Planning Permission Made Simple

8 June 2018 Karl Harper, Self Build Consultant
If you’re looking to self-build, or have a new home built, you will need to achieve planning permission for the exact design of the home you’ll end up building. Whilst this brush with local authority bureaucracy can strike fear into the hearts of ordinary homeowners, with a bit of careful planning, and a clear understanding of the planning application process, it shouldn’t cause significant levels of stress. Here are some of the key things to consider when obtaining planning permission in the uk.

You can also visit the Planning Portal website for further advice and guidance.

What is Planning Permission?

Image of planning documents
If you're considering self-building then the term planning permission will be a familiar phrase.  Put simply, if a piece of land has planning permission then it can be considered a building plot, whereas a piece of land with no permission is usuall considered a field.

Obtaining planning permission can often be stressful and may appear complex to navigate. Often self-builders employ a package company, such as Potton, to take care of the planning permission on their belhalf.

Potton have gained over 6,500 permissions in the past 50 years and our expertise and knowledge means we are best placed to help you secure this permission.

There are two forms of planning permission; outline and detailed.

The Differerence Between Outline and Full Planning Consent

Traditionally, outline planning permissions were sought by landowners looking to gain consent for the overall principle of development – including the footprint, scale and so on. Outline approval, when granted, was subject to further approval of the ‘reserved matters’ – the details of the scheme itself.

So long-winded was this process that in almost all instances, self builders now apply for Full Planning Consent at the first stage. This includes all the details – and those that may be omitted from the application, such as particular roof tile and brick types, are subject to approval under the planning conditions.

Outline planning permission

Outline planning permission (or outline conscent)  is often applied for first, to establish whether the proposed new dwelling or development would be acceptable to the local planning authority. If outline permission is approved, a detailed proposal is then put forward.

As the name suggests, an outline permission tends to require fewer details being submitted and the application may suggest a simple or more modest house type to obtain the initial outline planning permission.

Detailed planning permission

(DPP) is the next stage in the plannign process. A detailed conscent means that you have permission to build the exact house shown in the plans (subject to any planning conditions agreed). A detailed planning application is a lot more thorough and defines materials of the new dwelling proposing exactly how it will look once built.

The Planning Permission with the Plot

Building plot with planning permission
If you’ve bought a building plot, it should come with a current planning approval – if it doesn’t, then it’s not really a building plot.

Of course, it might be sold on the basis of its future chances, or it might be land you already own – but on the whole, most plots have a live planning approval in place. And in almost all cases, it won’t be for the home you want to build.

That’s because in order to gain planning consent, a landowner needs to submit a proposed design. The point being that if you’re a landowner looking to gain that highly valuable consent, you’ll submit an application for the least controversial house type, and not be inclined to invest a lot in the process, either: hence why so many plots on the open market have consent for an ordinary looking house, and one that has consent for nothing more than a dormer bungalow.

Let’s be clear: you don’t have to build this house. In fact, many self builders end up with several ‘live’ planning approvals for different houses. Getting consent for a new design doesn’t invalidate previous approvals. Many self builders decided to build bigger, and create a more unique design.

The existing consent does little more than give you a guide as to what can be built, but it is the history of the planning application (which you can find online) and the neighbouring properties, that will give you more of a clue. So ignore what’s there.

Land with Planning Permission for Sale

Potton custom build site
Potton have building plots available across the UK with planning permission for a Potton home. Visit our custom build page to see a list of available sites and to register your interest in upcoming sites - we will notify you when new opportunities become available.

How to Apply for Planning Permission

In most cases, it is the house designer who will manage the planning application process. The usual route is this:

1. Pre-application Advice: local authorities offer a pre-application check of your plans to assess them against their planning policies. This process costs (usually around £100) and usually involves a site visit from the local authority planning officer which results in a report. To be clear, a positive response at this stage is not a guarantee of success – the advice is not binding. But it is a good indicator as to the likelihood of success. Crucially, the report will also advise on any additional reports or surveys that you might need – for example, a bat survey, or an ecological impact report [check]. You will need to arrange these before you progress on to the next stage. You can find out more via the Planning Portal website here.

2. Formal Application: your designer will gather the appropriately sized drawings, including location maps and siteplans, and produce a Design & Access Statement. This will explain the context for the application and give the reasons behind the choices of design and materials. It is important, therefore, that at this early stage you’ll have made the key decisions in a broad sense, although the actual choice of supplier can be deferred for later.

FREE Planning Appraisal

Potton offer a free planning appraisal service. If you have a potential plot then why not submit your details and we will get back to you with our findings, answering the all-important question 'is it a plot or not?'

The Decision Process

The local authority will assign a case officer to your application who will then make a choice as to which of the two decision routes your application will navigate. If it is a relatively uncontroversial scheme, within an area of existing housing, then in most cases the planning officer will decide themselves, assessing the scheme against the local planning policy and the response of consultees.

If the scheme is more controversial – perhaps it is outside of the existing settlement, or the house style and type is very unusual, then they might decide to enact the second route, deferring the decision to the Planning Committee.

To put it in context, the decision whether to allow most self build homes falls to delegated local authority planning officers. If the application goes to Committee, the outcome can be a lot more difficult to predict, as the decision becomes a political one.

In over 90% of cases, planning applications are decided within 8 weeks of the application being received (regardless of the route it goes down).

How Much Influence Will My Neighbours Have?

Your new neighbours will be consulted as part of the planning decision process (see above) – along with Highways, the Parish Council, and occasionally other interested and relevant bodies.

The views of your neighbours are certainly considered as part of the decision process but only certain arguments are seen to have a ‘material’ impact on the outcome. The impact of your building on the value of their house is not one.

Material considerations include (but are not limited to): impact on trees; loss of privacy/overlooking and loss of sunlight (subject to relevant BRE guidance).

If a neighbour raises these issues, then they will be strongly considered as part of the application. Non-material considerations include where neighbours are in dispute over private matters (such as restrictive covenants, access and so on); loss of value; and loss of a view.

How much does Planning Permission cost?

The cost when submitting a planning application does vary depending on the proposed development. In England, the cost is currently £462 for a full application for a new single dwelling. The cost is £401 in Scotland and £380 in Wales.

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