Planning permission guide

🕑 6 minute read

Do I need planning permission?

Planning permission is important when you’re making a major change to your property.

Speak to your local planning authority (LPA) to discuss the project you want to start and make sure that you’re up to speed on what planning permission you need, if any.

Starting a project without planning permission can mean that you need to demolish or reverse the work, or pay to contest the decision with your local planning authority.

What is planning permission?

Planning permission is approval from your local planning authority to carry out changes in your home.

Planning permission exists to stop inappropriate developments from being built – for example, an extension that blocks your neighbour’s sunlight, or a renovation that doesn’t fit with the look of the area.

There are different types of planning permission which you can apply for online with your local authority.

What do I need planning permission for?

Do I need planning permission for an extension?

Not all extensions require planning permission. However, you will need it if any of these apply to your project:

  • You are extending by more than half the area of land around the house as it stood in 1948
  • You are building higher than the highest part of the roof
  • You are building wider than the principal elevation of the front or side of the property
  • You are building a single storey extension that extends more than 8 metres beyond the rear wall of a detached house, or 6 metres for any other type of house
  • Your single storey extension is more than 4 metres high
  • Your side extension is more than half the width of the original house
  • You intend to use materials that are noticeably different to those used in the original house
  • Your extension includes a veranda, balcony or other type of platform

All these limitations apply to conservatories, garages, sheds and outbuildings too.

Do I need planning permission for a garden fence or wall?

You usually don’t need planning permission to make landscaping changes to your property. If you intend to pave over your front garden, you will need to make sure you are using porous materials – otherwise you may need planning permission.

You will need planning permission for the following:

  • Any fence or wall over 2 metres high
  • Anything next to a road and over 1 metre high
  • If the new structure will form a boundary with a listed building
  • If your property is a listed building

Do I need planning permission for insulation or solar panels?

There are many types of energy efficient changes you can make to your property. Most of these changes do not require planning permission – unless you live in a listed building or a conservation area.

Installing solid wall insulation, solar panels or adding ground source heat pumps to the building will not usually require planning permission.

Do I need planning permission for a shed or a summer house?

You should not need planning permission for a shed. However, there are regulations in place that dictate the size of the shed you can have, before planning permission is needed.

The shed should be single storey - with an overall height of 4 metres if they have a dual-pitched roof - or 3 metres if they do not. The shed should also be at the back of the property and not take up more than 50 per cent of the total land around the house.

A summer house doesn’t need planning permission if it’s within 2 metres of the property’s boundary, is under 2.5 metres high and isn’t installed at the front of the property. Your summer house can’t take up more than 50% of space around the house, must be less than 30m² and can’t be used as accommodation.

In the case of flats, you will need to apply for full planning permission to install any garden building, greenhouse or shed.

Do I need planning permission for a loft conversion?

Loft conversions are classed as permitted developments, so you should not need planning permission in most cases. 

  • You must use similar materials to those used already on the house
  • You must not go higher than the existing roof
  • The conversion must not include verandas, balconies or raised platforms
  • You should also ensure that it does not include any installation or replacement of the chimney, flue or the soil and vent pipes

Before planning any loft conversion, it is always a good idea to check what, if any, permissions are needed first. 

Do I need planning permission for a conservatory?

As with loft conversions, conservatories are classed under permitted developments, so you should not need planning permission – provided you meet the conditions and limits.

You need planning permission for a conservatory if:

  • The conservatory is going to be higher than the highest part of the roof
  • It is more than single storey or over 4 metres
  • It’s wider than half the width of the house before the conservatory (side elevation)
  • You want to extend by over 6 metres for a semi-detached house or by 8 metres for a detached house

How to apply for planning permission

The exact steps to applying for planning permission will be different depending on the type of project you’re interested in. Consult with your builder or architect first on the various regulations applicable to your project.

1. Figure out if you need planning permission

If you’re thinking of adding an entirely new building, a substantial extension or if you’re making changes to either a listed building or one in a conservation area, you will probably need planning permission.

2. Create plans

The rule of thumb here is: the more detailed your plans, the more likely you are to be successful.

This is why it usually helps to get a builder or an architect in to help – they can help you to create plans which will make clear what the finished project will look like.

3. Gather all the reports you need

Depending on the scale of the project, where you live and your rules of your local authority, you may need to carry out special reports or surveys to ensure your development won’t lead to problems down the line. The authority handling your planning application may ask for these things specifically.

At the very least, you’ll need to think about things like:

  • Waste storage and collection, in order to show that bin lorries can access and remove your waste
  • Utilities, to show how your property will connect to the gas and electricity network
  • Sewage, to ensure you can access the local sewage lines without impacting them
  • Flood risk, to prove your property is not in a high-risk area of flooding

There are many other things you may need to look into as well, especially if your building is likely to cause disruption, affect the environment or change the character of your home.

Some of these things may require the help of other professionals. They include:

  • A noise survey if your building work could cause lots of disruption
  • A sustainability plan to ensure your development will not impact the environment
  • A sightline survey if your new building could stand in the way of protected sight lines
  • A ‘right to light’ survey, to ensure your work won’t cast a shadow over your neighbour’s property
  • A tree survey, especially if you’re planning to chop down any old trees on your property
  • An endangered animal survey to look for critters such as owls, badgers or bats
  • An archaeological survey if you are planning to dig up previously un-excavated land
  • A heritage statement if you are planning to change the character of an old building, especially if it’s Listed or in a conservation area
  • A contamination survey – if you are planning to build on brownfield land, this will check if the soil is not contaminated

Make sure you’re thorough during this stage of your application, as failure to include an essential report or survey could lead to problems down the line.

4. Gather all your documentation

Once you’ve got your architectural plan and your reports and surveys filled in, you’ll need to submit them to your local authority.

You can usually do this online, however, if you’re doing it in person, make sure to include five copies of the authority’s planning application form along with all the other documentation you need, such as:

  • A certificate of ownership for the land and/or existing property
  • A Design and Access Statement ­– especially for a major development – which is a statement explaining how the building is suitable for the site and its setting, and how it can be adequately accessed
  • A fee

The fee will depend on the type of application you’re making. You can work out how much it will cost you by using the Planning Portal’s online calculator.

How long does planning permission take?

Most local authorities will take between 6-8 weeks to respond to your proposal but could take even longer if the plan is large or complex. If approval is granted, you will receive notice in writing.

How long does planning permission last?

Planning permission lasts for three years, so you must start development within that time. Remember also that planning permission applies to the land, so if you sell during those three years, you are selling the land with planning permission already attached.

If your plan is rejected or approved subject to conditions you don’t find acceptable, you can appeal to the Secretary of State . In most cases, the Secretary of State has the power to overrule any decision made on a planning application by the local planning authority, as they have overarching responsibility for all Home Office business.

You may also be able to submit a modified version of your proposal within 12 months, without incurring an extra fee, but this is dependent on your local authority.

Retrospective planning permission

If you do amend or change your property without getting the planning permission you should have, then the local authority can ask for you to submit a retrospective planning application.

Your local authority has the right to refuse any planning application. If they do refuse, you will have to remove the additions you have made on the property and put the property back the way it was.

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