What is Planning Permission and How do I get it

Summary: Information on what is planning permission, when you should apply for planning permission and how you apply for planning permission.

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Contact Your Local Council Planning Departement For Planning Permission Enquiries

Most Councils will provide, free of charge, planning and regulation booklets. Notwithstanding the information given below on Planning permission and Building Regulations we always advise contacting your local council whenever you are in any doubt. Look for your local councils web site where you should find details of all local regulations.

Parliament has given the main responsibility for planning to local planning authorities. While we have tried to encompass the principles of the rules, local authorities will have differing interpretations and a check should always be made with them if you are in any doubt. It costs nothing to check, but a fortune to take down a construction that should not be there!

If you believe you do not need planning permission for your project but it involves any kind of structural alteration you may need building regulation approval.

The purpose of the planning system is to protect amenity and the environment in the public interest. It is not designed to protect the interests of one person over another. Councils will try to ensure that development is allowed where it is needed, but the character and amenity of the area is not adversely affected.

Contact for building regulations: Local Council, Building Control office.

The purpose of the building regulations is to ensure that at least the minimum standards of design and stability are met in the course of construction work. They are completely separate from planning permission and will almost always be required when structural alteration takes place.

It is always better to tell your neighbours what you intend to do even if you do not need planning permission. They have a right to ask for this decision to be checked which can delay proceedings and if you do need permission the Council will ask them for their views anyway.

When Do I Need To Apply For Planning Permission

  • You want to make additions or extensions to a flat or maisonette (including those converted from houses). You do not need planning permission to carry out work which does not affect the external appearance of the building. For further rules pertaining to flats and maisonettes look below.
  • You want to divide off part of your house for use as a separate home. Or use a caravan in your garden as a home for someone else.
  • You want to divide your home for business or commercial use
  • You want to erect something which contravenes the original planning permission for the construction of your house. For example, your house may have a restriction on garden walls more than 3 feet height lest it obstructs the view of road users.
  • There are certain types of home changes you may make without the need for planning permission, these are called “permitted development rights” These will vary from one area to another and are more restricted in areas such as conservation areas, National parks, areas of outstanding beauty or the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads together with any listed building. To make it even more confusing the Council can remove some of your permitted development rights by issuing an Article 4 direction. This is issued when the council believe that the character of an area would be threatened.

Planning Permission When Extending Your House

You need to apply for planning permission to extend or add to your house in the following circumstances:

  • You want to build an addition which would be nearer to any highway than the nearest part of the original house unless there would be at least 20 metres between your house (when extended) and the highway. The term highway includes all public roads, footpaths, bridle ways and byways
  • More than half of the area of land surrounding the original house would be covered by additions or other buildings
  • The term “original house” means the house as it was first built, or as it stood on 1st July 1948 if it was built before that date.(You may not have built an extension, but the previous owners may have)
  • If none of the above rules apply to your proposed extension you may need to check the height and volume limits
  • You will need permission if the extension is higher than the highest part of the roof of the original house, or any part of the extension is more than 4 metres high and is within 2 metres of the boundary of your property. (loft conversions and dormers have separate rules covered later in this projecct)
  • You will need permission if--- For a terraced house, including an end of terrace, or any house in the restricted areas described above---the volume of the original house would be increased by more than 10% or 50 cubic metres, whichever is the greater.----For any other kind of house outside those areas, the volume of the original house would be increased by more than 15% or 70 cubic metres, whichever is the greater.-----In all cases, if the volume of the original house would be increased by more than 115 cubic metres
  • In the following circumstances the volume of other buildings, which belong to your house (garage, shed etc.) will count against the volume allowance. In some cases this can include buildings which were built at the same time as the house or existed on 1st July 1948
  • If an extension comes within 5 metres of another building belonging to your house, the volume of that building counts against the allowance for additions and extensions
  • Any building which has been added to your property and which is more than 10 cubic metres in volume and which is within 5 meters of your house, is treated as an extension of the house and so reduces the allowance for further extensions
  • If you live in one of the restricted areas all additional buildings which are more than 10 cubic metres in volume wherever they are in relation to the house are treated as extensions to the house and reduce the allowance for further extensions

Rules For Roof Extensions, Loft Conversions And Dormer Windows

  • You do not normally need to apply for planning permission to re-roof your house unless article 4 applies or you have a listed building. But check with the council if you are changing the tile type or colour
  • You will have to apply if you want to build an addition or extension to any roof slope which faces a highway or
  • The roof extension would add more than 40 cubic metres to the volume of a terraced house or more than 50 cubic meters to the volume of any other house. (These volumes count against the volumes for any other extensions mentioned above.) or
  • The work would increase the height of the roof

Buildings Separated From The House

You will not need to apply for the erection of sheds, summer houses, greenhouses, swimming pools, ponds, sauna cabins, tennis courts etc unless.......

  • You want to put up a building which is nearer to the highway than any part of the house
  • More than half the area of your land is then covered by additions or buildings
  • The addition or structure is to be used for anything other than domestic use.
  • The building is more than 3 metres high. (4 metres with a ridged roof)
  • The volume exceeds 10 cubic metres and is a listed building or is in any of the restricted areas   (see above)
  • For more information on building regulations see our building regulations information project

Fuel And Storage Tanks

You will need planning permission in the following cases

  • Installation of a tank for domestic heating oil with a capacity of more than 3,500 litres or a height of more than 3 metres above the ground.
  • A tank that would be nearer the highway etc (see above)
  • You want to install a tank that stores liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) or any liquid fuel other than oil

Adding A Porch

You will need planning permission if the porch

  • Has a ground area of more than 3 square metres
  • Would be higher than 3 metres above ground level
  • Would be less than 2 metres away from the boundary of a dwelling house with a highway including footpath etc. (see above)

Fences, Walls And Gates

You will need planning permission if

  • The house is a listed building or in the grounds of a listed building
  • The above is more than 1 metre high and next to a traffic highway, or 2 metres high elsewhere
  • Hedges and trees must be checked with the local council as there are sometimes restrictions on the planning permission attached to your property

Patios And Hard Standings

You do not need permission to cover your land with hard surfaces except when this surface is to be used for anything other than domestic purpose such as parking a commercial vehicle or storing goods in connection with a business.

Please note that if you install a drive you will need the permission of the local highways authority to cross the pavement to your house.

Flats and maisonettes.

You will need to apply for planning permission to build any extension or outbuilding, as well as any other work which would materially affect the appearance of the building. This includes patios and hard standings.


Some additional notes and points to be aware of:

  • If you demolish a building because of fire or storm damage, or for any other reason, you must still check to see if you are allowed to build a replacement
  • You will need planning permission to demolish a building which is more than 50 cubic metres

Whether or not you need planning permission, there are other approvals you may also need. These are as follows:


If you live in a conservation area, a National Park an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty or the Broads you will definitely need to apply for permission to clad the outside of your building with stone, tiles, artificial stone, plastic or timber. In other areas you will need to check that a restriction has not been put on your property against the use of these surfaces or others such as pebble dash.

Listed Building Consent

This is consent to demolish a listed building or any part of it or buildings within its grounds. Or consent to alter or extend a listed building in a manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historical interest.

Conservation Area Consent

You will need this consent, if you live in a conservation area, to do the following:

  • Demolish a building of more than 115 cubic metres. (there are a few exceptions for which you will get details from your local council)
  • To demolish a gate, fence, wall or any railing over 1 metre high where next to a highway or public open space; Or over 2 metres high elsewhere


Many trees are protected by tree preservation orders. You must check with the local council before you make any kind of "alteration" to them.

Rights Of Way

If any proposed development would obstruct a public path which crosses your property you must check with the local council immediately. The granting of planning permission will not give you the right to interfere with, obstruct or close such a path. A path cannot be legally diverted or closed unless the council has made an order to do so. This order must be advertised and all objections will be considered. You may be responsible for providing an alternative route.


Some houses may hold roosts of bats or provide refuge for other protected species. The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 gives special protection to bats. If they are discovered, English Nature (EN) or the Countryside Council for Wales (CCW) must be notified of any proposed action. More information on this subject can be obtained from the following organisation   English Nature....01733 455000 C.C.W 01558 822111

For further information regarding Building Regulations please see our building regulations information project.

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