Getting planning permission is a confusing and often stressful process. Knowing which forms to fill in, where to send them, and what details to fill in to maximise success is fraught with pitfalls for even the most seasoned home expert. And while planning permission is a time-consuming process, it is vital to prevent unlawful building work from taking place.
But never fear because in this guide we will explain everything you need to know to ensure you have the best chance of getting planning permission in Oxford. This article will cover everything from what planning permission is, why and when you need it, and how much the process costs. Let’s begin.
What is planning permission?
Planning permission is something a builder, property developer, landowner, or homeowner needs to get to create a new property or substantially amend a current one. It is a crucial piece of legislation to prevent unlawful development.
In short, planning permission is the consent of your local authority for work to be completed as set out in the application. It is a vital part of any building, self-build, or extension project (although in some cases it may not be necessary). Home improvements or redevelopments for properties in certain designated areas or for buildings that are listed may also need planning permission before work can be undertaken.
Decisions on whether to grant planning permission are generally made by council officers in line with national guidance. This guidance is given in the National Planning Policy Framework (a copy of which can be found here) as well as in a variety of local planning policies set out by local authorities (for Oxford, details can be found on the Local Authority website here).
What are the different types of planning permissions?
The type of planning permission you need (and the cost of applying for it) depends on the plans you have for your land, house, or plot.
A full planning permission application is the most common type of permission and covers all the details you need to get work completed. To get full planning permission you will need accurate scale drawings and plans to be drawn up and materials listed and documented. It may also require a variety of supporting documentation (such as tree surveys, flood risk, etc) to be included. Full planning permission is required for new builds or for structural changes or additions to buildings. It will also be required to increase the number of dwellings in a plot, for example where a house is turned into flats.
An outline planning permission is a useful tool for finding out if your building plans are likely to be approved by the local planning authority before coughing up the cost of a full application. An outline planning permission proposal requires fewer details than a full application, and decisions are generally given fairly quickly. It’s important to remember that a successful outline planning permission application does not permit you to start work. Only after a full application is satisfied can you proceed. Outline planning permission isn’t a step you have to take and you can often find out if your full plan is likely to be agreed by speaking with your local planning authority directly.
For extension work (including things like loft conversions) you will need to apply for householder planning permission. This type of permission covers extensions, alterations, and smaller building projects on a single house within its boundary lines. Householder planning permission does not allow buildings to have their number of dwellings altered, (for example a single dwelling unit to a block of flats).
What about planning permission for listed buildings?
Being a historic town, there are many listed buildings in Oxford. But listing a building is not a preservation order that prevents it from being changed. It doesn’t stop work from being undertaken but does require a change to planning applications and will bring more scrutiny before consent is given.
To be able to extend, amend, or change a listed building, you must apply for Listed Building Consent (details of this can be found on the Historic England website here). Listed Building Consent gives permission for alterations within specific guidelines and boundaries and is a precursor to getting full planning permission. You can even demolish some listed buildings with Listed Building Consent but permission to do this is seldom given.
When deciding on Listed Building Consent, local authorities will attempt to balance the historical significance of the site against the needs for change, any issues with the structure of the building, any intended change of function, as well as the specifics of the planned changes (for example the materials that are to be used).
How much does a planning permission application cost in Oxford?
The cost of submitting a planning application in the UK varies, but at the time of writing currently costs £426 for a full application for a new single dwelling property in England. A full planning permission application for alterations to a property or an extension to a single dwelling house or flat is £206.
An outline planning permission application in England costs £426 per every 0.1 hectares (up to 2.5 hectares) and a householder application for minor alterations to a single dwelling property costs £206.
However, the real cost of obtaining planning permission can be many times more than the cost of application. Nearly all applications will need to include a variety of documents and plans prepared to support the submission as well as a variety of accompanying surveys (such as ecological surveys). The cost of these can vary and may require the hiring of a solicitor, architect, or other experts to prepare. This can push the actual cost of a planning permission application into thousands of pounds and is the main reason that many submit an outline application first before jumping in with a full application.
It’s also important to bear in mind that you may be required to make more than one planning permission application. Initial applications are often denied due to insufficient supplementary information or because the council require plans to be modified to fit in with local rules or due to objections raised by other residents in the area. If an initial application is rejected, you will not only have to pay again to reapply, but you might have to fork out for plans to be changed or extra surveys to be undertaken.
We always say that it is prudent to set aside a budget of around £2,000 for a planning permission application.
One final thing to bear in mind with planning permission costs is that sometimes no matter what you do your application(s) will be rejected and your plans will be unable to go forward. Don’t bet your savings on getting planning permission. Always be realistic and understand the financial perils the process presents.
How long does planning permission consent last?
All planning permission consents automatically expire after a set period of time. Unless the permission you get says otherwise, you will have a maximum of three years from the date that full consent is given to begin building (not complete work).
If you are looking to buy a plot that already has planning permission, our tip is to avoid one where consent is about to expire. Often, getting work started takes time and you may find that you need to reapply for permission before you have a chance to get started. This is incredibly important where consent was hard-fought or where local or regional policies on planning permission have changed making new permission difficult.
If your consent is to expire soon, you may need to take steps to get your project started earlier or even reapply for planning permission early to give you adequate time to get your project off the ground.
When is planning permission required?
If you are looking to build a new dwelling by either subdividing an existing building or creating a new one from scratch, then you will need planning permission.
If you plan to build a larger outbuilding, extension, intend to change a property in a designated area, or the building you plan to work on is listed, then it is also likely that planning permission will also be needed.
Small additions to properties or improvements that aren’t structural in nature generally don’t need planning permission and will fall under the Permitted Development legislation. For more details on what is covered by the Permitted Development legislation, click here.
How long does it take to get planning permission?
In most cases, you should find out if your planning permission application has been approved after eight weeks, although more complex plans can take longer. Outline planning often comes through quicker and can in some cases be with you in a couple of weeks.
Once a planning permission application is received by the Local Authority, a sign will be posted outside the proposed development. This gives neighbours or other interested parties a chance to view the plans, comment on them, and, if necessary, object to them. This part of the permission process is known as the public consultation and can take anywhere from three to eight weeks to complete in a full application. If necessary, the Local Authority will consult the local Highways Department, the Environment Agency, and any other relevant agency to ensure that plans meet their approval.
Often an application will need additional information. If this is not provided it will fail on the first attempt and require further applications. If this is the case, then the length of time for permission to be given can stretch into months. Our tip is to set aside 18 months for the process. If permission is given sooner, then this can be seen as a bonus.
It’s important to remember that securing planning permission is often not the end of the story and the wording of the permission document needs to be read carefully to see if there are any stipulations and directions you are required to follow. Often Local Authorities will add conditions on the type of materials that can be used in the build and may even require this to be checked and okayed before work can begin.
What does a planning permission application include?
Step by Step Guide: The Planning Permission Process
In general terms, a planning permission application should include:
- Five copies of the planning permission application form completed and signed by the applicant
- A signed ownership certificate of the property
- A series of plans including a block plan, site plan, and elevations of both the existing building and proposed building or alterations
- A Design and Access Statement: A Design and Access Statement is a short report supporting a planning application that allows applicants to explain how the proposed development is suitable for the site and its surroundings. It will also explain how the site can be accessed. The detail in the statement will depend on the size of the development and its sensitivity.
- The correct fee for the application
Most Local Authorities (Oxford Local Authority give guidance here) will provide guidance notes for applications that give useful hints and tips on what to put in applications and statements.
What factors affect planning permission?
Local Authorities will base their decision on something called ‘material considerations’. These include:
- Final work that overlooks other properties that can lead to loss of privacy
- Blocking of light or overshadowing of other properties
- Parking issues caused by the proposed plans
- Highway safety
- Traffic issues that might arise from work or the completed building
- Noise issues from either the proposed work or resultant property
- Impact on Conservation Areas
- Impact on Listed Buildings
- The layout of the building and its dwelling density after work is complete
- Materials used, including look and practicality. In many cases planning permission will only be given if the materials used are in keeping with the rest of a property and its surroundings.
- Any relevant government policy
- Access for disabled people
- Previous planning decisions and the reason for their rejection or acceptance
Getting planning permission in Oxford is no more difficult than anywhere else in the country but it is important to understand the process before you begin.
We hope you found our guide useful. For more information about the property and building scene in Oxford, take a look around our website.