This article gives information on how constituents can get involved in the planning process at various stages, including how to object to planning applications.
This information should not be relied upon as legal or professional advice. Read the disclaimer.
This article focuses on England. The last section provides links to further information for the devolved administrations.
What are permitted development rights?
Planning permission from the local planning authority is usually needed to undertake development (that is, to carry out building works and/or to ‘materially’ change how a property is used).
Permitted development rights allow individuals and developers to make certain changes to buildings or land without the need to apply for and obtain planning permission from the local planning authority. Permitted development rights are granted by Parliament and are set out in the General Permitted Development Order.
What development is covered by permitted development rights?
Schedule 2 to the General Permitted Development Order lists the types of works that are covered by permitted development rights. For example, common home improvement projects, such as extensions to homes, loft conversions and the installation of solar panels on roofs are generally covered by permitted development rights.
There are also permitted development rights which allow for buildings to be changed between the use classes. For example, a building in commercial, business or service use (such as an office or a shop) may be converted to residential use without planning permission from the local planning authority.
Further information on whether permitted development rights apply can be obtained from the local planning authority (usually, the district council). Individuals who are unsure whether their planned works are covered by permitted development rights may wish to request a lawful development certificate from the local planning authority. This is a legal document certifying that a past, present or future development is lawful.
Are there any restrictions on permitted development rights?
Most permitted development rights are subject to conditions and limitations designed to mitigate the potential impacts of the works covered. For example, fences and walls are not covered by permitted development rights if they are taller than two metres.
Works that may otherwise be covered by permitted development rights may also be restricted in certain protected areas (for example, in National Parks and World Heritage Sites).
Permitted development rights may also be restricted in conservation areas and for listed buildings. For further information, see the Library article on planning permission in conservation areas and listed buildings in England.
Restrictions on permitted development rights are out in the relevant part of the General Permitted Development Order. Works that do not meet permitted development criteria will need planning permission.
Can a local authority impose further restrictions on permitted development rights?
A local planning authority can also restrict permitted development rights in (part of) its local area using an ‘article 4 direction’. Government guidance advises LPAs to use article 4 directions in “a measured and targeted way” and to apply them to “the smallest geographical area possible”.
An article 4 direction does not mean that there is a blanket ban on development. Rather, it means that planning permission from the local planning authority is needed to carry out the development. This allows the local authority to consider the impacts of the planned works as part of a full planning application.
Do individuals need the local authority’s consent to undertake permitted development?
In general, if works are covered by permitted development rights, there is no need to apply to the local planning authority for permission to carry out the works. However, some permitted development still requires ‘prior approval’ from the local planning authority.
The prior approval process gives the local planning authority the opportunity to assess whether the planned works meet conditions set out in the General Permitted Development Order. The conditions that require prior approval depend on the type of development.
For example, the installation of solar panels on non-domestic buildings may require prior approval with regards to their design and external appearance.
When deciding a ‘prior approval’ application, a local planning authority can only consider the conditions set out in the General Permitted Development Order for that type of development. It cannot consider the principle of the development or any other matter (for example, whether the development is in line with policies in its local plan).
Works covered by permitted development rights may also require other permissions or consents, such as building regulations approval.
Are local residents consulted?
In general, there is no requirement to consult and seek the views of local residents on works covered by permitted development rights (unlike for development which requires a full planning application).
However, for some permitted development, a local planning authority will consult neighbours or local residents on certain matters as part of the prior approval process. For example, neighbours must be consulted on larger single storey rear extensions to homes. If they raise any objections, the local planning authority will decide whether the impact of the extension on the neighbouring properties is acceptable and whether the works can proceed.
Can a local authority stop permitted development or take enforcement action?
In general, if works are covered by permitted development rights, local planning authorities do not have powers to stop the works or impose conditions.
If works are not covered by permitted development or violate conditions set out in the General Permitted Development Order, and planning permission is not obtained for the works, this is considered a ‘planning breach’. A local authority has enforcement powers to respond to planning breaches. It is up to the local authority, however, whether and what enforcement action they take.
- Commons Library, Planning in England: Permitted development and change of use (February 2024)
- Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), What are permitted development rights? (last updated July 2023)
- DLUHC, Permitted development rights for householders: Technical guidance (last updated September 2019)
- Welsh Government, Planning permission: Permitted development rights for householders (last updated May 2020)
- Scottish Government, Householder permitted development (last updated August 2023)
- Northern Ireland Direct Government Services, Planning permission – When to apply (accessed 6 February 2024)
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.
Find out about the planning restrictions residents may face when seeking to make changes to buildings which are listed or in conservation areas.
This article gives information on the planning system in England, including how applications are decided and whether permission can be overturned.