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A Quick Guide to Planning


The passing of the Localism Act has had major implications for planning law in the UK. Key features of the new system include;

  • Neighbourhood planning – this allows neighbourhood forums and parish councils to agree on what they want to see developed in their area. Where a development is included in a plan, the forum or parish can grant outline or full planning permission in advance. These plans are subject to a local referendum. See also the Planing Advisory Service resources on Neighbourhood Planning including information on the location of Plans in development.
  • Community right to build. Local people can form organisations to undertake specific developments which are then exempt from submitting a traditional planning application provided a referendum votes in favour of the development. 
  • More autonomy for planning authorities in drawing up local plans For more information, see the Government’s plain English guide to the Localism Act 


Planning procedures

You will want to be as sure as possible that any site will receive planning approval for the houses you intend to build. If the site has no existing planning consent attached to it, an outline planning application may be the best way of testing the local authority’s attitude to your project. Before you submit any application, you can take advice from the local planning officers; they can tell you how your project fits with the local plan and give you technical advice about how to go about making the application. They may be less helpful in giving you an indication of its likely success. More complex applications are decided by the planning committee made up of local councilors. You are free to find out who those councilors are and to approach them to discuss the project. You may also want to discuss the project with other bodies who will be asked for “advice” such as the local parish council.

If the planning issues are very complex or difficult, you may want to engage a planning consultant to guide you through the process. gives a description of the potential roles a planning consultant may undertake.
Locality Brokers has a directory of planning consultants.