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What is planning permission and how can I get it?

5 mins read
by Unbiased Team
Last updated Monday, December 11, 2023

If you’re considering an extension or a major renovation for your property, you might be wondering whether you need planning permission before you start any work.

Any renovation work to your home can be very stressful and it can be tricky figuring out whether you need planning permission.

This guide reveals what you must know, including when it is required, potential costs and how to apply. 

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What is planning permission?

Whether you’re looking to buy a property that needs work or want to renovate your home, you may need planning permission. 

Planning permission is approval from your local authority to allow changes to a property or for a new building.

It’s also sometimes referred to as ‘planning consent.’ 

Local authorities have different planning permission requirements and guidelines.

You should not assume you have permission for a project because you could do it in a different area. 

If you’re based in England or Wales, the best way to check whether you need planning permission is via Planning Portal.

If necessary, you’ll later be able to start your application on this same site.  

Planning Portal also offers a useful list of 50 common homebuilding projects.

You can find the relevant category to discover the planning rules, time limits and regulations. 

When is planning permission required?

It can be difficult to find out when you need planning permission – the below list should offer some insight. 

  • Listed buildings: If you’re living in or purchasing a property considered a ‘listed building,’ you’ll need a type of planning permission known as ‘listed building consent’ from your local authority. Starting work on a listed building without this is considered a criminal offence.

  • Building a new structure or extending an existing one: Planning permission is required for new builds, conversions and large extensions. You may be forced to demolish any project of this kind after completion if you start it without planning permission.

  • Renovation work and conversions: Planning permission isn’t always required, but depending on the scope of your project and the type of home you live in, it might be. It’s always worth checking with your local planning department beforehand.

  • Designated areas: If your property is in a designated area (a protected area of countryside, including but not limited to conservation areas, national parks and wetlands), you’ll face more scrutiny when applying for planning permission for buildings, extensions or renovations

Are there any scenarios when planning permission is not required?

Usually, if a project isn’t going to affect the environment or your neighbours, it doesn’t need planning permission – but you should always check with your local authority beforehand.  

Some building projects have ‘permitted development rights’ and don’t need planning permission. 

This includes: 

  • Demolition projects (but you’ll need approval to demolish a building from your local council)

  • Industrial premises and warehouses

  • Certain outdoor signs and adverts 

If your project benefits your local community, you may be able to apply for neighbourhood planning support. 

How much does it cost to get planning permission?

It’s hard to give a precise figure since the cost of a planning permission application can vary depending on factors such as the type of work and type of property.

For example, listed building applications don’t always have an attached fee.  

Where you live in the UK will also have an impact. 

Below are the average costs in England, Wales and Scotland for some common applications as listed on Checkatrade

Type of applicationEnglandWalesScotland
Full planning permission for new dwelling houses (no more than 50)£462 per house£460 per house£600 per house
Householder permission for a single dwelling house£206£230£300
Outline planning permission per 0.1 hectares of land (up to 2.5 hectares)£426£460£600
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How do you apply for planning permission?

First, you need to determine whether you need planning permission.

If you need it, determine the kind of permission and the potential costs. You can then decide whether you’d like to apply. 

Then you should contact your local authority’s planning department and fill in an application, including all required information and documentation focusing on the location, site plan, ownership certificate, agricultural holdings, application fees and more.  

You’ll need to wait for your application to be processed.

Most planning permission applications take eight weeks to be approved or rejected, which rises to 13 weeks for more complex projects. 

The decision itself will be made based on factors such as: 

  • Appearance

  • Government policy

  • Impact on listed buildings

  • Loss of privacy 

  • Nature conservation

  • Noise

  • Previous local planning decisions

  • Safety 

If your planning permission request is denied, you can appeal if: 

  • You were refused for reasons you think go against the local authority’s policy or development plan.

  • You were granted planning permission with certain conditions that you are not able to meet. In this case, you’ll have to explain why those conditions are unnecessary, impossible to enforce, vague or irrelevant.

  • You have been waiting for a decision over eight or 13 weeks. 

Do you need to make a building regulations application?

Most structural work in your home needs building regulations approval, excluding small projects like porches, conservatories and detached garages. 

While planning permission ensures that your project aligns with local and national standards and is unlikely to affect your neighbours or the environment, building regulations focus on structure and safety. 

In most cases, you’ll have to apply for both. Planning permission will come first, and once you have that permission, you’ll need to ensure you comply with building regulations at every stage of your renovation, build or extension. This will be confirmed by an inspector when the works are complete. 

If you need help understanding the cost or complexity of your project, the best thing you can do is speak to a professional.

How long does planning permission last?

Planning permission is valid for 3 years from the date of approval before construction must begin, as per the 1968 Town and Country Planning Act.

This prevents a build-up of unused approvals.

If construction has not started after 3 years, the permission expires and is no longer valid.

You must reapply if you still wish to build, but be aware that policy and guidance may have changed, so identical plans may not be reapproved.

Why it’s vital to get planning permission

If you’re unsure whether you need planning permission and are desperate to start a project, it's best to be cautious and get the necessary approval before starting any work.  

Completing building work without the necessary planning permission (and regulation compliance) can be costly in the long run and you may be breaking the law.  

Going ahead without waiting for planning permission can require you to make expensive changes later or even demolish a structure that doesn’t comply.

So, it’s a good idea to get advice before getting started.  

If you need help reviewing or optimising your finances before starting a project, a financial adviser may be able to help.

Unbiased can connect you to a local financial adviser today.

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Unbiased Team
Our team of writers, who have decades of experience writing about personal finance, including investing, retirement and pensions, are here to help you find out what you must know about life’s biggest financial decisions.