Do I need planning permission? This is a question that every person who owns a building that they intend to renovate should be asking themself. Whether you’ve bought a fixer-upper or a business property that you want to make alterations to, this article will tell you everything you need to know about planning permission and for which situations you need it.

What is planning permission?

Planning permission in the UK is formal permission from a local authority to erect or alter a building or similar development. Essentially, if you’re intending to make any big structural changes to your building, you need to obtain planning permission from your local council. 

The planning office will reject or accept your request and you can only progress with your intended development if you have received written permission.

What happens if I don’t have planning permission?

If your planned development is rejected but you choose to go ahead with it, you will be committing a planning breach. If this happens, you can submit a retrospective application. Which, if successful, allows you to continue with your development. 

But if your application is rejected or relates to a previously refused development, your local council may issue an enforcement notice. The enforcement notice will include hefty fees and could order you to dismantle any work you have completed thus far, regardless of the amount of time and money you have spent. 

It is illegal to ignore enforcement notice, so it is important that you ensure that you do everything that you can to have your application considered but ultimately accept the final decision even if it isn’t the outcome you wanted. 

What is a Retrospective Application?

A retrospective application will grant you permission by providing you with a certificate of regularisation. You will be advised of any changes you need to make to your intended development to have it approved and be in compliance with building regulations. 

What are building regulations?

Building regulations and planning permission in the UK are often confused because they are similar in nature but they have a very important legal distinction. Planning permission focuses on the eventual appearance of the building and how it will affect the neighbouring properties and the general environment surrounding the building. But building regulations are concerned with the construction and technical details that are unlikely to affect the entire neighbourhood.

How do I apply for planning permission in the UK?

The process of applying for planning permission is generally straightforward but very time-consuming. It could take up to three months for your local authority to finalise their decision regarding your application, and it is likely that they won’t look at it for a few weeks beforehand. 

Do you actually need it?

You’ll need to understand whether you actually need planning permission or not. There are certain types of developments that you don’t need planning permission for. So, before you waste your time waiting for permission for a development that you could have been well underway with by now, ensure that you actually need permission before sending out an application. 

Ask for professional advice

Additionally, make sure that you receive professional advice. You can contact your local authority’s planning department before requesting an application form to ask whether your proposed development will be accepted, or if there is anything that you can do to change the outcome before the application process has begun. 

This, again, will save you a lot of wasted time that you would otherwise spend writing applications and waiting for weeks or even months. 

The application

Once you have received advice, you can request an application. Oftentimes, the application can be completed online, so it will be easy to reach for any supporting documents you need that may take you by surprise. 

You will need to provide the location of your proposed development and the site plan. You will also need a certificate of ownership for undeniable proof that it is you who wants the planning permission. Finally, you will need an agricultural holdings certificate to prove that you own the land on which your property is located. 

An application fee will apply, and only when you have received the receipt via email can you know for sure that you have applied. Online calculators are available to provide you with an estimate of how much your application could cost so that you can consider this in your budget. 

Potential problems

Some of the aspects that could have your proposal rejected are:

       The amount of noise that the process of implementing the development could cause.

       Whether the intended development could lead to a loss of privacy for yourself or your neighbours.

       The impact on the listed buildings in the area.

       The appearance of the building once the development is finished.

       Whether your development will negatively impact the surrounding natural environment.

       Government policies.

       Previous planning decisions that may have been rejected.

       Whether your development will impact highway safety. 

These potential problems will collaboratively affect the council's decision to allow you to continue with the proposed development, or not. 

Do I need planning permission for rented properties?

You can only apply for planning permission on a property that you own. If you are renting your property to someone else, then you are more than welcome to propose a development, but if you are renting the property, it is not possible. You could ask your landlord if you can apply for permission to renovate the property, but the decision ultimately comes down to them.

Do I need planning permission for a commercial property?

Yes. Everything but very minor extensions to commercial premises will require planning permission.

What do I need planning permission for?

Large external developments such as extensions or additional floors to the house require planning permission. Similarly, loft conversions and separate garages will also require permission. You will also need planning permission for ventilation systems installed by any company, like Extractly.

What do I not need planning permission for?

You don’t need planning permission for internal developments. This includes turning a garage into a room, refurbishing a room, breaking through an internal wall, installing Korniche lanterns from a skylight company, or adding a conservatory of fewer than 10 meters of protrusion.

If you decide to install an air conditioning unit, you may need planning permission. Depending on the size, noise level and location of the machine.

Essentially, if your proposed development will affect those around you, the surrounding area, or the look of the house, you will need planning permission. But the inside of your building is yours to do what you like with.


You may need the builders' permission for some alterations for which you wouldn’t need planning permission. For example, if you are planning to replace electrics, install a new plumbing system, do anything to your heating system, replace doors or windows, or replace roof coverings, you may need to apply for approval.

If you’re still unsure

It is best to contact your local council to clarify any confusion before applying for planning permission and possibly having your proposal rejected.

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