How to get planning permission for a residential development


It’s well known that the UK is suffering from a housing crisis. The National Housing Federation estimates that in order to house everyone who needs a home we need to be building around 250,000 houses every year, in England alone. The stark truth is that only half that number is being constructed. So, if you’re keen to build a residential development of whatever size, how do you go about getting planning permission?

The planning system

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the planning system, at first glance it can seem quite daunting. Each local authority has its own set of requirements which it has developed to suit the need of its local area. Therefore, an application which is accepted in one area may be rejected in another. It’s worth doing your research before making a planning application to find out what your local authority’s priorities are.

Planners are required to consider applications which enhance the government’s National Planning Policy Framework and which support the following: achieving sustainable development, building a strong, competitive economy, ensuring the vitality of town centres, supporting a prosperous rural community, promoting sustainable transport, supporting high quality infrastructure, delivering a wide choice of high quality homes, requiring good design, promoting healthy communities, protecting Green Belt land, meeting the challenge of climate change, flooding and coastal change, and conserving and enhancing both the natural and historic environments. Your application will be better received if you can demonstrate that it is in line with both the national framework and your local authority’s stance.

Choosing land

If you have identified a piece of land which on which you propose to build, the good news is that you do not have to own it to make a planning application. You can purchase the land subject to planning permission being granted. This means that completion of the purchase is conditional upon receiving the permission you want or by having an Option Agreement which means that you can buy if the planning permission is successful, or to simply move on, if you’re not.

If the land you have identified has outline planning permission, the principle has been established that it is possible to build on it – the details of the size and shape of the dwelling will be the telling factors and will be listed on the approval document. To achieve full approval a greater depth of detail will be required.

The application process

Once you have your plans drawn up you must submit them via the government’s online planning portal [] which will direct your application to the appropriate local authority. Alternatively you can print out copies of the application and post them.

You may wish to seek assistance in drawing up your plans. An architect, builder or solicitor can assist you, or you may wish to engage a planning professional. It is also advisable to have a meeting with a planning officer to discuss your application before submitting your plans – some local authorities charge for this service. There are a range of consents available so it’s important that you make sure you have chosen the correct one – failure to do so will invalidate your application.

You’ll be required to submit the required plans of the development and site you’re proposing, any supporting documentation, a completed form and the correct fee. Supporting documents can consist of a location plan and a site plan, as well as an ownership certificate, an agricultural holdings certificate (whether or not the site has an agricultural holding on it), and a design and access statement, if the authority requires it. Your local authority may also require additional documentation, which will be specified.

It should take about eight weeks to receive a decision from your planning authority. You can track the progress of your application on the system. If it looks likely to be refused, you can withdraw it, amend the plans in accordance with the planners’ guidance and then resubmit it – this will not incur an extra fee. It is important that you avoid a refusal, as the plot or property to be redeveloped may then be ‘blacklisted’ on the system and in the planners’ minds. If you are unsuccessful in your application you can appeal against the decision and while this is a free process it may be a protracted one.

If you need any assistance or advice with the process of obtaining planning permission for a residential development, talk to a member of our team. We have many years’ experience in how the planning process works and can offer you guidance as to what will work best for your development.


Written by: Joseph Fitzsimmons on Tuesday 06/09/2016