How to Get Planning Permission for Your Self Build

Read our guide on navigating the planning permission process for your self build. Find out what you need to know before purchasing a plot of land.

Planning permission

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Planning permission is something that you need to think about from day one. Without it, you could be stuck with an expensive piece of land and no hope of turning it into a new home. Make sure you get a professional appraisal on the land before committing to buy. Otherwise you may waste time and money on a plot that may never get approval for your new home.

For instance, you might think you’ve found the perfect quiet corner of countryside at a bargain price. Only for the council to refuse planning permission because its classed as open countryside. To avoid frustration and financial pitfalls, here’s our best advice on navigating the planning permission process.

What is planning permission?

If you’re considering self-building, the term planning permission has probably come up. Essentially, planning permission is what makes a piece of land a building plot and not a field. Obtaining planning permission can seem like a complicated task, but at Potton we can take care of the planning side of things for you. We’ve helped several thousand self-builders gain planning permission, so our knowledge and expertise means we are best placed to help you secure the permission you need.

There are three forms of formal planning permission; permission in principle, outline planning permission and detailed planning permission. 

Permission in principle

This is the simplest form of permission. It’s relatively new in planning terms, introduced in 2018. When applying for permission in principle, the local planning authority will consider the location and scale of development. Typically this is the number of units. They will not consider technical matters such as access, design, ecology or arboriculture. There should be a short, five week determination process, with the technical, or reserved matters left for a future application. Which must be made within three years of the permission in principle being awarded.

Outline planning permission

Also known as outline consent, this is often applied for first to check whether the concept of a new dwelling or development would be acceptable. Once outline permission is approved, any reserved matters will be addressed in a further application.

Applications for outline permission tend to be made with fewer details submitted. Outline applications are often used, prior to land being offered for sale. This demonstrates if it can be used for building. If you are purchasing land with outline planning, it is important to check that matters left unaddressed, are not likely to prevent a detailed permission application from being successful.

For example it is entirely feasible that a piece of land could secure outline consent, without highways and access matters being addressed. If in the future a detailed application is submitted, these matters could prove impossible to resolve.

Detailed planning permission

Detailed consent means you have permission to build the exact house shown in the plans, subject to any planning conditions agreed. A detailed planning application is more comprehensive than permission in principle or an outline application. It will typically include additional reports from specialist experts, addressing, in a pre-emptive manner, potential concerns. For example, the design of the property, ecological and arboriculture matters

Plots with planning permission

If you’ve bought a building plot, it should come with the current planning approval. If it doesn’t, then it isn’t 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. On the whole though, most plots have a live planning approval in place. And in almost all cases, that permission won’t be for the home you want to build.

Landowners choosing to sell a plot will often seek to maximise it’s value, by obtaining detailed planning permission. This is usually worth more than land with permission in principle or outline permission. To gain detailed planning consent, the landowner needs to submit a proposed design. As they will be selling the land on, they will usually apply for permission for a house that is likely to be accepted, without spending much time or money on the process. This is why so many plots on the open market have consent for very basic houses.

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

The planning consent does little more than give you a guide to what can be built. It will also tell you that the council is open to development of that plot. If you’re looking for signs to see if what you want to build will be accepted, you need to look at the history of the planning application. You can find this online through the local authority or by looking at the properties in the immediate vicinity.

Pre-application advice

Most local authorities offer a pre-application check of your plans, to assess them against their planning policies. This process will have a nominal fee and usually requires a site visit by the planning officer. Who will usually produce a report within six weeks of submission. To be clear, a positive response at this stage is not a guarantee that you’ll get permission as the advice isn’t binding. But it is a good indicator of whether you’re likely to be successful.

Importantly, the report should include any additional reports or surveys you might need. For example, a bat survey or an ecological impact report. You will need to arrange these before you progress on to the next stage, you can find out more via the planning portal website

Making a request for pre-application advice isn’t always worthwhile. If the site is simple, then it may not be worthwhile waiting for the local authority to confirm this. But if the site is complex, with a lengthy planning history, it is worth receiving upfront advice.

How to apply for planning permission

In most cases, Potton will make and manage the planning application on your behalf. The usual route is to make a formal application. Your designer will gather the appropriate drawing information, including location details and site plans, and if needed a design & access statement. They will explain the context for the application, the reasons behind the design and any primary materials. So, by this point it’s often helpful for you to have made some key decisions on the type of house you wish to build.

The decision process

The local authority will assign a case officer to your application. They will then choose which of the two decision routes your application will take:

  • If the scheme is uncontroversial, in area of existing housing, the planning officer may be able to make a decision on the application themselves using their delegated powers. They will assess the scheme against the local planning policy and the responses of consultees.
  • If the scheme is more controversial, perhaps it’s outside of the existing settlement, or the house style and type is very unusual. They might opt for the second route. This puts the decision in the hands of the planning committee, it's unusual, but not unheard of, for a single dwelling application to be approved by the planning committee. If the application goes to committee, the outcome can be more difficult to predict. Especially in situations where politics become involved. The committee could consist of lay people with little formal planning training, who may not always follow the advice of the professional planners employed by the local authority.

Planning applications should be determined within eight weeks of the application being received. This is regardless of the route it goes down. Unfortunately, lack of resources in many authorities mean that this is often not the case.

How much influence will my neighbours have?

Your new neighbours will be consulted as part of the planning decision process. Along with the Highways department, the Parish Council, Environment Agency, and other interested bodies. Your neighbours views are certainly considered as part of the decision process. However, only certain arguments would have a ‘material impact’ on the outcome. The effect your building might have on the value of their house is not one of them.

Some considerations that would have a material impact are:

  • The impact on trees
  • Loss of privacy
  • Overlooking
  • Loss of sunlight

If a neighbour raises these issues, then they would be considered as part of the application.

Non-material considerations wouldn’t be taken into account. These include any disputes between neighbours over private matters. Such as restrictive covenants and access, loss of value or loss of a view.

How much does planning permission cost?

The cost when submitting a planning application varies depending on the proposed development. It will also depend on the type of application you are making. To find out the cost for your proposed application you can contact your local authority, through their website.

Free planning appraisal

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

Amongst other things, our appraisals always consider:

  • Sustainability of the plot location
  • Risk of flooding
  • Whether it’s in a conservation area or area of outstanding natural beauty

We’ll also consider the style, scale and positioning of surrounding properties. Along with the type of design you’re proposing. For replacement dwellings, where you demolish an existing house and replace it with a new build, we'll establish what your local authority will allow in terms of increase in scale.

Right to build scheme for self-builders

There are two legal obligations that place a duty on local authorities in England. These legislations set out the details of the Right To Build scheme. To help people who want to build their own home.

The two legislations are:

  1. The Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015. Which places a duty on local authorities, to keep a register of people who have expressed an interest in acquiring land to self build.
  2. The Housing and Planning Act 2016. Where councils have a duty to grant planning permission for sufficient serviced plots, meeting demands on the Right to Build register, within a three-year period and on an ongoing basis.

These legislations were introduced to increase the number of self build homes.

So what does this all mean? Fundamentally, we can now ask our local authorities to look to make viable plots available to us. This should lead to an increase in serviced sites with genuine planning permission for self build. Matching the level of demand indicated on each council’s register.

If enough people sign up, it could boost the general appetite for self and custom build amongst decision-makers, encouraging them to grant planning consent for more self build or custom build schemes.

Register for the Right to Build

Every relevant authority has a duty to publicise its Right to Build register. Most have chosen to do this by running a dedicated section on their website about self and custom build. This is where you’ll find details of how to apply for inclusion on their register. If you’re finding it difficult to access your local authority register, contact your council in writing, informing them of their obligation and send a copy to your local MP, too.

Find your local register via the NaCSBA website.

Register for Potton Custom Build plot alerts

Even if you haven’t got a plot in mind, we’d love to discuss your self build aspirations to help you make them a reality! Contact Potton today.