Chat with us, powered by LiveChat The Role of Planning Permission in Property Development
7th December 2023
25 minutes

The Role of Planning Permission in Property Development

Navigating the UK planning system proves pivotal yet perplexing for property developers. This guide unpacks demystifying insights on securing the all-important planning permission. It explores everything from consent requirements and assessment processes, to design considerations and post-approval procedures. Read on for an insider perspective on smoothly progressing development projects through critical planning milestones.

Planning permission is required for property developments like new builds or major renovations to ensure adherence to regulations on factors like design, community amenity, and infrastructure impacts. Securing this consent represents a pivotal milestone for developers, enabling project progression while meeting policy objectives around sustainable, quality growth.

UK Planning Permission Overview:




Consent needed for property developments in the UK to ensure compliance with planning laws.


Facilitates balanced growth, manages development, supports housing targets, and preserves local character.

Types of Development Requiring Consent

New builds, major renovations, changes of use, and works to heritage assets.

Key Players

Local Planning Authorities, Planning Inspectorate, Secretary of State, Developers, Consultants.

Consequences of No Permission

Legal actions, delays, financial losses, and potential demolition of unauthorised works.

Table plan

What is Planning Permission and Why is it Important?

Definition of Planning Permission

Planning permission is a consent needed for certain property developments in the UK. Also referred to as development consent, planning permission provides approval from local authorities that proposed building works adhere to planning laws and regulations. This ensures orderly development and the protection of local amenities.

Building developers must apply for planning permission before undertaking projects like building new houses or commercial spaces. Extensions, structural alterations, and changes of building use also often require permission. Applications detail the specific development plans, allowing planning officers at councils to assess potential impacts on the surrounding area.

Purposes of Planning Permission

The planning permission system aims to facilitate balanced and sustainable growth in communities across the UK. It manages development to support government housing targets and economic progress while preserving local character.

Securing permission involves consulting the public to ensure neighbourhood sentiments are considered. Planning committees review feedback and make decisions based on Development Plans. These plans manage growth to avoid inappropriate works that could disturb established residential areas or natural spaces.

Permission sets conditions to mitigate development impacts like increased traffic or noise. Developers must also provide community enhancements, including infrastructure contributions, public green spaces or affordable housing quotas. This ensures orderly development benefiting both new occupants and existing communities.

Consequences of Developing Without Permission

Commencing property development without securing planning permission can lead to significant issues, delays and costs. Council planning departments enforce planning laws and policies. They have extensive powers to uphold regulations when development occurs without consent.

Potential enforcement actions include Stop Notices, Enforcement Notices and direct action. Stop Notices demand unauthorised works cease immediately. Non-compliance risks court injunctions or criminal prosecutions. Enforcement Notices require corrections within set timeframes to avoid further enforcement measures. Councils may also undertake direct action like demolishing unlawful works and recovering expenses from transgressors.

Beginning projects without permission leads to inevitable delays. Retrospective applications often get refused or need revision. Modifications put on hold work progress. Delays also leave properties vacant longer, reducing potential rental income.

Developers proceeding without permission risk total loss. Councils can demand demolition and remediation of unauthorised works, voiding all construction investments. Achieving permission afterward is extremely difficult once planning officers view unconsented actions as disrespectful. Reputations also suffer. Banks may deny finance for future developments due to perceived greater risks.

Building property

Types of Development Requiring Consent

New Builds and Major Renovations

Constructing new residential or commercial buildings requires planning permission. This includes developments like apartment blocks, offices, retail units, hotels and industrial facilities. Consent ensures appropriately zoned land gets used for sanctioned purposes.

Permission is also mandatory for major renovation and redevelopment projects. Structurally altering over 50% of existing buildings or facades needs approval. Large-scale external works, like adding extra floors or significantly expanding footprints, also require consent.

Interior renovations usually only need permission when increasing residential unit numbers or changing building usage. However, projects within designated conservation areas or involving listed structures may need approval for even minor interior alterations.

Changes of Use

The Town and Country Planning Act requires planning permission for changing how existing properties get used. Consent ensures new uses align with Development Plans.

A proposed use must operate for 10 years continuously before legally getting established. Changes within that timeframe need permission, particularly when functions differ significantly.

Conversions receive scrutiny regarding impacts. Transforming offices into residential spaces requires approval, considering factors like parking and amenities. Industrial conversions to retail use also need permission given commercial transport and noise differences.

Councils particularly prioritise farmland conversion applications. The UK's significant agricultural capacity supports food security and rural economies. Reports show over half of development on farmland gets refused, emphasising the stringent requirements allowing permanent changes from agricultural use.

Works to Heritage Assets

Planning permission is required for alterations to Listed Buildings, which the Secretary of State designates as having special architectural or historical character. Even minor works like new openings or partitions require Listed Building Consent.

Schedules list elements contributing to Listed Buildings’ special status. Removing or altering these without permission constitutes an offence. Works possibly affecting character or setting also require approval beforehand.

Development proposals within protected Conservation Areas also undergo scrutiny to conserve historical integrity. Projects in scheduled Monument zones similarly need assessing regarding archaeological impacts.

Alterations to locally listed buildings may require planning permission too. So although protection levels fall below national designations, councils still manage changes given contribution to community heritage.

Academy Apartments Trafford Manchester Bedroom

Key Players in Planning Decisions

Local Planning Authorities

Local authorities and councils serve as Planning Authorities administering policies and making decisions on planning applications. Their planning departments assess proposals against Local Plans mapping out area growth and infrastructure needs.

Development Management officers ensure applications meet policy objectives like affordability, sustainability and design. Recommendations go to planning committees composed of elected councillors who determine approvals.

Think about the legal landscape in property development. Permission grants often carry pre-commencement conditions or legal agreements. These mitigate impacts by requiring specifics like traffic management plans or community infrastructure contributions. They underline the complex balancing judgements councils make approving development.

Local Authority planning capacities see pressures from central government requirements to hit housing targets. But Beech Holdings works closely with councils, recognising joint aims for quality sustainable communities. We prioritise affordable rents and local regeneration needs when designing proposals.

Planning Inspectorate and Secretary of State

The national Planning Inspectorate handles appeals against council planning decisions. Appellants argue the adverse impacts cited fail to justify refusals when balanced against wider benefits. Appeal decisions overturn around a third of contested local authority judgements.

The Secretary of State can also intervene in planning cases involving issues of national significance. Beech Holdings ensures proposals align with national policy priorities around greener development, design quality and housing mix. This minimises intervention risks while supporting broader planning aims.

Inspectors making judgements ultimately interpret policies similarly to local authorities. So working positively with councils from the outset avoids unnecessary appeals and interventions. Our extensive planning experience aids constructing proposals satisfying local and national policy objectives.

Developers, Applicants and Consultants

Property developers drive planning applications, working with teams of planning consultants to secure permissions. Consultants like architects for successful property development and surveyors provide technical assessments, articulate case rationales and negotiate with planning bodies.

Third-party developers often pursue planning gain, selling consented sites for profit without construction. But Beech Holdings’ integrated model handles sites throughout the full cycle. Our in-house planning team focuses on asset value growth through sustainable development meeting local housing needs.

Applicants face appraisal costs like surveys alongside application fees and tax liabilities. But success unlocks land value uplifts making projects viable. Obtaining consent represents one of the biggest risks for development returns. So constructive council engagement forms a key focus guiding our industry-leading planning success rates.

Steps and Considerations for UK Planning Permission:




Appointing a consultant, preparing required information such as drawings, impact assessments, and statements.

Application Submission

Ensuring all documents are correct to avoid validation delays and allowing for public comments.

Assessment Process

Council checks, publicity and consultations, application determination against policies.

Design and Access

Quality design, meeting accessibility standards, integrating landscaping.


Discharging conditions, obtaining Building Control approval, completing Section 106 obligations.

Academy Apartments Trafford Manchester Studio Internal

How to Apply for Planning Permission

Appointing a Planning Consultant

Given the complexities navigating planning policies and approval processes, appointing an expert consultant proves invaluable for most projects. Specialist planners intimately understand local authority expectations, speeding preparations and boosting approval chances.

As leading developers, Beech Holdings maintains an in-house planning team. But for smaller applicants, external consultants provide tailored guidance on critical considerations like site surveys, legal agreements and community impacts. Their oversight helps avoid easily overlooked issues threatening permissions.

Experienced consultants also cultivate strong council relations through regular liaison. Constructive discussions identify information needs, optimising application adequacy. Consultants further manage community consultations, crystallising local sentiments to address through proposal adaptations.

Overall, the expertise and connections consultants contribute justify upfront costs. Their involvement curbs risks around inappropriate applications requiring substantial reworking.

Preparing the Required Information

Applications demand extensive supporting materials like drawings, reports and statements to evidence cases. Required information covers factors like housing mix contributions, traffic impacts and sustainability credentials.

Location and site plans show development boundaries and positioning. Floor designs detail internal workings and access. Elevations and 3D visuals reveal external appearances. Choosing the right location for property development is important.

Infrastructure impact assessments analyse effects on services like water provision, waste management and power grids. Traffic studies determine mitigation needs regarding changed volumes and access. Environmental surveys assess habitat or flood risks necessitating protection measures.

Design and access statements explain proposal rationale, exploring compliance with policies and standards. Planning statements then summarise the overall case merits against relevant plans.

Submitting the Application

Once collated, applications undergo council validation checking appropriate certificates, notices and fees accompany submission materials. Invalid applications get returned, causing delays.

Accepted proposals published on planning registers allowing 21 days for public comments. Support or planning objections require addressing before decisions.

Overall processes range from 8 to 13 weeks for approvals, or longer should committees defer judgement pending clarifications. Refusals also often undergo appeals adding substantial extra timeframes.

Careful information preparation therefore proves vital, given resubmission needs should validating documents overlook key details. Experienced consultants remain best placed to oversee successful first-time lodgements, using long-established council relationships to reconcile any queries.

Academy Apartments Exterior Trafford Manchester

The Application Assessment Process

Validation Checks

Submitting a planning application triggers initial validation checks by council planning departments. Case officers verify all required information meets standards before progressing to assessment.

Validating application forms ascertain correct certificates and notices joined proposals. Checking appropriate fees paid avoids delays returning incomplete submissions. Required drawings, reports and impact studies also screen, confirming adequate supporting materials.

Validation confirms applicant eligibility regarding site ownership or agricultural tenancies. It further checks development boundaries, relevant notices served and consultee notifications enclosed.

Streamlining front-end validation facilitates faster determinations, benefiting applicants and councils. Beech Holdings works closely with planning authorities when collating application materials. We verify information completeness via pre-submission checks, maximising first-time validation rates.

Publicity and Consultations

Once validated, the next stage publicises proposals allowing community consultations. Site notices visibly display development details with public comment opportunities. Advertisements in local newspapers supplement notice publicity.

Relevant bodies and local groups receive consultation invites regarding expected impacts. Parks authorities assess green space effects. Highway agencies review traffic implications. Heritage groups evaluate aesthetic impacts. Neighbourhood associations crystallise local opinion on schemes.

Policy requires considering all representation issues around aspects like design, access or amenities. Beech Holdings constructs extensive community engagement plans when developing proposals. We shape designs responding to local priorities, boosting support.

Determining the Application

After publicity and consultations conclude, assessing officers or committees determine applications against policy objectives. Delegated officers handle simpler proposals against local plan alignments. Planning committees judge complex developments involving balancing multiple objectives.

Determinations assess various impacts like traffic, noise and visual factors. They consider national directives around sustainability and housing while weighing community feedback. Beech Holdings recognizes approvals depend on satisfying both area-specific and national planning aims within workable solutions. Our proposals align core benefits like regeneration and affordable housing with localised infrastructure adaptations.

Completing permissions then still requires finalising the legal side of property development such as agreements and conditions to enable commencements. Discharges of conditions need approval before on-site works. So post-approval procedures also demand coordination through shovels hitting the ground.

Basil House Portland Street Manchester Kitchen

Dealing with Planning Permission Refusal

Typical Reasons for Refusal

Despite the best efforts aligning proposals to policies, planning applications face refusal risks over issues like:

Design – Inadequate detail or unsuitable aesthetic impacts in context often draw criticism. Refusals require revisiting façade treatments, access provisions or layouts.

Heritage – Harming the setting or character of listed buildings or conservation zones generates consistent rejections. Alternatives must avoid such impacts.

Residential Amenity – Overbearing proximities, privacy invasions and excessive shadows or noise also undermine applications. Revisions should prevent unwanted effects on neighbours.

Highways – Transport grounds like unsafe accesses, insufficient parking or detrimental traffic increases commonly refuse schemes. Robust supporting Travel Plans and impact assessments help overcome concerns.

Infrastructure – Lacking appropriate supporting health, education or community services prevents permission for significant housing growth. Viability constraints limiting developer contributions, however, complicates resolving these.

Environment Impact– Adverse ecology, arboriculture or flood risk impacts often halt proposals where alternatives could prevent damage.

Policy Conflicts – Contraventions against key planning priorities, particularly around affordable or greener housing, carry substantial refusal weight.

With intricate Development Plan alignments needed, refusals remain likely without expert navigation of critical issues and evidence burdens.

Grounds for Appeal

Applicants possess appeal rights against both refusals and non-determinations of applications. Valid grounds include:

  • Procedural impropriety – e.g. denying hearings or inadequate consultations

  • Errors of fact – e.g. misunderstanding proposal elements or misinterpreting policy

  • Unreasonable judgements – e.g. disregarding material considerations or exceeding policy wording

The Planning Inspectorate handles appeals, assessing decisions against relevant policies, acts and regulations. Appellants must evidence the fallibility of original judgements rather than simply dispute unfavourable outcomes.

Successful appeals overturn around a third of challenged planning decisions. But poor grounds or inadequate appeal statements often reaffirm adverse outcomes.

Options Available

After refusals, applicants choose between revising proposals, appealing judgements or resubmitting altered schemes.

Revising plans provides opportunities adjusting aspects legitimising previous concerns. This offers simpler faster approvals than protracted appeal processes if issues prove resolvable. Resubmitting applications also works where extensively reworking proposals following refusals. But identical applications automatically get refused, so changes must substantively address refusal reasons.

Beech Holdings constructively engages local authorities addressing concerns following any refusals. Our planning expertise focuses on understanding rejection motivations to steer requisite design evolution. We find jointly developing alternative solutions aligned to mutual goals delivers the best outcomes. And where impasses occur, we leverage strong appeal cases securing approvals.

Ancoats Gardens Manchester Dining Area

Design and Access Considerations

Creating High Quality Designs

Planning policies consistently prioritise design quality within developments. Approvals depend on aesthetically sensitive schemes sympathetically integrating with surrounding areas.

Contextual design matters. Proposals unquestionably modernise neighbourhoods but should respect existing form and materiality. Layouts must enable permeation not isolation. Street-level activation avoids blank inactive façades. Articulation creates visual interest over flat uniformity.

Height, scale and massing prove particularly contentious if exceeding neighbourhood norms. Beech Holdings recognises well-considered contemporary architecture enriches locations when complementing the old. Our award-winning projects fuse the best of both rather than imposing jarring new aesthetics.

We further understand outward-looking developments. Inward-facing layouts are disconnected from context hence drawing criticisms. Connectivity through inviting landscaping and visible access conveys integration and pride in space.

Meeting Accessibility Standards

Inclusive design forms a pivotal planning emphasis following strengthening equality legislation. All new buildings legally require adequate accessibility and circulation space for disabled occupants and visitors.

Compliance demands carefully considering level thresholds, circulation widths, lift sizes and WC provisions from initial concepts. Retrofitting access after completion costs multiples more. Our extensive experience with Remarkable Living social housing taught that centred inclusive principles fundamentally enhance liveability for all.

Councils particularly emphasise disabled parking and access route provisions for new developments. Shortfalls against legal requirements automatically generate refusals on access grounds. We appoint specialist access consultants reviewing proposals and equipping planning teams to assure standards get embedded early.

Integrating Landscaping Features

Greenspaces, trees and planting provide essential counterpoints to density in urban growth. Integrating diverse, climate-appropriate landscaping brings visual relief plus wildlife support and climate resilience.

Frontages should visibly open onto vegetation not barriers. Courtyards and play areas require shade and seating among greenery for true community value. Native plantings beautify dramatically with multi-season interest and lower maintenance than exotic introductions.

Beech commits enhancing local ecological value in designs rather than just mitigating damage. We install green walls and roofs to extend habitats vertically. Clustered wild spaces encourage pollinators like bees essential for food security. Promoting natural connections lets people benefit too through biophilic wellbeing effects.

Overall landscaping requires planning from viable space allocation to appropriate species selections. Rushing designs risks forgetting key provisions forcing later retrofits. By advising early collaborations with landscape architects, our industry expertise makes the most of outdoor amenity opportunities.

Navigating the Post-Permission Process

Discharging Conditions

When it comes to planning permission in property development, most planning approvals carry pre-commencement conditions needing satisfaction before works start on-site. These commonly require additional details like construction management plans or external materials samples for council re-approval.

Submitting discharge of conditions applications demonstrates compliance with the attached requirements. Councils re-assess supporting info and then issue consent enabling physical works.

Delays in finalising details prolong the pre-start phase. So Beech Holdings initiates open dialogues with planning officers as soon as permissions get granted. We verify expected submissions, schedules and processes to streamline approvals. Clear re-approval timeframes also aid programmers and budgets.

Strict compliance matters given commencement ahead of discharges potentially invalidate entire permissions. So we ensure fully satisfying attached conditions before contractors start on-site.

Building Control Approval

The planning system focuses on external building impacts, while Building Regulations manage internal quality and safety. Separate consent from council Building Control or private Approved Inspectors proves constructions meet structural, access, energy efficiency and facilities standards.

Securing consent generally runs concurrently with projects. Inspectors review ongoing works at each stage checking aligned with approved plans. Sign-offs after final completion provide completion certificates permitting occupation.

Compliance here minimises unacceptable construction risks that could endanger homeowners. As responsible developers, Beech Holdings engages rigorous inspection regimes. We regard building control liaison as integral to delivering quality accountable new housing.

Completing Section 106 Obligations

Many major planning permissions depend on Section 106 legal agreements requiring planning gain contributions like affordable housing, public open space or transportation upgrades.

These standalone property development contracts detail delivery processes and schedules for all agreed community provisions. Late or inadequate contributions constitute breaches enforceable by courts. So strict accordance with obligations proves vital.

Closeout processes include land transfers, cash payments, and undertaking works. Robust project management ensures Beech Holdings fulfils all commitments on time. Our collaboration in delivering public parks and social housing is a testament to exemplary S106 compliance benefitting civic futures.

We further host council walkarounds demonstrating delivery aligns agreements. Constructive accountability builds mutual trust and understanding, easing future permissions. Overall, conscientious discharge of commitments reinforces our reputation facilitating approvals for our sustainable rental-led agenda. In the realm of property development, conducting thorough feasibility studies is paramount to assessing the viability and potential success of a project before undertaking any significant commitments.

Share this article

A leading UK developer for over 20 years

General Enquiries

60 Oxford Street, Manchester, M1 5EE

+44 (0) 161 694 4942

[email protected]

Investor Enquiries

For single unit and block sale enquiries

+44 (0) 161 791 4600
[email protected]

Owner Occupiers
Building and Land Agents

For building and land sale opportunities

+44 (0) 161 791 4600
[email protected]