Types of planning application photo of construction site with cranes and concrete


There are numerous types of application that can be made under the town and country planning system in England and each must be used in the correct circumstances:  

  • Outline planning applications
  • Reserved Matters applications
  • Full planning applications
  • Householder planning applications
  • Listed Building Consent applications
  • Conservation Area Consent applications
  • Advertisement Consent applications
  • Applications for Certificates of Lawfulness
  • Prior Approval applications
  • Applications to vary or discharge matters reserved by planning conditions
  • Tree works applications (Tree Preservation Orders)

Some projects will require more than one of the above applications to be made (for example works affecting a Listed Building may require both planning permission and Listed Building Consent. 

This page describes some of the different types of planning application and consent that together form the regulatory system for development in England. 

Whilst the principal objective of a developer will be to secure ‘planning permission’, there are a plethora of corresponding and related consent regimes and applications that will be need to be successfully navigated before a development can commence on the ground. 

No two development schemes are the same and each requires a bespoke strategy and portfolio of approvals before it can proceed.  In the most simple of developments, only planning permission will be needed.  However, more complex developments may well need numerous consents additional to (or sometimes instead of) planning permission – for instance, there are approvals needed for works to trees, display of advertisements, works affecting the character or fabric of listed buildings etc.

Taking planning permission in isolation – some developments will suit an outline planning application approach, where the principle of development can be determined ahead of the detail.  Some developments require a full application, where all details of development are submitted for approval in one go.  There are also various supplementary applications that may be required – for example, to amend or vary existing planning permissions. 

Each consent and application type has its own characteristics and requirements to consider – such as varying validation requirements, timescales for determination and application fees to name but a few.  For a developer considering options and strategy, statutory requirements may leave little room for manoeuvre.  But in other cases, the different applications and considerations may give a significant amount of flexibility in terms of the form and timing of the various applications.    

Validation requirements for each application are summarised in our How To Make a Planning Application page. Below is a brief description of the most common types of application and consent:

Full Planning Applications

This is the most common form of planning application, requiring a complete submission of all the details relating to a development. These applications are required for proposals to change the use of buildings or land, and for most types of domestic and commercial development.

Outline Planning and Reserved Matters Applications

Outline planning applications are made to find out whether a development is acceptable in principle in whole or in part. Less information is required for an outline compared to a full application (although, nowadays the minimum required level of information can be considerable either way).

Various ‘matters’ make up a planning permission achieved using the ‘outline’ approach:

  • Access
  • Layout
  • Appearance
  • Scale
  • Landscaping

One or all of these matters can be ‘reserved’ for later approval or considered when an outline application is submitted.  Once outline permission is granted, any outstanding reserved matters need to be subsequently applied for and approved and this must be done before work can start on site.  Reserved matters applications are considered within the context of any conditions that were attached to the original outline permission.

It should be noted that outline applications are only relevant to new built development and cannot be used for a change of use or engineering works.

Householder Planning Applications

This application type covers all householder developments such as garages, outbuildings, alterations and extensions.  They generally require less supporting information than a Full or Outline application, application forms are more succinct and fees are reduced.

Conservation Area Consent – Abolished

This used to be an application for full or partial demolition of buildings or structures within a Conservation Area, which might otherwise not have required planning permission.

However, conservation area consent was abolished in October 2013 and replaced with a requirement for planning permission for demolition of a building in a conservation area.

Listed Building Consent Applications

Listed Building Consent is required for alterations to, or extension or demolition of, a Listed Building where it will affect its character as a building of special architectural or historic interest.  

The requirement applies to all types of work and to all parts of the building covered by the formal ‘Listing’ if the building’s special interest will be affected. Listed Building Consent may also be needed for buildings within the curtilage of the property or where the setting of a Listed Building is affected.

Carrying out unauthorised works to a listed building is a criminal offence and individuals can be prosecuted.  Listed building consent may be needed, irrespective of whether planning permission is also needed.

Advertisement Consent Applications

Consent is required to display an advert or sign over a certain size, as well as most illuminated and projecting signs.

The government has prepared a very useful guide for advertisers, which sets out the detailed thresholds for size of advert that can be displayed without the need for consent and the type of application needed in each case.

Certificate of Lawfulness Applications

This is an application for legal confirmation that an existing or proposed use of land or buildings, or an operational development is lawful without planning permission being granted (for example, permitted development).  If granted by the local planning authority, the certificate means that enforcement action cannot be taken on the development referred to in the certificate.

The Council has to decide on the balance of probability, given the evidence before them, whether or not the development referred to in the certificate is lawful.

The responsibility lies with the applicant to prove their case. As a Certificate of Lawful Development is a statement of fact/compliance with legislation, rather than a determination by the local authority as to whether development is acceptable, consultation is not required. However, the Local Planning Authority can seek to confirm facts with the Parish Council and / or local residents.

If an application for a Lawful Use/Development Certificate is wholly or partly refused, an appeal can be made to the Secretary of State.

Application for Prior Approval

An application for Prior Approval is a process that applies to certain types of ‘permitted development’ where there is a requirement upon the developer to notify the local planning authority who then consider whether their prior approval is needed before works can proceed.  The process is streamlined compared to a full planning application with strict timescales for determination, a reduced fee and relaxed requirements on information needed to support a submission. 

Variation of Condition (Section 73 or 73A) Applications

These are applications to vary or remove a planning condition attached to an existing planning permission.  This process can also be used to secure ‘minor material amendments’ to an existing permission through substitution of approved plans as listed by condition.

The government published helpful guidance on the difference between non-material and minor-material amendments in their ‘Greater Flexibility for Planning Permissions’ guidance in 2010, now ensconced in National Planning Practice Guidance.

Application for Non- Material Amendments (NMAs) to an Existing Permission

This is an application to allow an amendment to a planning permission that is non-material in nature.

Consent under a Tree Preservation Order and Notification for Work to Trees

An application is required ahead of proposed works on trees protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

If it is proposed to cut down, top or lop a tree in a conservation area, whether or not it is covered by a Tree Preservation Order, Notice has to be given to the local authority.

The authority can then consider the contribution the tree makes to the character of the area and if necessary make a Tree Preservation Order to protect it.

Building Regulations

In addition to planning permission, whilst not part of the ‘planning system’, it is common for projects to also need building regulation approval. 

The planning system covers the use of land and buildings (including their appearance), highways access and landscape  considerations along with considering the  impact development will have on things like existing infrastructure and the general  environment. 

Building regulations ensure buildings are designed and constructed in line with set standards to ensure people’s health and safety. 

These standards include matters such as fire safety, energy efficiency and access. 

TownPlanning.info has an extensive catalogue of articles and guides which help explain the town planning system in England. 

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