 4 - If your proposal isn’t accepted, minor changes may be suggested to you. Any larger changes required may lengthen the process and you may be charged an extra fee.

Step 5 - A decision is made and you’ll receive written confirmation to say whether your application has been approved or refused.

How long does planning permission last?

If planning permission is granted, it should usually last for three years before it expires. If you haven’t started work by then, you’ll need to reapply.

Once you get planning permission for a proposal on your property, it usually stays with the land while it’s valid. This means you can sell your property with the benefit of planning permission.

How does planning permission affect my home insurance?

If you don’t have the correct planning permission in place this could invalidate your home insurance and mean you’re not covered.

For any extensive work done on your home, like adding extensions, loft conversions, or conservatories, you’ll need to let your insurer know as well as getting planning approval.

If the work isn’t carried out by qualified professionals and with the correct permits, you’re unlikely to be covered if something goes wrong with the property, either during the building work or once it’s finished.

You may also be served with an enforcement notice from the council ordering you to undo the changes you've made.

Should I consider title indemnity insurance?

If you’re in the process of buying a home it might be worth taking out indemnity insurance.

This type of cover can protect you if the property you’re buying doesn’t have a building regulations certificate or planning permission for work that’s been done in the past.

Title indemnity insurance can protect you against expensive bills for potential work that needs to be done or enforced by the local authority to make the building compliant.