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How Long Is Your Planning Permission Valid?

Particular Note For Planning Permission due to expire 23 March and 31 December 2020: To reduce the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, the government introduced an extension for planning permissions in England which will expire between 23 March 2020 and 31 December 2020 to 1 April 2021. Therefore, when you see ‘’three years’’ expression in the rest of the article, please consider it as ‘’for three years, or until 1 April 2021, the one refers to a later date for your case’’. If you have a question in your mind about how the temporary rules will be applied to your case, please add your comment, we will be happy to answer it.


Let’s say that you’ve bought a land which already has a planning permission to build a house on it, or you’ve got planning approval for an extension project, but your budget is limited than you thought when the day you made the application. Now, you want to know how long planning permission lasts, and if there is anything that you could do to prevent the expiration of the permission before you start the construction.


What are the possible ways of keeping planning permission active? Do you have to go through the whole process from the beginning if the permission expires? In this article, you will find answers for all of those questions, and you can learn what to do in your case.

How Long Does Planning Permission Last?


Under normal conditions, planning permission is valid for the years after it is granted by the local planning authority. There could be some exceptions, but they are very rare. If your case is one of the exceptions, it should be stated in the letter of approval. Let’s say that everything is usual about your site. Then, you have full planning permission which means that you have three years to start any construction on the site. ıf you have outline planning permission, then you have three years to get planning permission for the reserved matters. Which is another question of debate.



Which Type of Planning Permission Do You Have?

If you are the one who applied for the planning permission, then you will know the type of your planning permission. However, you may not know the type of permission of the land you bought. As you can understand from the name, full planning permission covers everything about projects. If you think that you meet all conditions in the approval letter from the local planning authority, and you also have building regulations approval, you can start construction.


Outline planning permission is generally applied to bigger projects. In outline planning permissions, you ask the local authority if they accept the overall idea of the plan, then you make different applications which cover the details (reserved matters).


In both of the cases, you have three years to take action to preserve your planning permission. Then, what should you do?

How to Preserve Planning Permission?


In the past, planning permission did not have a time limit. However, in the 1960s local authorities made a decision, and changed that practice. The reason for the change was the high numbers of landowners who failed in the building process after getting planning permission.


Therefore, in 1968 a five-year cut-off was introduced by the government. Then, the duration was reduced to the three years in 2009. The reason for this legislation was to ensure that the people who have planning permission will use it.


Therefore, if you have outline permission, you should decide the details of your project, and make your application before the end of three years duration. After you’ve got the approval for the last reserved matter, you will have two years more to start the construction.


In case you have full planning permission, you should start the construction within the three years period. At first blush, it could seem easy. However, what if you are not ready for the building process?

Which Actions Are Considered As Starting Work For Planning Permission?


After reading the explanations above, you may think that you should start building and finish it immediately to keep the permission alive. However, things are not like this in practice. In most projects, when you make any type of detectable first action in the area, the approval could be preserved without starting the main building stage.


However, this is a controversial issue. There are lots of court cases on this issue. Therefore, we could not guarantee that any type of action would work 100%. However, we believe that we can still give advice to you about how to preserve planning permission for more than three years.



Here, you can see the list of actions -material operations- which are included in the amended version of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 which shows the beginning of work (aka ‘commencement of development’) on a site.


Any demolition work on a building

any construction work which takes place in the building process

any alteration in the use of any type of land that represent material development

The excavation of a trench that is to comprise the foundations, on a piece of the foundations of a structure.

any type of operation in the stage of laying out or building a road or part of a road

Underground main or pipe laying to the foundations, or piece of the foundations, of a structure or to any ditch;


As it could be seen, you can fulfil these conditions without employing a construction team for the project. For example, ‘Digging a trench which is to contain […] part of the foundations’ is a common action which is generally accepted as an indication of ongoing construction.



What Can Go Away with Beginning Work to Preserve Planning Permission?


We want to start with good news. First of all, you do not need to worry about your intention on the project. According to the court's decision, it is not important if you started the work to finish it as soon as possible or just to preserve planning permissions.


There are two things that really matter.


The first one is easier than the second one. For example you are sinking a well for foundations, that well could not be just anywhere on the site. It needs to be exactly at the same place which is presented at your planning approval.


The second one is a bit difficult. The initial works must exceed the bare minimum level. However, that is a subjective issue. Council officials or the courts, depending on your condition, will decide if your work is enough or not.



Is It Possible To Renew or Extend Planning Permission?


Once, it was possible to apply for renewal of a planning permission after three years. As long as you did not practice any major changes and paid your fee, the local authorities could extend the approval.


However, the government disassembled this option. You’ve got two choices now. One of them is to stop the expiration as we discussed in the previous parts, and the other one is to make a new application.



How Can You Reapply for Expired Planning Permission?


Is reapplication different from the original application process? The answer is both yes and no at the same time. Let’s say you obtained approval four years ago, and want to make a new application. Officially, your new application is considered in the same way as other applications.


However, if there are no changes in your new application when compared with the first application, and no policy change made by your LPA, it means that you already have all the necessary drawings, surveys and extra information. Therefore, although it is not possible to say that you will obtain planning permission 100%, it is more than likely.


Thus, before making a new application it would be useful to check if your local planning authority changed any policies. If applications similar to your application are rejected by the planning officers these days, or if your council decided to reject specific kind of applications, it would be a good choice to get help from a planner and employ an architect to adjust your application in a way compatible with the present conditions, or you can work with a firm that can do both.


Other important factors are the type and size of the project. The chance of running into a new council stance would be lesser if you’re building a conversion or extension than proposing eight blocks of flats. However, for all scenarios, prepare your application in the best possible way or work with people who are experienced in reapplication for expired planning permissions.


Get Help from the Professionals


We tried to provide an outline to you about a complex issue. Even though the standard planning procedures are introduced by national legislation and guidelines, local authorities put them into effect independently.


Therefore, even though we tried our best to inform you about the longevity of planning permission, we cannot know if your local authority considers your work as the start of a project.


Likewise, we cannot tell the chance of getting approval again for your expired permission. To find answers for these questions, we should know the specific features of about your case.





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