Certain types of development are granted planning permission by national legislation without the need to submit a planning application. This is known as 'Permitted Development'. In order to be eligible for these permitted development rights, each 'Class' specified in the legislation has associated limitations and conditions that proposals must comply with.
One such condition on certain classes of permitted development is the need to submit an application to the Local Planning Authority for its 'Prior Approval; or to determine if it’s 'Prior Approval' will be required.
This allows the Local Planning Authority to consider the proposals, their likely impacts in regard to certain specific factors (e.g. transport and highways) and how these may be mitigated.
You will need to be able to determine the eligibility of your proposal for the specific permitted development right you wish to take advantage of. For example, this may require you to know:
- The current and previous uses of the site/building, and when these uses started or finished. This may require you to research the history of the site/building. Uses are codified into ‘Use Classes’ by legislation, find out more information on Use Classes2.
- The proposed dimensions and placement (e.g. height; floor space; distance from boundary) and/or the dimensions of any similar work previously carried out. This may require research into the planning/development history of the site/building.
- If the site/building is in any specific or ‘designated’ areas (e.g. a conservation area). This may require you to check records provided by the local authority or government agencies.
Once the eligibility is established, the specific matters for prior approval will need to be addressed.
The information provided should include all the details necessary for the Local Authority to determine if the proposal complies with permitted development legislation, and if its prior approval will be required and/or should be granted. This includes any plans, drawings or other supporting information.
Certain matters, for example Fire Safety, will require that additional supporting information or evidence is provided.
If sufficient information is not provided the Local Authority can either request it, or refuse the application. If you feel that certain questions are not relevant to your proposal, then you should state why. However, we advise that this is also discussed directly with the Local Authority3.
Types of prior approval
While the process is broadly similar and there are many common elements, each specific permitted development right will have its own specific requirements for the prior approval application.
Certain types and sizes of rear and upward extensions require you to apply for prior approval before commencing development. View more details of these in our common projects section:
Government has widened the scope of permitted development rights so that new dwellings can be created from a variety of non-residential uses, or as additional storeys on existing buildings.
Change of use to dwellings
The following types of use can, within the defined limitations, be changed to dwellings but require a prior approval application
Associated work may require permission, though depending on the specific change, some is covered by each individual right.
- Commercial/business/service uses (Use Class E) can either be changed to dwellinghouses or a mixed use including up to two flats
- Agricultural buildings can be changed to up to 5 dwellinghouses
- Amusement centres, casinos, takeaways and certain other ‘Sui Generis’ uses or mixed uses can be changed to dwellinghouses
Subject to prior approval:
- A range of buildings can have dwellings created via additional storeys containing flats
- Existing buildings can be demolished and replaced with dwellings
Electronic communications networks
Installation, alteration and replacement of relevant apparatus, ancillary development, and temporary placement of movable apparatus is covered in permitted development rights and requires a prior approval application. View additional guidance6 [PDF].
Certain demolition can be carried out under permitted development rights but requires a prior approval application. View additional details in our common project section7.
Agriculture and forestry
Certain developments for agriculture or forestry have specific permitted development rights that require a prior approval application. These are:
- New buildings, or extensions/alterations to existing buildings
- Creating or altering a private road
- Excavations and/or the deposit of waste material
- Placing tanks, cages or other structures in water for fish farming
Note that these vary depending on the size of the agricultural unit. View additional guidance8 [PDF].
Various other developments and work on non-residential buildings also benefits from permitted development rights. The following require that a prior approval application is made:
- Collection facility for a shop (e.g. Click and collect lockers)
- Roof mounted solar photovoltaic panels and equipment on non-domestic buildings
- New university buildings and/or extensions/alterations to existing ones
Other changes of use
Certain changes of use between different Use Classes also benefit from permitted development rights. The following require that a prior approval application is made:
- Agricultural buildings to a flexible commercial use (Use Classes B8, C1 or E)
- Agricultural buildings to a state-funded school (Use Class F1a)
- Commercial/business/service/hotels/etc uses (Use Classes C1, C2/C2A or E) to a state-funded school (Use Class F1a)
There are also current several legacy rights for changes of use, requiring a prior approval application, that will expire at the end of July 2022:
- Retail/service/etc uses (previously Use Classes A1, A2 or certain Sui Generis uses) to Assembly and Leisure uses (previously Use Class D2)
- Retail/service/takeaway/etc uses (previously Use Classes A1, A2, A5 or certain Sui Generis uses) to Offices (previously Use Class B1a)
- Commercial/business/service/hotels/etc uses (Use Classes C1, C2/C2A or E) to a Nursery (previously Class D1(b))
- Assembly and Leisure uses (previously Use Class D2) to a state-funded school (Use Class F1a) or a nursery (previously Class D1(b))
Certain temporary uses benefit from permitted development rights. The following require that a prior approval application is made:
- Temporary school on previously vacant commercial land for up to 3 academic years
- Temporary use for commercial filmmaking (including associated structures, works, plant or machinery)
Depending on the type of Prior Approval, the fee will vary. The basic fee for most is £96, with the following exceptions:
- For changes of use with related building operations, the fee is £206.
- For electronic communications networks, the fee is £462
- For the specific right for a to change of use from Commercial/Business/Service (Use Class E) to Dwellinghouses (Use Class C3), the fee is £100 per dwellinghouse
- For construction of new dwellinghouses (not change of use), the fee depends on scale:
- No more than 50 dwellinghouses, £334 for each dwellinghouse
- For over 50 dwellinghouses, £16,525 + £100 for each dwellinghouse in excess of 50, with a cap of £300,000
Householder extension applications will be exempt if they are for disabled access or that disabled person's greater safety, health, or comfort.
Some types of prior approval will also be exempt if the application is submitted alongside a planning application for the same development and that application incurs a fee.
What happens next
Work must not commence on the development until the Local Planning Authority has issued its determination.
However, it is important that Prior Approvals are actioned quickly by the Local Planning Authority as many will receive 'deemed consent' if the time period for a determination to be issued expires. By default, this is an 8-week period from when the application is received, but this can vary depending on the type of proposal and, in some cases, may be extended if all parties agree.