Planning Consultant - Chris Scott
Hi, I’m Chris,
I hold an MA in Planning and work as a Planning Consultant

As a planning consultant, my role is to guide planning applications through the decision making the process. There are various stages involved. Therefore with this post, I thought I would provide an overview of the planning application process.

There are a series of stages which need to be successfully navigated to secure permission for proposals from the Local Planning Authority (LPA). Before a planning application is submitted its often a good idea to do a local planning application search. This will provide some important insight into how the LPA is currently interpreting local and national planning policy to make decisions. You may learn for instance that your property is located in the Green Belt. This would need to shape your strategy towards securing planning permission.

Do you actually need to submit a Planning Application?

Permitted Development Works
Under Permitted Development rules its possible to build quite significant extensions to a property without having to go through the planning application process.

Depending on what your building proposals are, it may be possible to complete the works under permitted development rights (PD). For instance, the Government have made 6-8m rear single-storey extensions a permanent PD right. There are also other PD rights such as those for agricultural to residential change of use. By maximising permitted development rights for a property some significant works can be completed without having to go through the planning application process.

In order to maximise PD rights its very important to understand how the original property stud as of July 1st 1948. However, with PD is often sensible to apply for a lawful development certificate to the LPA to confirm if they agree that the works are PD. They may refuse the lawful development certificate and indicate the works require a planning application. Before you proceed to submit a planning application you may wish to consider pre-application feedback from the LPA.

If you do need to submit a planning application I’ve described the various aspects of the process below. However, as this is a rather long post I’ve provided a series of quick links to the subheading of each step below:

Which type of Planning Application do you need to submit?

Depending on the type of property and the works proposed there is a range of planning applications you can submit, which include:

Householder Planning Applications

This type of application is submitted for works proposed within the curtilage of a dwelling. Generally, extensions and modifications which cannot be completed under permitted development rights. However, it excludes the creation of another dwelling or residential annexe within the same curtilage. If a second dwelling or a separate residential annexe is proposed, that will require a full planning application.

Full Planning Application

Anything which does not come under a householder planning application will require a full planning application. This could include home extensions not covered under PD, but it could also include such works as a dropped kerb. Applications for new dwellings can be submitted in one go as a full planning application. However, proposed new dwellings are often submitted as an outline planning application first.

Outline Planning Applications

An outline planning application is really just to find out if the principle of the proposal can secure approval. With the outline planning application route a further application is required in the future to approve reserved matters. So with an outline application very little design detail is supplied. For instance with new dwellings it will often just include ‘indicative’ plans, to show what the properties might look like. However, a suitable means of access is normally decided as highway safety is a significant consideration.

New Dwelling Planning Application Process
New dwellings often start the planning application process under an outline application.

Retrospective Planning Applications

An example of when a retrospective planning application may be required is if the LPA enforcement department has been in contact. For instance, a homeowner may complete an extension or outbuilding under the impression they have complied with PD rules. However, the LPA may state the completed works do not comply with PD rights. Before an enforcement notice is served it may be possible to submit a retrospective planning application to seek approval for the works. Retrospective applications can be submitted for either a householder or full planning application.

Step 1: How to Submit a Planning Application

First, you need to know who your local planning authority is. The Planning Portal provides a tool to find who your LPA building control department is. Now, planning is separate from building control, however, this tool will inform you which LPA you need to submit a planning application to. However, there is an exception to this rule, and that’s if your property is located in a National Park. In that case, the National Park authority will handle your planning application.

Avoid submitting Planning Applications via Post

You can still submit planning applications via post, however, the process is not recommended. Firstly, you have to send multiple copies of all the required documentation which can have a significant printing cost. Secondly, the planning application process can involve multiple conversations with the planning officer to make small amendments to the proposals. Submitting new plans via post is a very inefficient and slow process.

Submitting Planning Applications Online

The most efficient means to submit a planning application is online through the Planning Portal. You can upload all the required documentation and pay for the application which is then forwarded to the LPA. Not every type of application as yet can be completed through the Planning Portal. Prior Notification for a Larger Home Extension been on example. However, they still provide downloads of those forms which can be completed and emailed directly to the LPA.

Planning Portal Planning Application Process
The most efficient means to submit a planning application is through the Planning Portal.

Step 2: What Documents are Required?

Every application will need to include the following:

  • Completed application form
  • Location Plan (usually of 1:1,2500 Scale)
  • Block/Site Plan (usually of either 1:200 or 1:500 Scale)
  • Existing Floorplans and Elevations
  • Proposed Floorplans and Elevations
Planning Application Process Plans
The Floor plans and Elevations submitted need to be accurate and to the correct scale.

Depending on the type of property and proposed development, additional documents may be required. For instance, a property which is Listed or located in a Conservation Area will require a Heritage Statement. A flood risk assessment, ecological assessment or structural report may be required. There are several other types of documents which may be requested. Which documents you need to include with the planning application will depend on the national and local validation lists. These are contained on the LPAs website.

The required documents will need to be uploaded to the Planning Portal. Then once the application is paid form the information will be forwarded to the LPA for validation. The planning application process can now continue.

Step 3: Planning Application Validation

Once the LPA receives the documents they will seek to validate the application. This involves, for instance, checking that on the location plan and site plan there is a red line around the site of the proposals. It will also include checking the submitted drawings that they are produced at the stated scale. During validation, they will also check you have submitted all the required evidence and reports. If anything is missing the application will be declared as invalid until all of the required documents are sent to the LPA.

The 8-week determination date will not be set until the planning application is validated. Therefore getting through the validation process as quickly as possible should be a priority. Once validated a planning officer will be assigned to your application.

Step 4: The Consultation Process

The LPA will now make the public (including your neighbours) and various other public institutions aware of the planning application. Over 21 days from when the application was validated the LPA will invite comments to be made, which may include objections. This will include comments from Highways as well as groups such as the Parish Council.

It’s important to note not all of the comments made will be a ‘material planning consideration‘. The assigned planning officer will determine which comments around amenity and landscape, for instance, are relevant. The planning officer will then decide how much weight to place to those comments in ‘the planning balance’ to reach their decision.

Step 5: Planning Officers Recommendation or Determination

Recommendation Report

Towards the end of the 8 week determination period, the planning officer will either write a recommendation report or determination report. If the proposals are considered controversial or are considered to have a significant impact on the public they may be decided at the planning committee. In this case, the planning officer will write a report on their recommendation for approval or refusal. I’ll discuss more about the planning committee process at a later date.

Determination Report

For this post, let’s presume the planning officer is making the final decision. In that case, they will write a determination report. This report will precede the decision notice, which will be signed by the head of the planning department.

Step 6: Decision Notice and Conditions

The Decision Notice will indicate if the LPA has provided approval or refusal of your proposals. If you have secured approval, congratulations! However, it’s always important to pay close attention to any conditions attached to the planning approval. As some of these conditions may need to be discharged, or you are not properly complying with the planning approval.

Planning Permission Approval
Successfully securing planning permission is great news to get. However, you have to make sure you read all of the associate planning conditions.

If the Decision Notice states the LPA has decided to refuse your planning application there are various options available to you. Within a 12 month period is usually possible to submit amended plans to the LPA with no additional charge. Before revised plans are submitted it’s important to carefully read the officers report. Their report should specifically state the reasons for refusal. You can then try to re-design your proposals to suit.

In most cases, you also have the option to appeal against the decision to the Planning Inspectorate. The decision to appeal should not be taken lightly. If the Inspectorate determines the appeal is unreasonable they can award costs against you to the LPA. I’ll discuss more about planning appeals in later posts.

Conclusions on the Planning Application Process

As you may have guessed, there is actually a lot more detail to the planning application process than stated above. Each application is different and presents different challenges. If you are choosing not to use an agent or planning consultant you need to be confident you can consult with the LPA effectively. However, if you would like assistance to navigate your project through the planning application process, please get in touch. 🙂