Planning advice FAQs
This page contains the questions we are asked most frequently about planning advice. Click on the question below to show the answer.
What needs planning permission?
Planning permission is required for building and engineering works, changes to use of a building or land, display of advertisements, alterations to listed buildings and demolition of buildings in conservation areas.
Internal alterations to a building and certain minor works, including small extensions to houses, can be carried out without planning permission.
We advise you to visit the national planning portal to check if you need planning permission before starting any work.
Homeowners can also contact us on 03450 455 215 to book an appointment to speak to our duty planning officer for 15 minutes free advice alternatively you can visit the website to find out more.
We also offer a more detailed paid for pre-application advice service.
How long does a planning application take to process?
The first step for any application is to check we have all the information we need. This is known as validation. We aim for this process to take five working days.
Once we know the application is valid it generally takes between eight to thirteen weeks to process and make a decision.
How do I know my planning application is being processed?
The application will be checked to ensure all the necessary documentation and the correct fee has been submitted. If it has, the application will be made valid and a letter sent to the applicant/agent including the key details of the application and a target date for a decision.
We aim to validate applications within five working days.
If all of the required information isn't submitted, the information is incorrect and/or the correct fee hasn’t been submitted the applicant/agent will be contacted and given 28 days to provide the necessary information and/or fee. The application won't be processed any further until we have the information we need.
What is a public consultation?
A valid application will be publicised depending on its location and type of proposal:
- a site notice displayed at the proposed development
- notification by letter to neighbouring properties
- a public notice in the local press
The application is then available for 21 days for people to comment on, and anyone can comment, even if they haven't received a letter.
We also consult specialist organisations, such as the Highways Authority, and different sections of the council, e.g. Environmental Health on the development proposed. They must also respond within the 21 days.
The consultation period is longer, normally six weeks, for larger applications.
Can I draw building plans myself?
Yes, but you should have a good knowledge of building construction and the requirements of the building regulations. It is likely that employing an architect, building surveyor, or other professional will produce better results and reduce any delay in obtaining approvals.
What is listed building consent and when do you need it?
Listed building consent is separate from planning permission. You will normally require listed building consent to alter, demolish or replace any part of the listed building, or to extend or alter it in a manner which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest.
Kitchen units, bathroom fittings and decor can usually be changed without any need for listed building consent, providing they are not part of the historic fabric of the listed building. However, even fairly minor work, such as replacing an internal door might need consent. This will include where a modern door exists and you want to replace it with something more in keeping or traditional. This would usually be seen as a beneficial change, but it is nevertheless a change, and therefore the requirement for prior consent still stands.
Minor additions such as satellite dishes, flues and alarm boxes may also require prior consent.
Repairs may usually be carried out without listed building consent, providing they are done exactly like-for-like. You would not require listed building consent to repair your windows by splicing in new timber to damaged patches, but you would need consent to replace the entire window, even if the replacement is an exact 'like-for-like' replica. This is seen as an alteration rather than a repair.
What is the difference between planning permission and building regulations?
Planning permission relates mainly to the correct use of land, the aesthetic appearance of the proposed building and the effect that the development will have on the general environment and neighbouring properties. Planning also deals with listed buildings and conservation areas.
Building Regulations are concerned with the way in which the building is constructed, its structural stability, means of escape and fire precautions, weather resistance, energy conservation, sound insulation and access and facilities for people with disabilities.
What is the Planning Officer Assessment?
A valid application is passed to a case officer for initial review and to make a site visit. If after that visit, or in response to consultation responses, changes need to be made to the application, the case officer will work with the applicant/agent to make an amendment to the original proposal.
If the changes are considered significant we'll consult people again for an additional 14 days. If the changes are considered minor, we'll make a decision without further publicity.
What happens in the decision process?
At the end of the assessment, the case officer will write their report. The report is then considered by senior planning officers or our planning committee – a group of elected councillors who have been trained in making planning decisions. The majority of applications will be decided by senior planning officers under powers delegated to them by the committee.
The Planning Committee meets once a month to consider and determine planning applications that can’t be dealt with under delegated powers.
The application will either be approved, with or without conditions, or refused. A written notice of the decision is sent to the applicant/agent and this includes notes on the right to appeal.
What are planning appeals?
An applicant may appeal against a refusal of planning permission, a condition of any approval or if a decision has not been made within a specified timescale. An appeal may be considered by a Government Inspector at a public inquiry, informal hearing or by written representations.
Do I need permission to carry out building works?
You can perform certain types of building works without needing to apply for planning permission. This can be done under what is known as permitted development rights.
These are usually small things such as conservatories, small extensions, replacement windows, solar panels and signs. However, some works can't be classed as permitted development if, for example, if you are within a conservation area, a listed building or your property is a flat or maisonette or commercial premises.
There are other constraints on development to consider, for example if a tree on the property is protected, or there's a risk of flooding.
The Planning Portal website contains advice on your permitted development rights and includes a number of interactive guides on common householder projects.
In some cases permitted development rights on a property may have been restricted or removed through an earlier planning consent. You can carry out a property search and view the planning history of a site in our online mapping system.
We also provide a duty planning officer service where you can discuss general planning queries in relation to householder developments.
Do I need approval to build a greenhouse, conservatory or detached garage?
Generally, you do not need to submit building regulations for this type of works providing they fall within set limits. However, you are advised to consult building control to confirm exemption on 03450 450 062.
What is an Article 4 Direction?
This is where some or all 'permitted development' rights (work that would not normally require planning permission) have been removed from a site or area. An example would be to restrict development in a conservation area that would otherwise not need planning permission to retain the character of that area.
How can I inspect a planning application?
Planning applications can be viewed on our website.
If you would like to see printed documents the easiest way to do so is by contacting your parish council.
If you are not able to view them through your parish council you can visit our Cambourne offices between 8.30am and 4.30pm Monday to Thursday and 8.30am and 4pm on Fridays.
How do you define the curtilage of a listed building?
The curtilage of a listed building is normally considered to be the building itself, along with all the other buildings and land that makes up the property.
Buildings or structures that date after 1 July 1948, and which are unattached to the listed building, are not considered to be curtilage listed.
Typically, structures covered by curtilage listing might include: walls, gates, railings, gatehouses, stables, urns, statues, dairies, barns, privies and cart sheds. To demolish, alter or move any such structure, you will need to apply for Listed Building Consent. If you want to make an application then you can do this via the national planning portal website.
What is the local land search procedure?
A local land charge search is necessary when someone is buying or re-mortgaging property or land.
Your solicitor should send us your application for a search, including a map of the property or land you want to buy or re-mortgage against.
We will then reveal any land charge registrations for the search. Searches may show conservation areas, improvement or renovation grants, planning applications and highway agreements. You can find out more information by looking at our Local Land searches section of the website.
I'd like to add a house name to my property, who should I contact?
What is a building preservation notice?
A notice may be served on an unlisted building which is of special architectural or historical interest and is in danger of demolition or alteration which will affect its character.
A notice takes immediate effect and protects the building for a maximum of six months until either the Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport lists the building or informs us that they do not intend to do so.
Whilst the notice is in place the building is subject to the same protection as a listed building and any works to it will require listed building consent.
Land ownership - Who owns a fence? Is this my boundary? Do I have right of access?
These are not planning matters and we are unable to answer these types of question. They are land ownership issues for which you may need to get legal advice. The responsibility for fences around your property and your boundary may be shown in the deeds to your property. The lender often holds these if you have a mortgage.