How long does planning permission last?

UK Home Improvement

How Long Does Planning Permission Last?

For a variety of construction and building projects, planning permission is a necessary evil that demonstrates you have official approval to carry out the work.

You’d be forgiven for thinking that once planning permission has been approved, that’s the end of it. 

However, as everyone in the building industry will be well aware, sometimes projects don’t always go to plan. Delays occur for any number of reasons including labour shortages, equipment problems and a lack of finances. 

In some cases, a project might become so delayed that the planning permission actually expires. But how long does planning permission last?

In this article, we’ll examine this question, outlining how long planning permission typically lasts as well as explaining everything you need to know about the process.  

What Is Planning Permission? 

As already mentioned, planning permission that is granted to you and your project allows it to take place. The process is designed to ensure that no inappropriate work occurs which could cause damage, disruption or any other issues to an area. 

Planning permission applications are usually assessed and processed by your local authority, and while you may notice nuances between different authorities the regulations and process is normally pretty similar. This is because decisions are made in line with national guidance from the National Planning Policy Framework. This is legislation that outlines what a project needs to meet in order to successfully achieve planning permission. 

There are several types of planning permission depending on the type of work you’re doing. These include:

  • Full planning permission – This approval is granted when a fully detailed design has been included as part of the planning permission process. The project must also be able to meet all of the planning conditions included with the award of the permission for the approval to remain valid. This is the most common type of planning permission.  
  • Outline planning permission – This type of planning permission provides information on a project in principle rather than outlining specifics. If you’re awarded this permission you will not be allowed to physically start work, it’s more widely used to ascertain whether or not a project is viable. If plans change significantly compared to what the initial request outlined, then you will likely need to apply for full planning permission. 
  • Householder planning permission – Sometimes, domestic projects may require planning permission. This could be the case if you intend to extend or alter your home within its boundaries. For example, some extensions require a form of planning permission. In these cases, householder planning permission may be sought as opposed to full planning permission.

Now we’ve discussed the different planning permission types which are available to you, let’s take a look at what needs to be included in an application. Often, your contractor will likely carry out the planning permission application on your behalf. However, there is no reason why you cannot do it yourself.

If you’re completing a planning permission application the following will need to be included:  

  • Five copies of the application form
  • A signed ownership certificate 
  • A location plan, block plan or elevations of both the existing and proposed sites. This will take the form of professional drawings.
  • A design access statement. This statement explains the project in detail, and describes how it will comply with the various building policies and legislation. Usually, this will not be necessary for householder planning permission but sometimes people will choose to include it to be thorough. 
  • Drainage information. You may have to prove exactly where drains will be located on a property in order to ensure that drainage is appropriate. 
  • Your planning permission costs. For every planning permission application, a fee will need to be paid. This will vary depending on the type of project that you’re looking to carry out. It’s important that all the appropriate and correct information is included in a planning permission application. The fee is non-refundable so if the planning permission is rejected then you will lose the money. 

In some cases, planning permission might require tree surveys, ecological surveys and community infrastructure levy forms. Check the requirements with your local authority to make sure you have everything you need in place.  

Usually, a planning permission request will take around eight weeks to process but more complex builds might take slightly longer. A sign will be posted outside the address where the project is going to take place which will include all of the necessary information regarding the build. The sign will also include contact information where members of the public are able to provide feedback and comments on the project.  

How Long Does Planning Permission Last?

So, you’ve completed the application and your planning permission has been granted.

This is great news but how long does planning permission last?

Well, as outlined above there are different types of planning permissions and how long they last differ slightly.

On average, planning permission will last three years. This means that from the moment the planning permission is granted, you will have three years to begin any work. You will be allowed to make minor changes to the planning permission, but anything major will not be permitted without submitting a new planning permission application.

For outline planning permission, the rules are a little different. 

Once the permission has been granted, there is then a three-year period in which the reserved matters need to be provided. As outline planning permission does not include all of the project’s key details and is more an application in theory, the reserved matters refer to all items that were excluded from the initial submission. These factors need to be provided to the local authority within three years for the project to legally go ahead. 

Once the reserved matters have been provided, an additional two years will then be added to the planning permission. This means that in total, the project will have a maximum of a five-year period to be started with outline planning permission.   

Can I Stop Planning Permission From Expiring? 

Once planning permission has been granted, the clock has started. The project must get underway before the time expires otherwise you’ll have to apply all over again. 

Any work that is started after the planning permission time has expired is illegal and you could face serious legal ramifications. 

If your planning permission is due to expire soon and you’re wondering about your options there isn’t a great deal you can do.

However, you could ‘implement’ your planning permission. By implementing your planning permission before it expires, it saves you from having to reapply and going through the entire process again.  

According to the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, planning permission is considered implemented on “the earliest date on which any material operation comprised in the development begins to be carried out.” 

In layman’s terms, this means as long as you start some kind of building work before the planning permission expires you won’t need to reapply. 

This includes:

  • Any work of construction in the course of erecting a building
  • Any work of demolishing a building 
  • Digging a trench that will contain the foundations, or part of the foundations, of a building 
  • Laying underground pipes for the foundations, or part of the foundations, of a building 
  • Any work in the course of constructing a road or part of a road
  • Any change in the use of the land which is considered material development 

Can I Extend Planning Permission? 

Unfortunately, once your planning permission has been granted there is no way to extend the expiration date. 

Old legislation did allow for certain planning permissions that were granted before October 2010 to be extended, but this is no longer allowed. Furthermore, during the COVID-19 pandemic, the government did relax some planning permission timelines, allowing extensions but this ended in April 2021. 

Now, extensions are impossible and your best bet to avoid having to reapply is following the advice in the section above and implementing your planning permission.  

What Happens If Planning Permission Has Expired?

If the three years have elapsed and your planning permission has expired without being implemented, you have no choice but to reapply if you still want to carry out the project. 

While this can be frustrating and inconvenient, it’s essential that you do not ignore the expiration and carry out the work regardless. This is because, despite having successfully been granted planning permission in the past, even if the project hasn’t changed its specifications you no longer legally have permission to conduct the work. 

You could face legal trouble if you choose to build without planning permission and local authorities have the right to take enforcement action against you. This could even include demolishing what you’ve already built.

If you have successfully implemented your planning permission before it has expired but the work has not yet been completed, you don’t need to worry. Once the work has begun, there is no time limit on how long it needs to take to be finished. As long as you’ve implemented the project prior to the expiration it does not matter. 

In rare instances where the work has been judged to be taking an inappropriately long time, you could be handed a completion notice. This is a piece of legislation that states the project must be legally finished within 12 months. 


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