The Planning Process

Although there are slight differences from council to council, the planning process is fairly similar no matter where your new plot lies.

The Planning Process

Although there are slight differences from council to council, the planning process is fairly similar no matter where your new plot lies.  Planners will always consider your proposal on two levels – principle and detail. Whether the principle of building on your plot is acceptable is a matter of planning policy and, to find out, it’s best to get professional advice. Councils usually provide this pre-application advice but, increasingly, they are now charging for the service. If the principle of your proposal is acceptable, the decision on whether you’ll get planning permission will depend on such detailed issues as design, impact on the street scene, impact on neighbours, impact on any trees, safety of the access, and adequacy of the proposed means of drainage.

The process:

The process itself is fairly straightforward. An initial application is put forward – in the majority of cases involving self-build this will be for detailed planning permission, at which point it will be sent through a consultation phase. This involves the council notifying your town parish/council, neighbouring residents, and a number of other consultees (e.g highways, the Environment Agency). The consultees then have a three week opportunity to comment or object (with reasons) to the plans put forward. At which point, with all comments and objections received, the planning officer or planning committee will decide whether to approve or refuse your application. In total this should take no longer than 8 weeks, and if approved there are almost certainly going to be conditions attached to the permission. The conditions must be thoroughly checked to ensure you will be able to comply. If so you will have 3 years to start your build.

Forms and accompanying reports:

From the process that has been detailed above it may seem that gaining planning permission is in fact fairly simple. Unfortunately there are a substantial number of forms that you are required to fill out for your application, making the process rather more complicated. Unless your application is submitted electronically, you will need to include 4copies of the application forms; signed ownership certificate, site plan, block plan, elevations of both the existing and proposed buildings, a design and access statement, as well as the application fee. The forms can be found as electronic or paper copies on the council’s website, with the fee payable by cheque or sometimes online.

You can generally fill out most of these forms yourself – keeping the answers simple is actually advised and ensuring there are no blanks (even if the answer seems irrelevant or elementary) is also important. As discussed in the “who can design it” section of the website, the drawings that are submitted should in most cases be done by a professional who knows the requirements for them (e.g. scale bars and north points). It’s also advised that they complete the design and access statement, as they will be able to explain the design concept on your behalf.

In many cases the paper trail does not end there, as a number of plots will also require ecological surveys or tree surveys (also known as arboricultural assessments). This depends on whether your plot has wildlife habitats or trees on it. Also increasingly councils are requesting energy statements on new builds to encourage people to develop sustainable housing. If you are required to supply any of these extra surveys or statements it’s likely you are going to require professionals to carry out the work at extra expense.


The planning process may now all seem fairly daunting, and at times it can be. There is however enough advice out there to ensure you can attain a successful decision in the end. A good place to start is the council’s website. This offers advice on how to fill out the forms, as well as general information on the application process. At times it can be confusing, so it is often a good idea to speak to the planning department as they will be able to explain things more  and give you a better idea of what they will want to see in a successful application. If you’re still at a loss as to the planning procedure, or are dealing with a particularly tricky planning issue, there are planning consultants who can be employed to help get you through the process.

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