Applying for planning permission

You submit a planning application for development to your local authority, which will either approve it or refuse it, or approve it with conditions. Your planning application will have a much better chance of gaining approval if you take account of certain things when preparing it.

pen and paper

For instance:

  • make sure the application fits with the development plan
  • consider location
  • design considerations come next
  • after design, consider layout.

Make sure the application fits with the development plan

A proposed development is unlikely to achieve consent if it is counter to policy contained in the development plan.

The relevant development plan consists of:

  • The Minerals and Waste Development Plan Documents prepared by your county council, national park or unitary authority
  • The Local Plan prepared since 2004 by your district council, national park or unitary authority.

Where there is no post-2004 development plan in your area, refer to policies saved from the old system of plans. Local authorities were able to save some policies from the old system to ease the transition to Local Plans. These policies don't have as much weight as those adopted since 2004, but are still relevant. Under the old system the development plan consisted of:

  • The Structure Plan, prepared by your county council
  • The Local Plan, prepared by your district council
  • Local Minerals and Waste Plans, prepared by your county council or unitary authority
  • Unitary Development Plan, if you live within a unitary authority.

These plans, which set out the policies and visions for how an area will develop, are available for viewing online, at your local library or from your local authority.

When local planning authorities determine whether or not to approve an application, they consider its possible positive and negative consequences.

There are several factors that can increase the environmental 'friendliness' of a planned development, particularly a housing development.

By incorporating these features, you can increase the chances of your proposal gaining approval.

The key to submitting a successful application is to use local knowledge to find out if the planned development is likely to have unacceptable environmental impacts.

CPRE county branches can help you with that, as can your parish or town council.

Consider location

Location is perhaps the most crucial factor.

In general, new housing should:

  • avoid greenfield sites, especially if the site is beyond walking and cycling distance from shops, services and employment. Such development encourages car use and generates pressure for building more roads in the countryside which, in turn, will encourage more development on greenfields;
  • re-use brownfield sites and urban areas that need regeneration to make them attractive places to live. Concentrating housing in existing urban areas helps urban areas and people get the most benefit from public transport and other alternatives to the car;
  • be built where shops, services and employment can be provided locally, reducing the need to travel and avoiding sprawling commuter dormitories;
  • avoid sites that would have a damaging visual impact on the landscape;
  • avoid building over, or being close enough to cause damage to, designated sites - for example, areas of local landscape importance, conservation areas or sites of special scientific interest.

Design is key

Good design should:

  • ensure buildings are energy efficient, use renewable energy and emit zero carbon dioxide (the main greenhouse gas). This can be done in many ways, for example through using solar panels, natural light for heating in summer, good insulation and low-energy appliances;
  • ensure that groundwater is not over-exploited, for example by capturing and using rainwater and recycling mains water;
  • use local building materials to contribute to local distinctiveness and reduce the need to transport materials longer distances;
  • use recycled building materials wherever possible;
  • be sympathetic to the character of the existing built environment;
  • have housing densities of at least 30-50 dwellings per hectare to reduce the amount of land needed for development.

Then consider layout

The layout of any proposed development is also important. It should:

  • incorporate and enhance any existing wildlife and archaeological features, for example, trees, green corridors, ponds and rivers and wildlife areas;
  • provide adequate space for wildlife to flourish, by, for example, planting trees, creating more green corridors to link habitat, creating ponds and leaving areas wild and uncultivated. This is also important if wildlife has flourished where land has been previously developed;
  • other habitat creation can occur in the middle of development, for example, by providing bat and bird boxes, artificial bee nests, wild areas for insects and food plants for insects, birds and butterflies and by using organic habitat management methods.