Planning permission is the key to unlocking the potential of a piece of land.

As a self-builder you will have the choice of either buying a plot with planning permission or taking on the task yourself of obtaining planning permission for your project.

Whichever route you take, you will need to have an understanding of the planning process.

Steps to take before submitting your planning application

1. Get pre-application advice. One of the first steps is to seek advice from your local planning authority. Take this chance to assess your chances of success and ascertain any additional documents or surveys that might be necessary to validate the application.

2. Choose an architect or designer – Having an architect or designer who has the knowledge and experience of dealing with your local planning authority is a good idea.

3. Approach neighbours prior to submitting – They may be wary about what you are planning and how it could affect their property. Knocking on the door and explaining what you plan to do will help them to visualise what you hope to achieve, and potentially reduce the risk of protest.

How to make an application

There are two main types of application – full planning permission and outline planning permission. If you are unsure which type of application to make you should speak to your local planning authority.

Full planning permission:

An application for full planning permission results in a decision based on the detailed proposals of how a site can be developed. If permission is granted it is likely that no further engagement with the local planning authority is required and development can begin.

Outline Planning Permission:

An application for outline planning permission allows for a decision on the general principles of how a site can be developed, and is granted subject to conditions requiring subsequent approval of one or more ‘reserved matters’.

A planning application can be made using paper forms or by completing the online application form at planningportal.co.uk. The application can be made by yourself or you can appoint an agent – such as your architect.

Who can apply?

You don’t need to own the land to be able to apply for permission. However, you do need to inform the owner/part-owners or any leaseholders with at least seven years’ lease remaining and any agricultural tenants.

What do I need to submit?

Make sure that you are submitting all the documents required. Your application must be made up of:

  • The necessary plans of the site – this includes location plan and site plan.
  • The required supporting documentation
  • The completed form
  • The correct fee

Over 70% of applications are not registered first time round because a document is missing. All councils will have a checklist of what is required for each type of application so if you are unsure, speak to the council and find out exactly what they require.

For more information on what to submit refer to the Planning Portal.

How much will it cost?

In most cases there will be a fee. You can calculate the cost yourself by using the online fee calculator or find out more information here.

What happens now?

Once your authority has received the application they will validate it within its normal workflow processes and time scales. This should be within eight weeks. Large or complex applications may take longer however the local area planning office should be able to give you an idea about the likely timetable.

You will then receive a confirmation email from the Planning Portal after submission that includes a unique reference number. Please note this email does not constitute the formal acceptance of your electronic submission by your local planning authority.

What should I do if my application is refused?

It is important to avoid a refusal as it can be a black mark on the planning history of the plot and establish very clearly what isn’t acceptable.

If your permission is refused, the authority is required to give you written reasons. You may also be able to submit another application with modified plans free of charge within 12 months of the decision on your first application.

If you decide to appeal to the independent planning inspectorate, they will take at least a year to come to a decision.

For more planning guidance please visit the Planning Portal.


By Olivia Catterall