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Mail :
Development Management Unit
Dept. of Development
Plymouth City Council
Plymouth PL1 2AA
Phone :
01752 304366
Email :


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Do I need planning permission?

Some types of building or extension are excluded from needing planning permission. These works are known as Permitted Development. The legislation that sets out what is permitted development is contained within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. The majority of dwellings in the city can be extended or altered within specified limits or thresholds (Permitted Development Rights) without the need to apply for planning permission. It is essential that you compare your proposals with these limitations and thresholds before submitting your full application.

Information about permitted development rights can be found on the Communities and Local Government website. Look for references to The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995, including references to any subsequent amendments.

Planning applications received by the Council for domestic schemes will be processed on the basis of planning permission being required for the specified works. The Council will not consider within this process specifically whether planning permission is required.

The following information will help you gain advice and find out more information before you to decide to make a planning application.

The planning portal

The planning portal is a one-stop-shop for all planning information and services. On the Planning Portal website you will find extensive information about the planning system, when permission is needed, applying for planning permission, development in your area as well as the latest government policy. The interactive house on the website will answer most domestic queries about if planning permission is required.

Your builder, architect, draftsman, planning consultant, or product supplier may also be able to provide you with advice on whether or not you need planning permission for your scheme. However, if there is any doubt you may need to seek a formal decision.

If, having followed the advice contained in this guidance note you still remain unsure if planning permission is required, or if you wish to have formal written confirmation that permission is not required, then you will need to apply for a Certificate of Lawful Development.

The following are common examples of when you will need to apply for planning permission:

  • You want to make additions or extensions to a flat or maisonette (including those converted from houses) You do not need planning permission to carry out internal alterations or work which does not affect the external appearance of the building.
  • You want to divide off part of your house for use as a separate home (for example, a self-contained flat or bed-sit) or use a caravan in your garden as a home for someone else. You do not normally need planning permission to let one or two of your rooms to lodgers.
  • You want to divide off part of your home for business or commercial use (for example, a workshop) or you want to build a parking place for a commercial vehicle at your home.
  • You want to build something that goes against the terms of the original planning permission for your house (for example, your house may have been built with a restriction to stop people putting up fences in front gardens because it is on an 'open plan' estate). The Planning department will have a record of all planning permissions in its area.
  • The work you want to do might obstruct the view of road users.
  • The work would involve a new or wider access to a trunk or classified road.

Face2Face enquiry service

Do you require advice on your planning application?

We now offer a new informal service which is Face2Face with our planning officer's. Whether you need help with your application form or just have questions you would like to ask our experienced officers, this is the service for you.

Bookings will need to be made in advance and you will receive up to one hour of a planning officer's time. There is a charge of £40 for this service.

Just call us on 01752 304366 to see if you qualify* for a meeting with a planning officer to talk through your proposal or go through your planning application.

*Please note certain schemes/applications may not be able to use this service. This service does not replace the Development Enquiry Service and does not represent the granting of planning permission.

HMO's - Houses in multiple occupation

C4 Planning use - Houses in multiple occupation (three to six occupants) - change in legislation as from 1 October 2010

From 1 October 2010 planning permission is no longer required from the Council to change the use of a single dwelling house (C3) into a small house in multiple occupation (C4) (three to six occupants) where these occupiers are living together in the property as a single shared household. This new nationally applicable planning rule change has been made by the new Government, and effectively reverses the legislation introduced by the previous Government on 6 April 2010.

A locally applied ‘Article 4 Direction’ would mean that a planning permission would again be required for the change of use described above. An Article 4 Direction has been made but has not yet come into force and we are currently carrying out a consultation in relation to it. Further details can be found on the Article 4 Direction page.

It remains possible for a C4 use to be changed back to a C3 use without requiring planning permission from the Council, and this has been the case since 6 April 2010.

There is some useful information on the Communities and Local Government website and the Planning Portal.

Changes to permitted development rights 2013

A number of changes to Permitted Development rights have been announced are effective as of 30 May 2013. These changes are detailed in the The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Amendment) (England) Order 2013.

This Order amends parts of and adds to the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995. Provided below is a summary of the amendments being introduced, however these changes are subject to a number of limitations and conditions and therefore the full order should be referred to before commencement.

New single storey rear extensions provisions

For a temporary period of three years (between 30 May 2013 and 30 May 2016) the current allowances in The Town and Country (General Permitted Development Order) will be relaxed in respect of single storey rear extensions only to dwellinghouses. Householders may be able to build larger single storey rear extensions under "permitted development" subject to a new consultation process. There is no fee for this process. For full details of the process can be found on the planning portal.

The size limits will double from 4 metres to 8 metres for detached houses and from 3 metres to 6 metres for all other houses. It is important to note that in order to be considered to be permitted development the proposed single storey rear extensions must also comply with the other parts of Schedule 2, Part 1, Class A which have not been amended. If all criteria are not met then a planning application shall be required.

As an alternative you can also use the Planning Portal request form and guidance notes, which can be completed electronically.

New Permitted Changes of Use

Change of use to Class C3 (dwellings) from Class B1(a) (offices) provided that this takes place on or before 30 May 2016 subject to a 'prior approval' process to deal with transport, contamination and flooding impacts. Any external alterations will continue to require planning consent. Please note that from 1 October 2013 there is an £80 fee for these requests.

Change of use to a state funded school from uses within Classes B1 (business), C1 (hotels), C2 (residential institutions), C2A (secure residential institutions) and D2 (assembly and leisure) subject to a 'prior approval' process. Changing back to the previous lawful use is also permitted.

Change of use of a building and its curtilage from use as an agricultural building to a flexible use falling within either Class A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services), A3 (restaurants and cafés), B1 (business), B8 (storage and distribution), C1 (hotels) or D2 (assembly and leisure). Development is not permitted if the building has not been solely in agricultural use since 3 July 2012; or for buildings first brought into use after 3 July 2012, for ten years. Flexibility means that the use can subsequently change from one to any other of the uses listed.

Where the floorspace does not exceed 150 sq m. the developer needs to inform the LPA of when the proposed use is to start, which use it is to be and the building/curtilage to which it applies. For buildings which individually or cumulatively exceed 150 sq m. but not 500 sq m. there is a 'prior approval' process as above, but with the addition of an assessment of noise impact.

An amendment to the current provisions for temporary uses permits the use of any building and land within its curtilage as a state funded school for a single academic year.  This provision may only be used once and the site reverts to its previous lawful use at the end of the academic year.

Change of use to a flexible use within Classes A1 (shops), A2 (financial and professional services), A3 (restaurants and cafés), or B1 (business) from a use within Classes A1, A2, A3, A4 (drinking establishments), A5 (hot food takeaways), B1, D1 (non-residential institutions) and D2 (Assembly and Leisure) for a single continuous period of up to 2 years from the date the first flexible use commences.  This applies to no more than 150 sq m. of floorspace in a building.  The developer must notify the LPA of the date the use will commence, which use it shall be and also notify of any further permitted change(s) proposed within the 2 year period.  At the end of the period the site reverts to its previous lawful use.

The maximum size of buildings which are permitted to change from Class B1 or B2 to Class B8 or from B2 or B8 to B1 is increased from 235 sq m. to 500 sq m.  There's no time limit on this provision.

New permitted building operations

The permitted sizes of new industrial and warehouse buildings and extensions to such buildings within the curtilage of existing premises are increased for a temporary period up to 30 May 2016 as follows:

  • For new buildings the increase is from 100 to 200 sq m.
  • For extensions the increase is from 25 per cent to 50 per cent subject to an upper limit of 1,000 sq m.

The current limitations on height, proximity to boundaries and the requirement that there must be no reduction in parking or turning space remain in force. The developer must also notify the LPA in writing of the size of the development and when it was completed.

The permitted size for extensions to offices, shops, catering, financial or professional services premises is increased from 25 per cent or 50 sq m to 50 per cent or 100 sq m, whichever is the lesser, for development completed on or before 30 May 2016. Height and proximity to boundary restrictions apply. The developer is required to notify the LPA as above.

The current provision which requires developers to go through a 'prior approval' process for the construction, installation or replacement of telegraph poles, cabinets or lines for fixed broadband services in Conservation Areas and the AONB is removed for such developments provided that they are completed before 30 May 2018.

The current 'permitted development' limit on the height of walls, fences and gates which may be constructed adjacent to a highway of 1 metre is increased to 2 metres for schools only subject to the additional height not creating an obstruction to view likely to cause a danger.

Important changes with regard to Permitted Development are being updated regularly by central Government. You are advised to check the Planning Portal to ensure that what you are intending to do is covered within this area.

Where can I obtain free advice?

For householders the best place is the Planning Portal interactive house. If you look at that and are still not sure if planning permission is required, then we offer a face to face service to give advice on planning permission.

This is a chargeable service for up to an hour meeting with one of our Planning Officers. To find out more information please contact us on 01752 304366.

Development enquiry service

We offer a development enquiry service, for full details please see our development enquiry service page.

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