How to Apply for Planning Permission

Five Parts:Taking Preliminary Steps before ApplyingApplying through the Planning PortalProviding Supporting DocumentationReceiving the Final DecisionFiling an Appeal to the Secretary of State

Planning permission is the term used in the United Kingdom and Ireland for the legal permission that you need to get before you begin any construction or building project. You will need to know which office to contact and what paperwork to present in order to get the right permission. In the United States, this is referred to as obtaining a zoning permit or building permit. For help with projects in the United States, check out Obtain a Zoning Permit or Obtain a Building Permit in California.

Part 1
Taking Preliminary Steps before Applying

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    Determine whether you need planning permission. In general, you will need planning permission if you are going to build a new structure, make changes to an existing structure, or change the use of a current building. If your plans fall into one of these three major categories, then you will probably need to obtain planning permission before you continue.[1] For most projects throughout the United Kingdom, you can find the information you need at[2]
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    Review the “Common Projects” links to see other projects. The Planning Portal provides a comprehensive list of types of building projects. This list includes such topics as Basements, Change of Use, Demolition, Doors and Windows, Solar Panels, and many more. By selecting the topic from that list that most closely matches that work that you are planning to do, you can find guidance about whether or not you need planning permission. If you do, the link will provide further information about where to reach out for more specific guidance.[3]
    • For example, the link to “External Walls” tells you that you do not need permission just to paint your walls or for most general maintenance projects. However, you do need permission for certain projects if you live in a Conservation Area, National Park, or other special locations.
    • You can also view other planning applications online. All planning applications are made available online through the Planning Portal. You should take advantage of this information and view some of the other applications. Reviewing other applications will give you a sense of the level of detail that is required and the type of information that you need to prepare in order to seek planning permission.
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    Consult with an attorney. For any sizable project that requires government permission, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney. An attorney can help you understand the application process and help you prepare your application to maximize your chance of approval.[4]
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    Meet with a planning officer. Before you submit your application, you should meet with a planning official to discuss your project. The planning officer can help identify points of concern that you will need to address and can let you know which local authorities you will need to speak with to get additional permissions. The planning officer can help you understand the application and review process.[5] For your meeting with the planning officer, be prepared with the following materials and information:
    • plans and drawings of your project
    • an explanation of the reason for your project and its overall purpose
    • information about the location of your project, in proximity to any roads, highways, landmarks, telephone or sewer lines
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    Discuss your project with your neighbors. Part of the permission process involves public notice and comment. You can help this go smoothly by talking with your neighbors early on. Describe what you are doing and explain the impact on them. If you can get their support early, then the public notice portion of your application is likely to be much simpler and more productive.[6]
    • By talking with your neighbors, you may be able to get their support before you submit your application. If they object to your work, they may be able to let you know what their objections are, and you could modify your project to satisfy them.
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    Consider the effects on wildlife. Part of the review of your project will include the effect that it will have on local wildlife. Anything you can do to minimize impact will increase your chances of approval. Natural England, the governmental agency on wildlife preservation, can help answer any questions you may have before you begin.[7][8]
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    Talk to your local environmental health department. If your project could cause any kind of air or water pollution or affect safe housing in the area, you may be required to submit an Environmental Impact statement. Officials at the local environmental health department can help you review your project and determine, ahead of time, whether your project is likely to fall into this category.[9]
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    Meet with the highway authority. If you are planning anything that could infringe on any roads or highways, you will need the approval of the local highway authority. You should contact your local office early in your planning, to see what you may need to do.[10] Highway authority officials could help you revise your project in a way that will ensure approval.
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    Contact the Health and Safety Executive. If your proposal is likely to involve the use of any dangerous chemicals, you will need approval of the office of the Health and Safety Executive. From its website,, you can find information about particular substances, registration requirements, concerns for manufacturers, and concern for downstream users.[11]
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    Take precautions against crime. Although this is not a requirement for getting planning permission, it is an important consideration for any work project. The Planning Portal website provides useful tips and burglary prevention advice.[12]
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    Protect areas of archaeological importance. If your project is in one of the five designated areas of archaeological importance in England, you will need to provide at least six weeks’ advance notice to your local authority before you begin work, whether or not your project needs planning permission. The authority will then inspect your site and let you know if you can proceed.[13]

Part 2
Applying through the Planning Portal

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    Begin at the Planning Portal home page. From the home page,, you will find all the information necessary about the approval process. From the home page, after completing all your preliminary research and conferences, select the link to “Start or View your Planning Applications.”[14] You will be prompted to answer only the questions that will apply to your particular type of project. At a minimum, you will need some introductory identifying information about yourself and the property. You will then need to provide information about the project itself.[15]
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    Apply online for the appropriate consent types. You will need to know, from your preliminary research, which additional consents you need. If you have questions, the web site can help guide you. You should also contact your local planning authority if you need further guidance.[16] The following is a list of the consent types that you can apply for online:
    • Householder planning consent
    • Full planning consent
    • Outline planning consent
    • Reserved Matters
    • Listed building consent
    • Advertisement consent
    • Lawful Development Certificate (LDC)
    • Prior notification
    • Removal/variation of conditions
    • Approval of conditions
    • Consent under Tree Preservation Orders
    • Notification of proposed works to trees in conservation areas
    • Application for non-material amendments
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    Download paper applications for other consent types. There is a much longer list of additional consent types that are not available online. For these other consents, you must download the application and submit it by mail or in person to the appropriate authority. The forms are available for download from the Planning Portal site. Some of these consent types, but not a complete list, are as follows:[17]
    • Prior approval for onshore extraction of oil and gas
    • Prior approval for a registered nursery
    • Prior approval for certain agricultural uses
    • Prior approval for betting shops
    • Prior approval for installation of photovoltaic cells

Part 3
Providing Supporting Documentation

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    Provide the mandatory documents for national requirements. All projects, anywhere in the country, will require a certain minimum set of documents. Without these required items, your application will not be considered. These mandatory documents include the following items:[18]
    • the completed application form
    • a location plan, showing the site area and its surrounding context. You can get this plan from one of the Planning Portal’s registered suppliers, listed on the website.
    • a site plan, specific to your project. This must show the details of your project.
    • an ownership certificate certifying ownership of the property
    • agricultural holdings certificate, whether or not the site includes an agricultural holding
    • design and access statement, outlining the design principals for the project
    • the required filing fee. The fee is calculated as a percentage of the size of the project. The Planning Portal includes a “fee calculator” to help you determine the amount of your particular fee.[19]
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    Provide any additional locally required documents. Your local planning authority may require one or more additional documents with your application. To find out what is required locally, contact your local authority directly. You can also connect to the local office’s list of requirements through the national Planning Portal.[20]
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    Limit the amount of personal information you provide. With the exception of basic identifying information that is needed to open your application, all applicants are cautioned not to provide personal information with the application. You need to be aware that all application materials may be made public through the website. Do not include anything that you do not want available to everyone.[21]

Part 4
Receiving the Final Decision

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    Receive confirmation of your application. After your application is submitted, you should soon receive an email from the Planning Portal. This email is not approval of your project. It is confirmation that your application has been received.[22]
    • As part of the confirmation, you will receive a unique reference number. Make note of this number and continue to use it on all future correspondence with the authority.
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    Cooperate with the planning authority as necessary. Once your application is complete, you may be contacted by the planning authority for more information. Be prepared to provide additional information, answer questions, or even participate in a public hearing, if necessary, depending on the size and scope of the project.[23]
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    Await the final decision. Within eight weeks, you should receive a decision from the planning authority. The decision is likely to be one of four different options, and based on each option, you will respond in a different fashion, as follows:[24]
    • Permission refused. If this is the response, you may change your proposal and submit a new application, or you may appeal to the Secretary of State.
    • No decision. If eight weeks go by without a decision, you have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State for a decision.
    • Permission granted, with conditions. If this is the response, you may appeal to the Secretary of State to have the conditions waived, or you may choose to proceed with your project in accordance with the conditions that have been set.
    • Permission granted. In this case, you may simply proceed with your project.

Part 5
Filing an Appeal to the Secretary of State

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    Talk with the planning authority about the denial or conditions. If the planning authority denies your application or sets conditions that you do not wish to follow, your first step should be a conversation with the planning authority. You can get an explanation on the decision and ask for guidance about revising your project to get approval.[25]
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    Access the Appeals Casework Portal to submit your appeal. This is a link that is available from the original Planning Portal. You will follow the links online to open an account, provide information about your project, and submit the formal request to have your project reviewed.[26]
    • The deadline for filing an appeal is six months from the date of your decision letter. In the case of a non-determination, the deadline is six months from the date that a decision was expected, which was eight weeks after the submission of your initial application.
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    Be prepared to wait. The appeal process lasts approximately six months at least from the date of filing. You are warned that only about one in every three appeals is successful.[27]


  • Planning permission differs from building regulations in that the former deals with the effects of new development on the surrounding environment and nearby properties, the layout of the site and the project's external design.
  • Planning authorities may give special protection from certain types of development to historical artifacts or monuments or areas of beauty and conservation, such as national parks.
  • Multiple copies of several documents are needed in the United Kingdom's national planning permission requirements.
  • Most changes to United Kingdom business or shop buildings need planning permission. Some proposed changes to residences, placement of a satellite dish, and changing the use of a building are other circumstances that may require planning permission.


  • Not obtaining any needed planning permission before doing any development or construction could result in going to court.

Things You'll Need

  • Knowledge of national or state planning requirements
  • Knowledge of local planning requirements
  • Planning office or department
  • Application for planning permission
  • Scaled drawings of site and location plans
  • Drawings of existing structure and proposed changes
  • Certificate of ownership
  • Agricultural holdings certificate
  • Design and access statement
  • Fees
  • Documents explaining why no fee is necessary

Sources and Citations

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