What is a Reserved Matters Application?

Planning Consultant - Chris Scott
Hi, I’m Chris,
I hold anĀ 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.