Full or outline planning permission?

This article explains the difference between Full and Outline Planning Permission to help inform a decision about which is required for a proposed development.

Read on to learn all about:

  • How to decide which type of consent is the best option for a particular site
  • Outline planning permission and the details needed to make an application
  • What Reserved Matters means
  • Full planning permission and the required detail for an application
  • Pre-Application Advice
  • Permitted development rights
  • Tips for making a successful planning application

Dive in to find out all the facts about applying for planning permission!

Outline Planning Permission

Planning permission is dealt with under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 (as amended). Outline planning permission gives consent to a scheme in principle, subject to conditions. It enables the applicant to establish whether the scale and type of the proposed scheme is acceptable to the local planning authority (LPA) before a detailed proposal is made.

One of the advantages of outline planning consent is that it can identify any objections or issues with a scheme at an early stage, before the applicant commits to paying architectural and surveying fees; however, this does not mean that further conditions will not be imposed down the line. Although it means that a subsequent Reserved Matters application will also have to be submitted, opting for an initial outline application can be a sensible route to take if there are no nearby similar developments to set a precedent.

The application

This requires a summary of the scheme along with details of building sizes, access and potential environmental impacts. If approved, outline planning permission is granted subject to conditions requiring the subsequent approval of one or more Reserved Matters.

A Reserved Matters application must be submitted within three years of the outline planning permission being granted; for larger, more complex developments, this can be submitted in phases. Outline planning applications generally take around three months to conclude, including the wait time for a decision.

Reserved Matters

These involve the submission of more detailed aspects of a proposed scheme than were submitted in the initial outline application. A Reserved Matters application may take around three months to prepare, plus up to 13 weeks waiting time for a decision. Reserved Matters are defined in article 2 of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 as:


Pedestrian, cycle, and vehicular access to the site and within the development and its links with the surrounding access network will be considered.


Details of a building project’s visual impression including the external build, its architecture, materials, decoration, lighting, colour and texture are required.


Details of how the scheme will enhance or protect the site amenity will be scrutinised; this may include screening by fences, walls or other means, tree planting, hedges, shrubs, the creation of banks, terraces or other earthworks, gardens and other amenity features.


A plan of all the buildings and roads in the scheme is required.


Details of the height, width and length of the buildings must be submitted.

Full Planning Permission

Full planning permission gives approval to an entire building project. This may be the approach to choose when an applicant is confident of achieving consent, especially if there are other similar developments nearby to set a precedent. It may also be a less costly option than making separate outline and Reserved Matters applications.

A full planning application requires complete details of the scheme, such as scale, vehicular access, orientation of the buildings, site elevation, pedestrian access, parking and drainage.

If granted, it means that all the details of an application are approved and the scheme may proceed as planned, subject to satisfying any conditions attached to the consent; the applicant is given total clarity about what they can do and the local authority cannot object at a later date. While a decision should be made within eight to 13 weeks of applying, the full process of obtaining surveys, plans and other required documents can take between six and nine months.

When a planning authority receives a planning application, it will register it in the planning system, send acknowledgement to the applicant and clarify the next steps to be taken. If more information is required at this stage, the local authority will request it.

Validation requirements

To apply for planning permission, applicants must complete and submit a valid planning application which requires the following:

  1. A completed planning permission application form: an electronic version can be found on a local authority’s website or planning portal; a paper form can be provided if required.

2. Compliance with national information requirements which are detailed on the planning portal. This includes submission of a location plan drawn up to an identified scale, typically 1:1250 or 1:2500 and scaled to fit A4 or A3 sized paper; it should identify roads and buildings on adjacent land to the application site to ensure its easy identification. The application site should be outlined with a red line and there should be a blue line around any other land owned by the applicant. Also required are planning application drawings, an Ownership Certificate and Agricultural Land Declaration giving details about the site ownership. A Design and Access statement is required for some applications, detailing how a development is suitable for the site and how it can be accessed by prospective users. A Fire Statement is required for applications concerning high-rise residential buildings.

3. The application fee. Details can be found on the Planning Portal.

4. Local information requirements; individual local authorities may make specific requirements according to the development plan.

5. Planning applications requiring an Environmental Impact Assessment must be submitted with an Environmental Statement.

Pre-Application Advice

It may be useful to obtain pre-application advice from a planning officer at the relevant planning authority. This planning advice can take the form of an informal discussion before an application is submitted; some LPAs charge a fee for the service. Taking planning advice can help the planning authority assess an application and it gives the opportunity for potential objections and other issues to be considered, which can be valuable, for instance, if part of the proposed scheme involves a flood zone, green belt land, an area of outstanding natural beauty (AONB), conservation areas or a public right of way.

Pre-application advice also enables verification of the local authority’s list of local requirements and reduces the chance of making an invalid application; it also helps an applicant understand how planning policies relate to their proposal, and an officer can advise on local constraints and other permissions that may be required.

The planning advice may also be constructive if there are drainage or wildlife considerations such as protected species including bats and newts. It may also be helpful regarding listed building consent as requirements for this differ and may involve separate considerations, depending on whether alteration or redevelopment is planned.

Planning applications are determined by reference to the development plan and familiarity with this will enable an applicant to justify any element of a scheme which may be seen as an exception to this plan.

Permitted development rights

New dwellings or single storey extensions usually need planning permission, however, it is not required if permitted development rights exist; they usually apply to industrial buildings, some outdoor signs and demolition (though approval to demolish must be obtained.)

To clarify whether or not it is necessary to apply for planning permission, it is advisable to check with the relevant planning authority; work carried out without the correct consent may lead to the issuing of an enforcement notice ordering the work to be dismantled.

Permitted development rights also apply to projects with do not affect neighbours or the environment; for clarification, check with the planning authority. Planning permission is not usually required for a garage conversion providing that the building work is internal and the footprint will not be enlarged. Converting an integral garage into a habitable space will normally need Building Regulations approval, as would a loft conversion in instances where a house is no more than two storeys high. Building Regulations consent is needed to ensure that the floor is sufficiently strong, that stairs are safe, there is fire escape provision and sound insulation has been installed between the floors.

To give yourself the best chance of success:

  • Speak to a planning consultant who is experienced in handling the type of planning permission sought.
  • Be aware of the local authority’s relevant planning conditions from the outset.
  • When you are ready to apply for planning permission, be thorough in providing details on the full application.
  • Detailed information on matters such as drainage and any impact on local wildlife demonstrates a willingness to engage with the planning process. Addressing such issues early on will avoid problems at a later stage.
  • If dealing with a problematic site with designated areas which may involve an AONB, tree preservation orders, listed buildings, a flood zone or a site with other planning constraints, be aware of these and take specialist advice prior to submitting an application. Be prepared to work with the local council to find solutions.

Do you have a project which needs planning permission?

Arbtech are your best asset when it comes to obtaining planning permission for your project. Covering the entire UK, the team will be pleased to help you with the surveys required, from environmental and topographical reports to protected species surveys. Visit https://arbtech.co.uk/ to find out more.  

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