Pre-Application Planning Advice

Is Pre-Application Planning Advice Worth It?

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

So let’s presume you have a project in mind and you have been browsing the website of your local authority. You eventually come across a page which offers pre-application planning advice. In most cases, there is a charge for pre-application planning advice from the local planning department. Therefore many people question, ‘Is pre-application planning advice worth it?’. The reason being, you will already be paying a fee to the local authority to submit the application and discussions will take place during the determination process.

As with most things, there are times when the pre-application planning advice service can be beneficial. At other times it may provide little value in preparing the full planning application.

Free Pre-application Advice

While many local planning departments do charge to provide written feedback on pre-application planning advice, they often also offer free advice. This will be in the form of either a face to face 20-30 minute meeting with a planning case officer, or a phone conversation. Whether you decide to purchase written pre-application feedback from the local authority, this free advice can be useful for the reasons below.

Pre-Application Planning Meeting
Free face to face 20-30 meetings are offered by most local planning authorities.

Identifying Key Local Planning Policies

SMDC Local Plan
The Core Strategy (Local Plan) for Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC)

With any planning application, a planning consultant such as my self has to review the local plan for the applicable local authority. All local plans follow the same themes with regards to policies for design, transport, landscape protection etc. However, each local plan has been produced specifically for that area and is unique.

What pre-application planning advice can be useful for is to get an indication of how much ‘weight’ and emphasis will be placed on a specific policy. For instance, through the language/wording used you can often infer what the most significant planning issues are likely to be. A face to face meeting can also be beneficial if you observe the body language of the planning officer when you ask specific questions. You may notice a grimace for instance in response to certain questions. It is important not to read too much into such responses, however, it can help to guide and provide a strategy for a planning application.

Preparation Before Requesting Pre-Application Planning Advice

Before you request pre-application advice from the local planning authority to get the most out of it you should prepare beforehand. Going into the discussion knowing nothing about your sites planning history or local plan policies means your not going to be asking the best questions. With some pre-knowledge of the planning history of the site and relevant local policies, you can ask much more specific questions. Its the responses to these specific questions which can be of value to the preparation of a planning application.

Planning History Feedback 

Understanding the planning history of a site can be very useful to provide an indication of potential issues or opportunities for future planning applications. If the planning history of a site is reviewed before requesting pre-application feedback from the council you can ask better questions.

Those questions may be along the lines of have the permitted development rights for this site been removed?. You may already know the answer to that question after a review of the sites planning history. However, the response from the planning officer may be a different interpretation than your own perceptions. Therefore, it can assist with preparations of an application and reasoned responses to potential issues.

Making the Planning Process More Efficient

Pre-application planning advice from the local authority may actually speed up the planning process. For instance, you may require additional reports for your application, such as for ecology or flood risk. For ecology, in particular, site investigations can only be carried out at certain times of the year. Therefore, knowing what the local authority will require from you before you submit the application means you can get these reports in order as quickly as possible.

In some cases from reading local planning application validation lists, the reports required to determine an application will be obvious. However, in other circumstances, it will not be as clear. And you obviously do not want to be paying for reports which are not required.

Local Authority Pre-Application Planning Advice Charges

Below I’ve provided a summary (as of 2019) of the information and charges for the local authorities within my (on-site) service area:

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC):

Advice on householder and small scale planning applications is free, and appointments can be made to discuss proposals with a planning officer at the Leek office on Wednesdays. Alternatively, a written response will be provided within 28 days. This is also applicable for High Peak Borough Council as the planning department is shared between these two authorities.

Peak District National Park:

Since 2014 the Peak District National Park has been charging for pre-application planning advice, however, it does include a feedback report. The exception is feedback on Listed Building Consent, which is free. For householder applications for instance for extensions, the charge is £100. This is also applicable to any application within a domestic curtilage, including outbuildings.

Cheshire East Council:

You can make an appointment to see the planning duty officer for free for a 15-minute meeting. This can take place in either the Macclesfield or Crewe offices. For written householder planning advice the charge is £100. For a replacement dwelling, the charge for advice is £335. They also offer a minor operations service for a charge of £200. Minor operations also include residential schemes of 1-5 units. Therefore the replacement dwelling pre-application planning advice does appear to be overcharged.

City of Stoke-on-Trent

Offer free 20 minute appointments for domestic planning applications. However, there is a charge for commercial applications. For minor applications, the charge for a meeting and written advice is £250. Followup meetings are charged at £125, and the charge for written advice only is £150.

Newcastle-Under-Lyme Borough Council

For a new single dwelling, the charge is £82. Discussions on extensions, the charge is either £21 or £31 depending on if the meeting is below or over 30 minutes. For other development such as a Change of Use the charge is £46. Finally, for other minor developments, the charge is £128. Whether the advice is just verbal communication or written feedback appears to depend on the individual enquiry.

East Staffordshire Borough Council

Unfortunately, at the time of writing this post their website was down, but if you click the link above you will be able to read details of their pre-application planning advice service.

Stafford Borough Council

Unusually, there appears to be no charges at all for pre-application planning advice, which includes a written response. The council can be contacted via post or email, and location/site plans are required. A confirmation of receipt will be provided within 5 days, and a response within 21 days.

Derbyshire Dales District Council

Since 2017 the council has introduced a charge for pre-application planning advice. Unusually, the Derbyshire Dales District Council will actually provide feedback for £25 if your proposals require planning permission. The response from most councils including those above is they will not tell you if you require planning permission. For instance, if you can complete development under Permitted Development Rights. For an extension, for instance, they invite you to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate to find out. Feedback on householder proposals includes a fee of £50 for just a letter and £100 to include a meeting.

If I can get Planning Advice from my Local Authority, why would I need a Planning Consultant?

The above is a valid question, however, there are several reasons why a planning consultant such as my self can still add value to a project. First, the pre-application planning advice provided by the local authority is not binding. So they will very rarely give you a ‘concrete’ response that your proposal will receive planning approval. Therefore a planning consultant managing an application and consulting with the authority still has to negotiate the details of the application to secure approval.

Furthermore, the pre-application planning advice the council provides is not always accurate. This may be a result of missing important aspects of planning history or a misinterpretation of local or national policy towards the proposal. However, in some cases inaccurate pre-application planning advice can still be of value to a planning consultant. It can help the planning consultant to prepare arguments in advance to issues the authority are likely to raise with the proposal.

Pre-Application Planning Advice

If you have a project which you need assistance with please send me details via the contact form. We can then discuss if requesting pre-application planning advice from your local authority will be of value to a future planning application :).

Planning Permission for Horse Stables in the Green Belt

The Challenges of Building Horse Stables in the Green Belt

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

This is my final post on the various scenarios to secure planning permission to build horse stables. Previous posts have also looked at stables within a garden, or stables on agricultural land. With this post, we will discuss planning permission for horse stables in the Green Belt. My own home and caravan site are located within the Green Belt. So becoming familiar with what that actually meant was one of my first experiences of the planning process.

Horse stables in the Green Belt
It is possible to secure planning approval for horse stables in the Green Belt. However the challenge of securing permission should not be underestimated.

My Garden is Located in the Green Belt, does this Effect my Plans?

Surprisingly, the permitted development rights for domestic garden development remain with properties located in the Green Belt. It’s important to check however if your permitted development (PD) rights are still intact, and were not removed via condition on previous planning approval. For instance, it’s quite common today for a home extension planning approval to remove permitted development rights for the dwelling. The condition may just remove PD rights for extensions or may include outbuildings, which would include horse stables. Therefore, generally with any project to build under PD, it is recommended to apply for a Lawful Development Certificate.

Furthermore, if your property is located in a conservation area an Article 4 direction may be in place. Article 4 directions remove permitted development rights for properties. In some cases, the Article 4 direction will remove all of the PD rights, in other cases its just some.

What is the Green Belt?
The Green Belt can present several challenges when trying to secure planning approval for horse stables.

I own a Field in the Green Belt, how does this affect my Plans?

First, all of the planning consideration mentioned in my previous post of building horse stables on agricultural land apply. You will need to submit a full planning application for the proposals. For instance, your proposals are likely to be refused if proposed on high-quality agricultural land. However, if the field is also located in the Green Belt the development needs to be considered in even more detail.

The current National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) states the Green Belt serves 5 purposes, which include (paraphrased):

  1. Checking unrestricted urban sprawl.
  2. Preventing neighbouring towns merging.
  3. Protecting the countryside from encroachment.
  4. The protection of historic towns.
  5. Encouraging the use of derelict (brownfield) land.

Furthermore, the construction of new buildings in the Green Belt is regarded as inappropriate. There are exceptions however which include facilities for outdoor sport and leisure. Therefore, horse stables within the Green Belt can be seen as acceptable in principle. However, the size, scale, appearance and location still need to be considered carefully.

What Size of Horse Stables in the Green Belt will be seen as Acceptable?

To have a chance of approval you are going to have to keep the scale of the stables as minimal as possible. For instance, current guidance provided by Cheshire East planning authority states small scale refers to ‘three loose boxes, each of a 12-foot by 12-foot bay’. This should provide enough room for the horse to turn around, lie down and stand up without difficulty.

Cheshire East planning authority states that any development above this size will need to demonstrate ‘very special circumstances‘ to warrant overriding Green Belt policy. Furthermore, any development will need to show that the ‘openness’ of the Green Belt is maintained. The challenge of demonstrating very special circumstances and maintaining Green Belt openness should not be underestimated.

Planning Assitance for Horse Stables in the Green Belt

If you need assistance with planning permission for horse stables in the Green Belt please get in touch through the contact form. We can discuss your proposals and how likely or unlikely those proposals are to secure planning approval. 🙂

Planning Permission for Horse Stables on Agricultural Land

Building Horse Stables on Agricultural Land

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

So in previous posts, I’ve talked about the general topic about when planning permission for horse stables is required. I’ve also produced a post more specifically about building horse stables in a garden. With this post, we are going to discuss the scenario of requesting planning permission to build horse stables on existing agricultural land.

The scenario could be a field close to your home, or it may be in a different location. You may simply wish to construct a stable building, or you may wish for an accompanying menage area. In either of these cases, you will need to submit a full planning application to the local authority to approve the works.

Horse stables on agricultural land
When looking to build horse stables on agricultural land you need to consider if there is sufficient grazing space for the number of horses.

Is the Agricultural Land located in the Green Belt?

If the field is located in the Green Belt the size and scale of the proposed shelters will need thorough consideration. I discuss planning permission for horse stables in the Green Belt in another post. For this particular post, let’s presume the field is not located in the Green Belt or any other restrictive planning policy area, such as a Conservation Area or National Park. 

What Grade is your Agricultural Land?

To many people, this may seem like a strange question, ‘a fields a field?’. Well in planning terms its not that simple. Agricultural land is graded under the Agricultural Land Classification (ALC). The highest quality of land is graded as 1, with the lowest quality land graded at 5. The factors considered include gradient, average temperatures, annual rainfall etc. There are ACL maps which can give an indication of the grade of land within a general area. However, each specific site will have individual circumstances.

Agricultural Land
Securing planning permission for horse stables on high quality agricultural land will be challenge.

In terms of building horse stable on agricultural land, it will potentially be more difficult to secure planning permission on grades 1, 2 or 3a. This is based on planning guidance provided for instance by Cheshire East Council. Their local policy aims to protect ‘most versatile’ agricultural land from development. However, each local planning department has different local policies. Some may be more lenient, others may be more strict on suitable land grades for development.

Land for Grazing and Exercise

You also need to be able to demonstrate that the size of the field is sufficient for the grazing and exercise of the horses. For animal welfare, the British Horse Society recommends a space of between 1-2 acres per horse. Furthermore, a Land Management Plan may be requested by the local authority, this could include the following:

  • How hedges and fences will be maintained.
  • Suitable storage for bedding and horse feed.
  • Suitable storage for horse boxes and associated trailers.
  • Storage of jumps etc when not in use.
  • How manure will be managed and removed from the site.

Planning Help Building Horse Stables on Agricultural Land

If you need assistance with your planning application to position horse stables on agricultural land please use the contact form to send me more details. We can discuss various factors such as the ACL grade of the field and the proposed position of the horse shelter 🙂

Do I need Planning Permission for Stables in My Garden?

Horse Stables, Planning Permission and Permitted Development Rights

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

So, ‘Do I need Planning Permission for Stables in My Garden?’. This post is a follow on from a previous post, ‘Do you need Planning Permission for Horse Stables?‘. In this post, we are going to look at the scenario of placing stables specifically within your garden. The stables could potentially be constructed via permitted development rights under a certain size or under a householder planning application. Before we talk about using permitted development rights to construct horse stables we need to talk about domestic curtilages. 

Horse grazing
Even if you can construct horse stables under PD you need to consider a solution for suitable grazing / exercise space the for the horses.

What is a Domestic Curtilage and why does it matter?

If we are talking about placing horse stables within a garden, let’s also presume its a rural location. Let’s presume that the back garden is significant in size, and the garden abuts other fields under the same ownership. If horse stables are to be constructed in a domestic garden, under permitted development rights the first thing that needs to be established is how big is the domestic curtilage?

For instance, are there any once separate parcels of land next to the domestic property now used (either lawfully or not) as a domestic garden? That land will not be interpreted as part of the domestic curtilage for the purposes of permitted development rights. Furthermore, even if the domestic property is a large single planning ‘unit’, it is unlikely that all of that ‘unit’ will be regarded as the domestic curtilage. If the council regards the site of the proposed stables as an agricultural field, full planning permission will be required. Furthermore, a higher planning test will need to be passed in the field is located within the Green Belt.

Defining the Domestic Curtilage

How much of the planning unit which is regarded as a domestic curtilage could come down to how much of that garden area is maintained/cultivated. Are there any clear divides in place (walls/hedges) which would define the domestic curtilage of the planning unit?

Curtilage size can be a very tricky subject to deal with, and every case is unique. I’m writing these posts to provide some insight for the general public on the planning process. Therefore I don’t want to confuse the matter with legal definitions.

In summary, the size of the area the local authority regards as the domestic curtilage needs to be established. This can be done through a Lawful Development Certificate for proposed works under permitted development rights.

What size of Horse Stables could you Build in a Garden under Permitted Development Rights?

Again, to proceed to answer this question we are going to need a scenario. Let’s presume the domestic curtilage is clearly understood and permitted development rights are still in place. A review of the planning history of the property may be needed. Potentially up to 50% of the domestic curtilage can be occupied by outbuildings/extensions, not including the original dwelling. However, it’s important to note, you cannot position outbuildings such as horse stables forward of the dwellings principal elevation.

Furthermore, the horse stable would need to be a single storey. The stables could have a flat mono pitched roof, or a dual pitched roof. With a mono pitched roof the maximum height under PD is currently 3m, and for a dual pitched roof 4m. However, if the stables are to be positioned within 2m of the boundary of the property, the eaves would need to be a maximum of 2.5m. If you wish to build horse stables within your garden outside of these specifications you need to submit a householder planning application.

Planning Assitance for Horse Stables in your Garden

So if you have asked yourself ‘Do I need planning permission for stables in my garden’ you may be interested in my services. Please complete the contact form with your details and a description of the intended project and we can discuss your options 🙂

Do you need Planning Permission for Horse Stables?

Planning Permission and Horse Stables

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

Keeping horses is a very popular hobby for many people. Therefore when it comes to building new stables and shelters for their horses the question is. “Do I need planning permission for horse stables?” As the stables are commonly made from wood, they may be presumed to be a temporary structure. However, the planning laws around temporary structures and what is classed as a temporary structure are not a set of simple rules. I’ll get into temporary structures and planning permission more in later posts. For the moment though and this post on horse stables and shelters its highly unlikely it will be regarded as a temporary structure. Therefore, when it comes to planning permission the criteria that need to be looked at are the location of the stables and the size of the shelter.

Do I need Planning Permission for Stables in My Garden?

So, if you wish to construct the horse stables in your garden there is a possibility that it could come under permitted development rights. This will depend on various factors such as the size of the stables you wish to construct and the location within your domestic curtilage. It will also depend on whether 50% of your domestic curtilage (excluding the original dwelling) is already occupied by structures. Furthermore, previous planning permission for your home could have removed your permitted development rights via a condition of approval.

In summary, there is a possibility that you could construct horse stables in your garden without planning permission. Though it would probably be a good idea to consider submitting a Lawful Development Certificate to check. Something else to note, if you own a field next to your home. If the horses use that land for grazing or as a manege/riding area you may require a change of use from agricultural to leisure use.

Horse Grazing
While you maybe able to construct horse stables within the curtilage of your dwelling you need to consider where the horses will graze.

Planning Permission for Horse Stables on Agricultural Land

This scenario is easier to answer than with regards to approval for stables in your garden. If you own a field and you wish to place stables on that land, you will require planning permission. It’s irrelevant if that field is next to the boundary of your garden.

When it comes to secure planning permission for horse stables on agricultural land, the size, scale and location of the structure and ancillary facilities are important. Generally, small scale stables are expected to be timber with a mono low pitched roof. You will need to make sure the structure does not dominate the landscape and damage the character of the area. You want to make sure the proposals show it will be well screened and inconspicuous. The local authority planning department will also look at potential highway safety issues and over-use and deterioration of bridleways.

Loss of Quality Agricultural Land

Furthermore, you are unlikely to secure approval if the proposals would result in a significant loss of quality agricultural land. Typically that will be a loss of agricultural land graded 1, 2 or 3a, more on agricultural land grading in later posts. You need to consider access and parking as well to secure approval. For instance, suitable areas for loading and unloading horses.

Agricultural Land for Horse Stables
Its harder to secure planning permission for horse stables on high quality agricultural land.

Impact on Nearby Dwellings

The residential and neighbour amenity impacts also need to be considered. This includes noises from the horses and associated activities. So you also need to consider the impacts of lighting. Obviously in the winter months of the year lighting will be required, but how would that lighting impact on nearby dwellings? You also need to think about how the manure will be stored/removed from the site.

Planning Permission for Horse Stables in the Green Belt

Within the Green Belt, the above is still applicable with regards to the location of the stables within a domestic garden curtilage or a field. However, if the proposal is within an agricultural field and the Green Belt, a tougher test needs to be passed. I don’t want to get into precise planning policy ins and outs, that’s not what these posts are for. I want to try and give a concise explanation of the different planning scenarios you need to consider.

What is the Green Belt?
Securing approval for horse stables in the Green Belt is not impossible, but a tougher test will need to be passed.

Within the Green Belt new buildings are inappropriate development. There are exceptions, but various criteria need to be met. Leisure facilities such as horse stables can potentially meet those criteria. However, there should not be a detrimental impact on the openness of the Green Belt with the proposals.

Assistance with Planning Applications for Horse Stables

If you have horses and are looking to build new stables but need help submitting proposals to secure planning permission please get in touch. If you can send me a description of your proposals through the contact form we can discuss how best to proceed 🙂

Prior Notification Submissions

What Are Prior Notification Submissions?

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

There are certain permitted development rights for which you are required to submit a prior notification submission to your local development control department before those rights can be enacted. For instance, there is the Notification of a Proposed Larger Home Extension. There is also the Application for Prior Notification of Proposed Agricultural or Forestry Development. These are two examples of development under the General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) to which prior notification approval is required. Recently the GDPO has been changed to remove the limited right of May 30th 2019 for the larger home extension scheme. It is now a permanent right, depending on application meeting the other criteria.

Notification of a Proposed Larger Home Extension

Since May 2013 householders with existing PD rights could build a larger home extension. The size of a permissible rear single-storey extension increased from 4m to 8m for a detached dwelling, and from 3m to 6m for a semi-detached dwelling. The dwelling must be outside of Article 2(3) land, which includes National Parks, an area of Oustanding National Beatury, a Conservation Area or land within a World Heritage Site. The dwelling can also not be located within Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Larger Home Extension Prior Notification
To benefit from the Larger Home Extension permitted development rights you have to submit a Prior Notification application.

The rights to larger home extensions were set to end on the 30th May 2019. However, they are now a permanent PD right. You also no longer have to notify the local authority once the works under the larger home extension scheme are completed. However, you do have to submit a larger home extension prior notification application in all cases.

Can you Submit a Prior Notification Submission Retrospectively?

No, it’s important to note you cannot submit a prior notification for a large home extension retrospectively. Therefore this means if you have already built the 6m/8m extension it may become subject to enforcement action. If so it may be possible to submit a retrospective planning application in an attempt to keep the extension. However, it will be considered under various amenity considerations. These will include the impact on your neighbours (loss of light/privacy) as well as other planning considerations.

Prior Notification Process for Larger Homes Extension

While it is still technically feasible to take advantage of these GDPO rights, let’s look at the process. Unlike a householder, full planning or lawful development certificate (LDC), there previously was no charge for prior notification for a larger homes extension. However, the amended regulations now state a charge will be introduced. Once the required form and information has been submitted, the local authority will notify your neighbours. The neighbours contacted will be those who share a boundary to your property.

Before a prior notification for a larger home extension is submitted a review of the planning history for the dwelling will be required. The size of the original dwelling and the size of the original curtilage will impact the success of the application. 

There is then a 42 day determination period. If within 21 days a neighbour objection is received, the amenity impacts on all adjoining properties will be reviewed. Therefore the amenity impacts of any neighbour who did not submit an objection would also be considered. If no neighbour objections are received then the local planning authority will conclude prior approval is not required. There is some debate whether approval of the prior notification process is sufficient evidence of lawful development. Therefore, after the prior notification process for a large home extension has been completed, it may be prudent to apply for an LDC for the same development.

Application for Prior Notification of Proposed Agricultural or Forestry Development

Depending on the size of the agricultural unit, various rights exist within the GDPO for development. Those rights include the erection of buildings under specific criteria and the installation of access roads. Again, you have to apply to the local planning authority to inquire if a determination on prior approval is required before the development can take place.

Prior Notification for Farm Buildings
With prior notification for farm buildings significant development can be approved under the GDPO.

The local planning authority has 28 days to inform the applicant of its decision. The local planning authority could inform the applicant the proposals require a full application. Or they will either provide approval or refusal of the prior notification application. Depending on the proposal sometimes pre-application advice from the local authority may be useful to clarify the situation.

Reasonably Necessary For Agriculture/Forestry

It is important to note that any application made for buildings or roads under the GDPO needs to be presented as reasonably necessary for that purpose. For instance, if this is a new agricultural operation or a hobby the ‘reasonably necessary’ aspect of the GDPO has not been met. There is obviously a chick and egg scenario here though, “how can a start a new farming business without the required buildings?”.

Help with Prior Notification Applications

If you have a project and you believe you need to submit a prior notification to the local authority send me a message via the contact form and we can discuss it more 🙂

Lawful Development Certificates

What are Lawful Development Certificates (LDC)?

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

Within the planning system, you can apply for a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) for an existing use or proposed use. If you can get the local authority to agree that the existing or proposed use is lawful, no enforcement action can be taken in that regard. Therefore in some cases, Lawful Development Certificates are used to address disputes with the local planning enforcement department. In other cases, before you carry out development you can secure a certificate to prevent future enforcement disputes. This is commonly the case if you are looking to sell buildings or land. The potential purchaser may want reassurances on what they are purchasing is legal development. 

Lawful Development Certificates and GDPO Rights

So General Permitted Development Order (GDPO) rights refer to the permitted development rights that most small scale projects and dwellings hold to some extent. However, in some cases, they have been taken away by a previous planning condition or Article 4 direction. That’s why a planning history review is important to work out where you currently stand with regards to permitted development rights. For instance, the size of your original dwelling and curtilage need to be fully understood for GDPO rights.

If you believe your development or change of use can be carried out under the GDPO, a Lawful Development Certificate is a good way to check. It can avoid any nasty surprises in the future with a call from a local planning enforcement officer.

Addressing Enforcement Disputes

If you have been contacted by your local planning enforcement department, always try and address the issue as promptly as possible. Get all the details from their perspective on the planning issues so you can try to fully address the problem. For instance, you may think your development is immune from enforcement due to time limits, more details below. Or you may dispute the claimed use of the building or land. In that case, the Lawful Development Certificate should contain detailed evidence to back up your arguments. This could include statutory declarations from those who have knowledge of the development and land use. This could include your neighbours for instance. A solicitor will be required to prepare the declarations, and they will need to be signed in the solicitor’s presence. There are other means of evidence which can be used to support your case including OS maps for instance. 

Lawful Development Certificates and Time Limits

There are certain time limits for enforcement action, these are the following:

  • Four years for building, mining and engineering operations.
  • Four years for the change of use of a building or part of a building into a dwelling.
  • Ten years for all other development.

Now, before a Lawful Development Certificate is submitted you need to be aware of certain potential issues. Firstly, it is the applicant’s responsibility to prove that the development and use have been carried out continuously over that period. For instance, for the use as a dwelling, you would need to clearly demonstrate four years of continuous habitation with no gaps.

What Does a Lawful Development Certificate Cost?

As of 2019, the cost to submit a Lawful Development Certificate for existing use is the same as a full planning application for the same development. If the certificate is for a proposed use then the cost is half of the normal fee associated with that type of development. Obviously, these costs are just for the local authority to review the application. If you need to submit statutory declarations as evidence, then solicitor fees will need to be added in. Furthermore, there will be additional fees if you require a planning consultant or agent such as myself to manage and submit the application.

What if my LDC is Refused?

Under that scenario, more detailed discussions with the local authority planning department will be required. If it was a proposed use you can consider appealing the decision to the Planning Inspectorate (PINS). Alternatively, you could consider a planning application for the development. If the refusal was for an existing building or use, then things get more serious. First, you should ask if the local authority will accept a retrospective planning application for the development/use.

You may try to keep the development as is or suggest alterations in an aim to secure planning approval. However, the local authority does have the powers to reject retrospective applications. If that’s the case and the local authority wishes to proceed with enforcement action you will have the right to appeal against the enforcement notice. Discussions on enforcement notices and appeals is for later posts. 

Assistance with Lawful Development Certificates

If you require assistance submitting a Lawful Development Certificate to your local planning authority please get in touch. Once you have completed the required information on the contact form I can review your site and contact you to discuss your requirements in more detail. I can either prepare and manage the application for you, or provide guidance on how to approach the process. Either way, please get in touch 🙂

Discharge or Variation of Conditions

What are Planning Conditions?

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

If you have successfully received approval for your project more often than not there are planning conditions attached at the bottom of the decision letter. Some of these conditions are pretty standard, for instance, the approval only applies to the submitted plans. Furthermore, the development must begin within a set time period. Now in some cases, those may be the only conditions attached to the planning permission. However, this is only the case for some of the most simple and basic projects. You may need to submit a Discharge of Conditions application to complete the development. Below is an example of the type of additional conditions which can be added to a planning approval letter.

Materials Planning Conditions

Depending on the type of building the level of detail required on the materials proposed varies. For instance a planning application for an extension to a standard mid-20th-century building. Within the elevation plans, it may simply state, walls, roof and window details to match existing. There may be a bit more details on the eaves and ‘windows made from white PVC’ but generally, the local authority may accept those material details as sufficient. 

Windows Discharge of Conditions
You may need to provide more details on the materials used for fenestration (windows) via a discharge of conditions application.

However, applications for new buildings or anything with regards to a listed building or a building within a conservation area is a different matter. Significantly more detail on the proposed materials will be required. If there is sufficient time before the 8 week determination period the local authority may request those details. If not and they are happy with the proposal in general, approve the scheme but attach materials conditions. For instance, they could state that details on the windows need to be submitted and approved before they can be installed. This type of application is called a Discharge of Conditions.

How much does it Cost to Submit a Discharge of Conditions Application?

A discharge of conditions application is an additional cost. Hence one of the reasons if possible you want to get as many aspects of the proposal agreed as part of the original planning approval. As of 2019 for Householder Planning Applications the charge is £34 per request. Therefore, if you have a lot of conditions, try to provide the details to approve as many of them in one go as possible. It will save you both time and money. The local authority planning department has another 8 weeks to determine the discharge of conditions. If your application is not a householder application but a full (minor) planning application the cost to discharge a condition is £116 as of 2019.

What should I Include in a Discharge of Conditions Application?

Again as stated above, the level of detail is specific to each application. For instance, some conditions may just request the paint colour of the windows to be submitted. For a listed building, you may need to submit detailed drawings on the design of the windows, individual materials and paint colour.

If you have a particular brand of window or door you wish to use, using pictures from a brochure can be an easy way to provide the detail required. Generally with a discharge of conditions using photographs/images is the simplest means to provide clear information on design details. The planning officer who dealt with the original application should be able to provide feedback on specifically what information they are looking for. It’s important to remember, clear and precise information can help the officer to determine the application as quickly as possible.

What is a Variation/Removal of Condition Application

There may be a condition attached to your planning approval which you are not happy with or you feel is no longer viable. This could be a condition relating to the materials used on a project, or the use of the building. There are so many scenarios for a variation or removal of conditions, so I’ll use my own home as an example. 

My home was previously a dwelling in the 1950s which my grandparents lived in. They received permission to build a new dwelling within the same curtilage. A condition was attached that the original dwelling could no longer be used as a home. The reason being the properties are located in the Green Belt, and we will get into Green Belt policy in later posts. When I came to renovate the building back into a dwelling I had to address the condition. Therefore I offered and agreed to a new condition, that the building can only be used as a family annexe.

Voluntary Planning Conditions
I volunteered a planning condition in order to secure planning approval for my own dwelling.

In my particular case, I did not submit a removal of condition application. The full planning permission replaced the previous planning condition. The building required extensive renovation. Therefore, I needed to submit a full planning application. Otherwise, I would have just submitted a removal of condition application. The cost to submit a removal of condition application for minor operations is £234 as of 2019.

The above is obviously only a brief look into the subject of planning conditions. I will be writing more posts in the future on this topic as its extremely vast and varied.

Assistance with Discharge/Variation/Removal of Conditions

If you have planning conditions you need to discharge and need help with, please get in touch. There may be planning conditions as part of the planning history of your site which you are not even aware of. Being fully aware of your existing planning conditions is vital when designing and presenting new planning applications. Furthermore, if you want to try and remove or submit a variation to a planning condition. I will review the information and contact you for your free 30-minute phone consultation.

Reserved Matters Applications

What is a Reserved Matters Application?

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

If you have previously submitted an outline planning application and secured approval, you now need to submit an application for reserved matters approval. All the detail which were missing from the outline application will need to be submitted as reserved matters to secure full planning permission. Therefore it’s important to note, outline planning approval on its own does not mean you can start the development. The outline application just confirms that the local planning authority agrees with the principle of the development. You should only start work when all of the reserved matters have received approval.

What is the Time Limit on a Reserved Matters Application?

Within the conditions of your outline approval letter, it should state how long the permission lasts, and when reserved matters need to be submitted by. If not stated in the conditions the national guidance currently states a reserved matters application must be submitted within three years. Once the reserved matters have been approved you then have two years to start the development. However, its always important to read the conditions on approval letters thoroughly, as they may state different time limits.

What Needs to be Submitted for Approval?

To answer this question normally the best place to start is the conditions of your outline approval. Those conditions should state what the local planning authority still requires details on, and in some cases how much detail they require. The standard requirements for reserved matters approval are as follows:

Appearance and Scale

You will need to provide details on what the finished project will look like. Now, depending on the age of the property and its location the level of detail on materials needs to be considered. For instance, if the building is Listed significantly more detail will be required on the type and materials used for the windows and doors. The arrangement of the windows as part of a reserved matters application in the building is known as the fenestration. Likewise, if the building is located within a conservation area you carefully need to consider how your design will fit within the prevailing character. Many local authorities have conducted character appraisals of their conservation areas. Character appraisals need to be reviewed before designing the appearance of the building as part of reserved matters.

Windows Reserved Matters
The design of the fenestration (windows) of a development is a key consideration during a reserved matters application.

The information on appearance will be submitted in the form of elevations from all aspects (North, South, East and West). A Design and Access statement is also a useful document to present your design ideas.

Means of Access 

Now, you may have discussed means of access in your outline application. For instance new site access to the highway. Within the conditions of approval on the outline application, it may state more details are required. For instance, you may need to provide details on the surfacing material as part of reserved matters. You will be required to use a bound material (no loose gravel) within the first few meters of the access off the highway. Loose gravel on the highway is a safety concern.

Furthermore, to reduce surface flooding issues a porous drive material may be requested. This obviously includes gravel, and you can use plastic grid systems to contain the gravel. There is also permeable tarmac or bound gravel aggregates. If you are proposing a non-porous material you will be expected to state how the surface water will be dealt with. Surface water into sewerage drains is discouraged. Dealing with surface water on site via a soakaway is commonly the prefered option by the local authority.


Landscaping includes planting trees and hedges to provide screening. However, don’t be under the impression that planting a high hedge can justify a poor building design. The local authority will be looking for you to use planting to settle your development within the landscape. To help provide privacy without affecting neighbour amenity. Neighbour amenity includes privacy but is also about not creating issues with overshadowing. Therefore within the reserved matters, the choice of trees and hedges is important, along with proper maintenance. So tree and hedge maintenance may be included as a condition of approval.

Landscaping Reserved Matters
You will be expected to retain mature trees where possible and introduce appropriate landscaping to soften the development into the surrounding character of the area.


Some layout details may have been approved at the outline stage. Typically for a new dwelling application, the position of the building within the plot will have been agreed at the outline. For instance, my own local authority (Staffordshire Moorlands District Council) have a Space about Dwellings document. This states how far away principle windows need to be from another dwelling. It also states other requirements such as garden amenity space.

Help with Reserved Matters Approval

If you are now at the stage to submit a reserved matters application and require some assistance please drop me a message. Please complete the contact form with sufficient detail for me to review the project. I will then contact you to arrange a free 30-minute phone call to discuss your project and the services I can provide.

Outline Planning Applications

What is an Outline Planning Application?

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

Essentially, an outline planning application is submitted to test if the local authority will accept the principle of development. Now recently this has got a bit more confusing as there is now a separate process for ‘Permission in Principle’. Permission in Principle is very similar to an outline application. However, in most cases, submissions are still made in outline. Therefore that’s where this post will focus.

You normally submit an outline application if you think the scheme might be contentious. For instance, does it go against any local or national planning policies? If so you may not want to spend a lot of money on detailed designs for a proposal which you think is likely to be refused. Therefore outline planning applications are a way of ‘testing the waters’.

What sort of development suits an Outline Application?

An example of when to use outline planning applications is for new dwellings. This could be even just a single dwelling. The site may be located outside of a development boundary and in open countryside. It may be located in Green Belt, a Conservation Area or National Park. Listed buildings may be located close by. Under those circumstances, a higher test will need to be passed for development to receive approval. Therefore initially submitting for approval in outline avoids spending time discussing the finer design detail, and focuses on the core planning principles and policies.

New Dwelling Outline Planning Application
When trying to get planning permission for new dwellings an Outline Planning Application can sometimes be an appropriate starting point.

What is included as part of an Outline Application?

If we continue with the example of a single dwelling, you still need to include the basics. This will include a location plan and site plan. A red line is drawn around the intended curtilage of the new dwelling and a blue line around any other land you own. On the outline planning application description title you will state whats in outline and what details you are submitting. In other words, what is up for discussion in that application and what is a reserved matter. We will discuss reserved matters more below.

Example: New Dwelling Submission

A typical description could be, ‘new dwelling with means of access provided, all other matters reserved’. Therefore with that application, you have to provide details on the site entrance to the Highway. The local authority will consult with the highway officer and things like visibility splays and parking will be discussed. Depending on the speed of the road the access joins to, the entrance details required will change accordingly. Sufficient on-site parking is typically space for two cars per dwelling. If the property has good local transport links of buses and trains you may be able to argue a single car parking space or no spaces at all are required.

Parking Space Outline Planning Application
Whether a proposal provides sufficient vehicle parking is a frequent discussion topic on outline planning applications for new dwellings.

Modern planning is about sustainability. Good access to public transport is seen to be more sustainable. That’s why a dwelling in open countryside is seen as less sustainable than a new dwelling within a development boundary of a village or town. If a project has the potential to be judged as unsustainable, an outline application may be a good starting point.

What Happens After Approval of the Outline Planning Application?

Let’s presume you have been successful and received approval for your outline planning application. The next step in the planning application process is a reserved matters application. Within the outline application, you commonly agree on the location of the dwelling, potentially also its footprint and scale. As part of reserved matters, you are then providing more details on the design and materials. You will need to submit detailed elevations and floor plans. The full details required are access, appearance, landscaping, layout and scale. Frequently though, access is agreed in the outline planning application. As safe access is such a core principle of good development. However, you are not discussing the principle of a dwelling on the site. The outline application approved the principle of a new dwelling.

Are there any Downsides to Outline Planning Applications?

A  higher overall cost and longer determination period are the two downsides. You could submit all the information in one go with a full planning application. However, you are risking more money upfront on detailed designs if the application fails. A full planning application for a single dwelling costs (as of 2019) £462. An outline planning application is also £462, but you would then need to also submit reserved matters application at another £462. However, the additional application cost if its a more appropriate means to secure approval for a scheme isn’t insignificant.

The biggest impact is on the time of implementing the project. Each outline planning application and reserved matters application will have up to an 8 week determination period. And potentially longer if you agree to give the local authority more time to consider the application. Where a complete full application considering all matters will have a single 8 week determination period. Each project needs to be judged on its own merits and challenges. Reviewing the planning history of the site and other similar local planning applications can also be a good starting point.

Help with Outline Planning Applications

If you have a project which you think may run into planning issues and an outline application may suit drop me a message. I will carry out a quick initial review the site and its location before our free 30 minute phone call. We will then discuss if an outline planning application is the best means to proceed. Please submit your details through the contact form, I look forward to hearing from you 🙂