When You'll Need Planning PermissionA planning department in a local authority is there to manage the way our towns, cities, suburbs and countryside develop. This includes the use of land and buildings and their appearance, landscaping considerations, the impact upon roads and highway access and the effects in which any proposed development will have upon the general environment.

You don’t need to have planning permission for all alterations you may be looking to carry out. For example, the insides of buildings in general can be altered without planning permission, unless they affect the exterior of the building as well, e.g. a loft conversion or extension, where you would still require planning permission nor would you need permission if you were making small scale alterations to the exterior of your house, such as installing a satellite dish or a home security alarm, for example. However, there are strict regulations in place and here are some common examples of when you would need to obtain planning permission from your local authority.

When You Would Need Planning Permission

If you intend to build something or make building alterations which will affect the exterior of your house, you’ll need to obtain planning permission. As well as extensions or loft conversions mentioned earlier, if you wanted to divide off part of your house for use as a separate home, e.g. a granny flat, or self-contained bed-sit or if you wanted to put a caravan in your garden to use as a home for somebody else – this would all need planning permission.

Likewise, if you wanted to build on to your home for a commercial business venture such as a workshop or to build additional parking space for a commercial vehicle this would also require permission. Other aspects include putting up a fence where an estate was designed as an open-plan estate or any work which might obstruct the view of road users or where any alterations would mean a wider road or even a new access road to be built – this would also all need permission.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. Anything which could affect the privacy of neighbours or their access to sunlight or which is not ‘in keeping’ with the rest of the immediate surrounding area, might also be subject to planning permission so before you go ahead with any alterations, you should contact your local authority to check what you can and cannot do without permission.


You should be very wary of going ahead with any new development without checking with your local authority first. Ignorance is not a sufficient excuse when it comes to these matters. At best, you may have to apply for retrospective planning permission but, at worst, you may find out, after you have altered or built something, that it contravenes planning regulations and you’d be required by law to return the property to its previous condition, no matter how costly the project was.

It’s also important to note that planning permission and buildings regulations are not the same. And, even if you have been told that any proposed changes would comply with the Buildings Regulations, they may also be subject to planning permission as well, so you could still be forced to return the property to its previous state if planning permission is not granted, even if the structure complies fully with the Buildings Regulations.

Therefore, it is imperative that if you’re considering any major changes to your home, especially if this affects the external structure of your property, that you contact your local authority’s planning department first to see you need planning permission or not. It’s also important to tell them the truth. If you lie about the proposed height or some other important detail about a project you have planned, they will check back later and if it’s found you did not stick to your original plans, they can still ask you to revert the property back to how it was before. However, if it’s recommended that you should apply for planning permission, the planning department will explain how you should go about it, including the appeals procedure should the plans still be turned down later.