How to Get Planning Permission

After finding a plot, getting permission to build the house you want can be the second major hurdle for the selfbuilder. Planning permission is granted by the local authority planning committee, made up of elected councillors, who act, if they choose, on the recommendations of the planning officers.

Not all projects require planning permission. Small extensions and loft conversions can fall within permitted development and this depends on the project’s proximity to the road and neighbouring houses, as well as the scale of the project itself.

Planning permission

For most domestic projects, planning decisions have a time limit of eight weeks, although this is not always met. They can often seem arbitrary and inconsistent but you can prepare the way for your submission, and gain an idea of its likely reception, by an initial informal chat or pre-application consultation with your local planning officer.

If it looks like permission won't be granted, think of hiring a local designer or builder who has had success with similar projects. Find them by asking around locally or studying successful applications at the planning office. Certain names may recur. Planning consultants can also assess a plot to uncover any pitfalls or areas of concern.

Even if the planning officer is broadly favourable, keep in touch to monitor the progress of your application. Be prepared to compromise and negotiate.

If you are refused, you have 12 months to submit revised proposals without paying another application fee. 

See Guide on How to Appeal Planning Refusal »

Alternatively, you can appeal to the Secretary of State. The appeal itself must be lodged within six months of the decision notice being issued, and will cost you nothing, though you may require legal advice and a decision should be received within 19 weeks.

Fighting the appeal will, however, cost your local authority expense and man hours. Demonstrating you are determined enough to take this path may persuade them to be more amenable. But it's a gamble.

Once you have got planning permission, you then need to apply for Building Regulations consent. This is basically to ensure that your house will be built according to the legal requirements for construction. In other words, it won't leak, collapse, catch fire or sink into the ground. A structural engineer's calculations may be required.

A building inspector will turn up at various stages of your build to check the work is being done correctly. If he decides it isn’t, he is legally empowered to order you to re-do it.

Types of planning permission

There are three forms of planning permission.

Outline consent: This grants the right to build in principle - only rough details of the eventual house are needed. You then have three years in which to submit a further application to establish ‘reserved matters’ which give precise details of the proposed development including appearance, layout, access and scale. This gives you the right to actually start building, and lasts for two years from the date it’s granted.

Detailed consent: Alternatively, you can apply for full planning permission straight off. Once granted, the consent lasts for three years. If you are buying a listed building to convert or renovate - or you plan to build or convert within the boundary of one - you will also need listed building consent.

Householder consent: This should be used for alterations to existing dwellings, or works within the curtilage of the house, although permitted development means that not all smaller projects need consent. For proposed work that does require consent, the householder consent covers:

  • extensions
  • conservatories
  • loft conversions
  • dormer windows
  • alterations
  • garages, car ports or outbuildings
  • swimming pools
  • walls
  • fences
  • vehicular access including footway crossovers
  • porches
  • satellite dishes

See Guide on Premitted Development »

Plots sold at bargain prices without planning consent are, in almost all cases, a gamble not worth taking. Generally speaking, if planning consent had been possible, it would have been obtained, and the plot sold at a much higher price.