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What is planning permission?

Planning permission is needed if you want to do certain building works. It will be granted (possibly subject to certain conditions) or refused. Permission can be granted for:

  • building new structures
  • changing or enlarging structures
  • changing the use of land or buildings on it
  • for quarrying or the mining of minerals.

It is your responsibility for seeking, or not seeking, planning permission. Planning permission should be granted (if needed) before any work begins.

The granting of planning permission is different from the consent of use for land or premises. You would still need to gain permission from the owner of the land or premises to use, or to change it. If you don’t gain permission, you could be liable for trespass or criminal damage which could be pursued in civil law.

Who grants planning permission?

Your local planning authority (LPA) is responsible for considering planning applications. There are 25 local planning authorities in Wales. This includes the 22 county and county borough councils and all 3 national park authorities. Each of these local planning authorities is responsible determining almost all planning applications in their area.

The exceptions are those decisions made directly by the minister and “major energy applications”. Energy generation of over 50 megawatts are determined by UK government ministers via the Planning Inspectorate’s Major Infrastructure Projects Directorate. These large scale energy decisions are not devolved to the Welsh Government.

Visit: Infrastructure Planning Commission homepage (external link)

Why do I need to get planning permission?

Planning is about how we plan for, and make decisions about the future of our local communities. Your local planning authority is responsible for deciding whether a development - anything from an extension on a house to a new shopping centre - should go ahead.

However, careful and clever planning combined with sensitive design and landscaping can make some development acceptable where it would previously be thought unsuitable. This is the reason that applications are considered so carefully. The planning system is needed to control development in your area.

Do I always need planning permission for a development?

No. Certain developments can be done without the need for planning permission. This is known as “permitted development”. However, some or even all permitted development rights can be withdrawn by the use of an “Article 4 Direction”. This is issued when specific control is required over development in an area of special importance, such as a conservation area.

A given size of extension is usually permitted development, subject to certain size and location limits. However, you should seek advice from your local planning authority before considering undertaking additional work, just to be sure.

What is the development plan?

Each local planning authority is required by the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to prepare a development plan for its area. Although the structure and content of plans have been amended, the basic principle remains the same. Local planning authorities have a duty to prepare a local development plan.

The plan should set out a strategic vision for the area and be subject to an environmental assessment.

Environmental assessment is a process that ensures significant environmental effects arising from policies, plans and programmes are:

  • identified
  • assessed
  • reduced
  • communicated to decision-makers
  • monitored.

In preparing their local development plans, local planning authorities must engage with their local communities. This gives you a chance to have your say.

The plan also contains local policies for land use. Certain areas are selected for future uses. These local policies consider how those uses should look, operate and interact with the environment are set out in the plan.

When a local planning authority receives an application, the first aspect it should consider is whether or not the development follows the development plan. If it would, then normally the application would be approved – although other considerations, such as representations from the public on planning issues, may lead the authority to decide otherwise.

You should be able to view your local planning authority’s development plan, on the authority’s website.

I object to a proposal. What should I do?

When a local planning authority receives a planning application, the law requires it to give publicity to the application in various ways. This allows those who may be affected by it to have the opportunity to make their views known. The publicity often includes:

  • publishing a notice in a local newspaper
  • posting a public site notice
  • neighbour notification to occupiers and owners of adjoining properties.

Write down your planning concerns and supporting points and send them to the local planning authority’s planning department. There is usually a case officer or area group allocated to deal with the application, but if you cannot discover the exact person, send the letter to the planning department. Always try to include the planning reference number and location of the property/development. Some authorities now accept online submissions via the planning pages of the authority’s website.

Concerns about the potential loss in value of your property because of a possible nearby development is not a factor that the local planning authority can take into account in deciding the application.

How long should it take to decide whether to grant permission?

This will depend on the type of application and the size of the planning authority. Local authorities are required by planning legislation to determine those planning applications which need environmental impact assessment (EIA) in 13 weeks and all other applications within 8 weeks.

Failure to determine the application within these deadlines means that the applicant can choose to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate on the grounds of non-determination. Local planning authorities have to inform applicants of these rights.

The Planning Inspectorate is an independent executive agency of the Welsh Government that determines planning appeals on behalf of the Welsh ministers.

Visit: Planning Inspectorate Website (external link)

How much does planning permission cost?

The current planning fees can be found on the Planning Portal.

The Planning Portal website also contains information about:

  • planning and building regulations
  • applying for planning permission
  • developments near you
  • appeals against decisions.

Visit: Planning Portal website (external link)

What is EIA – and how will I know if it is needed?

An EIA is an environment impact assessment. It assesses how the proposed development will impact both on the nearby environment and on the wider environment generally. It is required for some types of development under European legislation. You are advised to contact your LPA for further information.

How can I get help in submitting or responding to a planning application?

You can submit a planning application online on the Planning Portal. The Portal is designed so that you only need provide information relevant for the type of application you wish to make.

Visit: Planning Portal website (external link)

In responding to a planning application, you can write to your local planning authority to make your views known. Some local planning authorities also allow for members of the public to address the planning committee. There is no legal right to be able to this, so arrangements should be checked locally.

Planning Aid Wales is a registered charity that helps and advises individuals and groups that need help to engage with the planning system.

Visit: Planning Aid Wales Website (external link)