What development needs planning permission?

People generally need permission before carrying out any form of 'development'. Development means constructing new buildings or significantly changing how land is being used (for example, changing from agricultural use to retail use or buildings changing from an office to a flat)

construction site

Some development isn't 'development'

Some changes to land and buildings are not classified as 'development' within planning law and therefore do not need planning permission.

This includes agricultural and forestry practices and internal changes to many buildings.

Some development automatically gets permission

Some proposed development or changes of use count as 'development' but are considered minor and are therefore automatically granted permission (to avoid bureaucracy and clogging up the system).

Some examples

  • Small extensions to most buildings
  • Some demolitions
  • Some temporary uses of land
  • Minor developments around buildings

Some development is permitted, but still needs prior approval

Some developments are automatically permitted in principle but may need prior approval by the local planning authority for their details before they can be carried out. One example is telecommunications masts less than 15 metres high.

Some more examples

  • Putting up fences (to a certain height)
  • Extending a factory (within certain limits)
  • Installing roof lights or skylights or re-roofing a house
  • Changing a newsagent to a hairdresser's.
  • Building agricultural buildings or private highways for agricultural use

Permitted development is classified through the Town & Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 or through a local development order.

Some places have more restrictive rules on development

For instance

  • Special Areas of Conservation
  • Special Protection Areas
  • Ramsar sites
  • Sites designated as nationally important for wildlife
  • For geology such as National Nature Reserve
  • and Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

Details vary, but typically there are stricter controls over buildings, tree felling and other works and demolition and more restrictive limitations on the erection of satellite dishes.

Fish farming and extensions to farm buildings are more tightly controlled in national parks.

If seeking a definitive answer

Not sure if your intended development or a neighbour's intended development needs permission?

Speak to your local planning authority. If development needing permission has begun without receiving it, the authority may put a stop to it. At the very least, it will ask for an application to be submitted for retrospective planning permission.