The A-Z of planning

AtoZ of planning



Shops and other retail uses (including the sale of sandwiches and cold food for consumption off the premises), as described in the current use classes order.


Financial or professional premises open to members of the public.




Pubs or bars


Hot food takeaways

Acquiring Authority

Any body enjoying rights of compulsory purchase - for example, a local planning authority.

The planning system contains specific controls for all types of outdoor advertisements from shop-fronts to Piccadilly Circus. Although many advertisements enjoy deemed consent, careful attention must be paid to the proposed size and location.

Affordable Housing

Also known as "social housing". Most local planning authorities require larger residential developments to include a percentage of housing which is permanently accessible to the local market through a registered housing association.


Pleasant or advantageous features enjoyed by a property which may or may not be affected by development proposals. Conversely, some developments might claim to generate amenity.


Planning permission for a particular use includes permission for related activities if they are proportional to the main use - for example a staff restaurant in an office development.

AONB (area of outstanding natural beauty)

Land designated by the Countryside Commission which is subject to additional planning controls.


An appeal may be made to the Secretary of State against the refusal or non-determination of a planning application. Appeals are dealt with by written representations, hearing or public inquiry. The parties can suggest their preferred mode but the final decision is made by the planning inspectorate. Written representations are quicker and cheaper but offer no opportunity to test evidence by cross-examination. Hearings are less formal and suitable for cases not arousing public interest. Public inquiries are formal tribunals and allow all matters to be fully examined.


The planning system recognises the importance of our archaeological heritage. Conditions may require site investigations. Current government policy recommends preservation in situ where possible.

Article 4 direction

The removal of permitted development rights by the issue of a direction under the GPDO, for example the removal in a conservation area, of the usual rights to alter houses.

Article 14 direction

A direction issued by the Secretary of State under the GDPO delaying or restricting the grant of planning permission by a local planning authority. Often used to give the Secretary of State time to consider whether or not to call-in a planning application.



Offices, research and development and industrial uses that can be carried out in a residential area.


General industrial uses.


Warehousing and distribution.


"Build absolutely nothing anywhere near anything" a sentiment often expressed by NIMBYs.

Basic Loss Payment

An additional payment to homeowners whose property is being compulsorily purchased.


Colloquially, the depressing effect on property caused by development proposals. Strictly speaking, blight is where a development plan allocates land for a public authority function - for example the creation of a new road. Only then can a blight notice be served.

Blight notice

A notice requiring the appropriate authority to purchase land which has been blighted.

Breach of condition notice

A notice, served by a local planning authority, on the owner and/or occupier of land, requiring compliance with a condition. If the notice is not complied with it is enforceable in the magistrates court.


Land which has been previously developed.



Hotels and boarding houses.


Residential institutions.




Planning applications are generally dealt with by the local planning authority. However, the Secretary of State has the right to call-in an application (or an appeal) for his own determination. Some types of development must automatically be referred to the Secretary of State, for example, large retail schemes. Controversial or major developments are also often called in if they are considered to have more than local importance.

Car parking

Current government policy seeks to reduce reliance on private cars. Car parking levels for all types of new development have been reduced.

Certificate of established use

Replaced by CLEUDs and CLOPUDs.

Change of use

Planning permission is required for a material change of use unless it falls within the same use class (for example, from light industrial to offices within use class B1) or it is allowed by the GPDO (for example, from A3 to A1).


Government publications explaining procedural matters.

CLEUD (certificate of lawfulness of existing use or development)

A certificate issued by a local planning authority. It confirms the lawfulness of a use that has been carried out for ten years or works that have been in existence for four years, in each case without planning permission. Application has to be made to the local planning authority and may be granted, refused and appealed in a similar way to a planning application.

CLOPUD (certificate of lawfulness of proposed use or development)

A certificate similar to CLEUD but relating to proposed use or works.

Community Infrastructure Levy

The government's latest proposal to extract contributions from Developers to fund infrastructure projects. It will be payable to local planning authorities based on their charging schedule and will sit alongside (and in some cases supersede) the existing Planning Obligation regime.

Compulsory purchase

Rights compulsorily to acquire property which acquiring authorities invoke, for example in order to assemble large urban sites. A lengthy process involving the making of a compulsory purchase order, a public inquiry and confirmation of the order by the Secretary of State. The amount of compensation payable is determined by complex rules.

Conditional contract

Frequently a developer will agree to buy land under a contract which is conditional on certain events, such as the granting of planning permission which is not subject to onerous conditions. Once the contract conditions are fulfilled, it becomes unconditional and the sale has to take place.


Planning permissions may be granted subject to conditions which must be "precise, necessary, reasonable and relevant to planning". If they are not, they can be appealed within six months. After six months, applications can be made to vary particular conditions.

Conservation area

An area, normally shown in the development plan, whose general character is to be preserved and enhanced. Demolition in a conservation area needs conservation area consent. The local planning authority will be much more prescriptive on issues concerned with external appearance.

Conservation area consent

Consent to demolish in a conservation area.


In court proceedings, the loser generally pays the winner's costs. This is not the case for planning appeals. Costs will only be awarded against a party that has acted unreasonably, for example, withdrawal of an appeal too late for an inquiry to be cancelled or late withdrawal of reason for refusal.

CPO (compulsory purchase order)

An order confirming the compulsory purchase of land that is made by an acquiring authority and must be confirmed (usually after a public inquiry) by the Secretary of State.



Non-residential institutions including libraries and museums.



Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG)

The Government department which is currently responsible, amongst other matters, for planning law and policy.

Delegated powers

Planning committees often delegate powers to planning officers, usually to deal with minor applications or to issue planning permissions once a planning agreement has been completed.


Not as straightforward as one might think. Listed building consent is needed for demolition of listed buildings. Conservation area consent is required for demolition in a conservation area. Planning permission must be obtained for the demolition of a house which is structurally connected to another. In other cases, notice must just be given to the local planning authority before demolition is commenced.

Detailed planning permission

Planning permission with no reserved matters.


Almost all building operations and any material change of use. Planning permission is needed unless the proposals constitute permitted development.

Development Consent

Following the Planning Act 2008, schemes for major infrastructure projects will require Development Consent rather than Planning Permission. Applications for Development Consent must be in accordance with the relevant NPS and will be determined by the IPC.

Development Plan

An evolving plan which governs development in a local planning authority's area. Planning decisions have to be made in accordance with the plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise. Historically County councils produced structure plans and District councils produced local plans. Following the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, District Councils will produce LDFs and RPBs will produce RSSs


EIA (environmental impact assessment)

The process leading to the production of an ES. EIA has to be undertaken where a planning application for projects which will have significant environmental effects. This would include major developments requiring extensive infrastructure or those likely to generate large amounts of traffic. EIAs are becoming increasingly important. The need for EIA can be determined by a screening opinion. The extent of an EIA can be determined by a scoping opinion.

EIP (examination in public)

Forum in which proposals for new or replacement LDF documents are debated by invited representatives in front of an appointed, independent Inspector. The Inspector produces a binding report which must be adopted by the Local Planning Authority.

Enforcement Action

Local planning authorities have extensive powers to enforce planning controls. Failure to comply with enforcement action can lead to criminal sanctions. See planning contravention notice, enforcement notice, stop notice, temporary stop notice, breach of condition notice and injunction.

Enforcement notice

A notice issued by a local planning authority where it appears that there has been a breach of planning control. For example, the carrying out of unauthorised development. There is a right of appeal to the Secretary of State. Failure to comply after the notice has been confirmed will almost inevitably lead to criminal sanctions.

Enforcement time limits

A local planning authority may not take enforcement action four years after the date on which works were substantially completed, or in the case of change of use (or any breach of condition), ten years beginning on the date of the breach (except in the case of change of use to a single dwellinghouse - where the time limit is four years). Once these time limits have expired, an application for a CLEUD can be made, to prove conclusively that the works or use are lawful - for example, to satisfy an institutional purchaser.

English Heritage

A public body responsible for the preservation of ancient monuments, historic buildings and conservation areas. It is consulted on all listed building applications and its views carry significant weight. It also has the power to direct refusal of listed building applications in London.

Environmental Statement ("ES")

The document submitted with a planning application containing environmental information where an EIA is required.

Extension Application

From 1 October 2009 it is possible to apply to extend the time limit imposed on the implementation of a Planning Permission. The Planning Permission must have been granted on or before 1 October 2009.



A fee is payable for most planning applications. The amount is set by government and varies depending on certain criteria - for example the size of the proposed development.

Footpath diversion

The diversion of a footpath is usually less controversial than the closure of a footpath, as public rights of way are not extinguished but moved. Normally the power to make a diversion order lies with a local planning authority. Members of the public are entitled to object to proposed diversions.


GDPO (general development procedure order)

Not to be confused with the GPDO. Contains the provisions governing the procedure and process of planning applications.

GPDO (general permitted development order)

Contains provisions relating to permitted development - for example specific operational development or certain changes from one use class to another, say restaurants to shops.

Grampian condition

A condition that prevents the start of a development until off-site works have been completed on land not controlled by the applicant.

Green belt

The area of rural land surrounding a town or city in which development is strictly controlled to prevent urban sprawl. The most firmly established protectionist planning policy - sacrosanct in the eyes of most local planning authorities and residents. To develop in the green belt, exceptional circumstances must be shown.

Green Travel Plan ("GTP")

Development likely to generate large amounts of car journeys is "encouraged" (imposed by means of planning obligations) to adopt a GTP to minimise such impact and encourage the use of sustainable transport patterns.



A less formal mechanism of determining an appeal in a forum where an inspector encourages a discussion between the local planning authority and the applicant.

Highways agreement

See section 38 and 278 agreements.

Highways authority

Developers often have highways implications and agreement of the highways authority will be required before planning permission is granted. In the case of district councils, the highways authority will be the county council.



A planning permission is implemented by the carrying out of a material operation.


Roads and other services which support development.

IPC (Infrastructure Planning Commission)

Following the Planning Act 2008, the IPC will be the body responsible for determining applications for Development Consent for major infrastructure projects.


In addition to its enforcement powers, a local planning authority is entitled to apply to the courts for an injunction. The application may relate to an actual or anticipated breach of planning law.


Joint application

A planning application submitted in joint names (often in the context of a joint venture) so that if, for whatever reason, one party does not wish to proceed the other may do so.

Judicial review

Developers often prefer not to implement a planning permission or complete the purchase of a site until a period of at least three months has elapsed after the issue of planning permission. This is the period within which an aggrieved person may apply for judicial review. If it is shown that the planning permission was issued on an irrational or unfair basis, the courts can overturn it. Applications for judicial review must be made promptly.


Key Workers

Teachers, nurses, police, firefighters - those people who service the needs of a community but may not be able to afford to live there except in affordable housing.


Listed building

Lists are maintained by local planning authorities in conjunction with English Heritage, of buildings of special architectural or other importance which are to be preserved. Before any work can be carried out which affects the character or appearance of a listed building, inside or out, listed building consent is required. Most work to a listed building will require consent.

Grade 1 listed buildings are those of the utmost importance, such as the Houses of Parliament. The majority of buildings are of lesser significance and are known as Grade II or Grade II* listed buildings. Interfering with listed buildings without consent is a criminal offence.

Listed building consent

Consent required, in addition to planning permission, for any works which alter the character or appearance of a listed building.

Listed building enforcement notice

A similar procedure to an enforcement notice in respect of unauthorised works to a listed building. A criminal offence is, however, committed at the outset.

Local Development Framework ("LDF")

These will replace local plans and UDPs. Every local planning authority in England must prepare and monitor the LDF. They must be in general conformity with the RSS. They must also include a Statement of Community Involvement.

Local Development Scheme ("LDS")

Every Local Planning Authority must prepare a LDS specifying the documents that will be LDFs, their subject matter and areas and the timetable for their preparation and revision.

Local plan

Historically the Development plan produced by a district council for its area. Must be read with the relevant structure plan. In the process of being superseded by LDFs.

Local planning authority

The authority entitled to make a particular planning decision. Unitary authorities, for example London boroughs, determine all urban applications. District councils determine the majority of applications within their area. County councils determine more strategic applications, for example those relating to minerals and waste.


"Locally unwanted land use" - as opposed to the popular 1960s singer.


Material considerations

Factors which have to be taken into account when planning decisions are made which may override the development plan - for example emerging government policy discouraging out-of-town shopping centres and reliance on cars.

Material operation

Statutory test of implementation - for example the digging of trenches or the laying of services.

Mayor for London

He or she has an extensive strategic planning role in London. He or she is charged with producing a spatial development strategy (known as the London Plan) for the capital. In addition in certain circumstances in relation to applications of London-wide significance he has the power to either direct refusal or recover applications for his own determination.

Minded to grant

Often planning committees resolve that they are "minded to grant" planning permission subject to the completion of a planning agreement. Planning officers have delegated powers to issue planning permission when the agreement is finalised. A minded to grant resolution does not constitute a planning permission.


The extraction and treatment of minerals is development for planning purposes.

Minerals and Waste Development Schemes

Schemes to be produced by the County Council in respect of any area for which there is a district council.

Minor Material Amendments

A procedure for making small changes to schemes following the grant of Planning Permission.

Mixed Use

Development that includes all types of use such as residential, retail and employment which encourages sustainability.

MPS (minerals policy statements)

Government policy guidance relating to minerals. In the process of replacing old-style Mineral Planning Guidance.


NPS (National Policy Statements)

Policy statements produced by the Government relating to the provision of major infrastructure (for example ports or nuclear energy stations). NPSs will underpin the Development Consent and IPC regime.


"Not in my backyard" - a type of person (including government ministers) who does not object to development except when it is next door.


The failure by a local planning authority to determine a planning application, within eight weeks, or sixteen weeks if a planning application is submitted with an EIA.

Non-material amendments

A new procedure by which non-material changes to existing permissions can be permitted without having to submit a new planning application.



Anyone may object to a planning application or at an appeal, but only on planning grounds.

Onerous condition

Generally a conditional contract will be triggered by the grant of a satisfactory planning permission. A planning permission will not be satisfactory if it is issued subject to unacceptable conditions identified in the contract. For example, a condition making a permission personal to an applicant will almost always be "onerous".

Outline planning permission

A permission for development in principle. Not available for changes of use. Always granted subject to approval of some or all reserved matters. An outline planning permission will lapse if application for approval of all reserved matters is not made within three years.


Permitted development

Some development does not require specific planning permission. Blanket permission is given by the GPDO.

PINS (Planning Inspectorate)

Government agency which trains and supplies planning inspectors and deals with the administrative arrangements for appeals.

Planning Act 2008

Legislation responsible for introducing the IPC and Community Infrastructure Levy.

Planning agreement

Agreements associated with the grant of planning permission. The most common are section 106 agreements and unilateral undertakings. However they can include highways agreements and other agreements relating to infrastructure (see section 38 agreement, section 278 agreement and section 104 agreement).

Planning committee

Sub-committee of a local planning authority with power to make most planning decisions. Made up of elected councillors in proportion to the political complexion of the council itself. Planning officers make recommendations to the planning committee. Members of the committee are not bound to follow these recommendations.

Planning contravention notice

A notice served by a local planning authority requesting certain information from an owner or occupier of land, where it suspects a breach of planning control.

Planning gain

Some local planning authorities request - and some developers offer - benefits which go beyond a legitimate planning obligation and have little connection with the development in question, sometimes raising the suspicion that planning permission has been "bought". Planning permission granted in return for unconnected planning gain is subject to challenge by third parties.

Planning inspector

An inspector appointed by the Secretary of State to conduct a public inquiry.

Planning obligation

A benefit to the community arising out of the grant of planning permission. Major development will almost always have an impact outside the boundaries of the application site. Legitimate additional works, such as highway improvements or a new school, may be required, usually under a section 106 agreement. At an appeal, planning obligations may be offered in the form of a unilateral undertaking.

Planning officer

An employee of a local planning authority, normally qualified as a town planner. Planning Officers are responsible for all aspects of planning including development control, development plans, enforcement and conservation.

Planning permission

Permission to carry out development issued by a local planning authority. Planning permission for buildings may be outline, where the principle is approved subject to the submission of further applications for approval of reserved matters. Planning permission is normally issued subject to conditions and will lapse if the development is not started within a stated period of time.

PPG (planning policy guidance)

Old style government policy notes which are in the process of being replaced by PPS.

PPS (planning policy statements)

The new form of Government policy notes on a wide variety of planning issues which will replace PPG.

Public inquiry

An inquiry held by a planning inspector into the refusal or non-determination of a planning application. The planning inspector may have the power to make the decision. For call-in inquiries, the inspector will report to the Secretary of State who makes the final decision.

Public open space

Land used by the public for recreation or as gardens which enjoys special protection. The loss of public open space is generally not permitted without replacement or payment of a financial contribution as part of a Planning Obligation.


Planning applications have to be publicised in a number of ways as governed by the GDPO. Freehold owners of land in respect of which permission is sought and tenants with leases of seven years or more must be notified by the applicant. The local planning authority has duties to notify neighbours by letter, site notice and, sometimes, newspaper advertisements.



The GPDO allows changes of use between certain use classes usually on a one way basis, ie to uses which are more desirable in planning terms - for example from a restaurant to a shop.


The refusal of a planning application. For the purpose of an appeal, non-determination amounts to a deemed refusal.

Regional Planning Body ("RPB")

A body responsible for the strategic planning of its region. Its responsibilities will include monitoring and reviewing the RSS and matters affecting development in its areas.

Regional Spatial Strategy ("RSS")

Regional policy guidance to take over from the RPG. The RSS must set out the Secretary of State's strategic policies in relation to the development of land in that region. The RSS will form part of the Development Plan for the region.

Reserved matters

Matters of detail, not dealt with on the grant of outline planning permission, for which approval must subsequently be obtained. Specifically access, appearance, landscaping layout and scale.

Road closure

Sometimes a development will require the closure of highways (including pavements) over which the public exercise rights of way. Applications can be made by a developer under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 or by the highways authority under the Highways Act 1980. Members of the public can object.

RPG (regional planning guidance)

Historic government guidance for specific areas in England. Wales has its own separate guidelines and technical advice notes. In the process of being superseded by RSS.


Scoping Opinion

An LPA can be asked to adopt a scoping direction to determine the parameters of an EIA and the ES.

Screening Opinion

An LPA can be asked to adopt a screening opinion to determine whether an application is required to be subject to EIA.

Secretary of State

The Secretary of State for the Department of Communities and Local Government, currently John Denham.

Section 18 agreement

See section 104 agreement.

Section 38 agreement

An agreement under section 38 of the Highways Act 1980. A developer agrees to construct a road to a specified standard and the highways authority agrees to adopt and maintain it after the expiry of a maintenance period.

Section 38(6)

A crucial section of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 which enshrines the principle of the development plan-led system. Planning decisions must be made in accordance with the development plan unless material considerations indicate otherwise.

Section 52 agreement

See section 106 agreement.

Section 104 agreement

An agreement under section 104 of the Water Industry Act 1991 (previously section 18 of the Public Health Act 1936). The developer agrees to construct sewers to a specified standard and the water company or its agent agrees to adopt and maintain them after the expiry of a maintenance period.

Section 106 agreement

An agreement made under section 106 of the TCPA to secure a planning obligation, previously section 52 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 (also see unilateral undertaking).

Section 278 agreement

An agreement, under section 278 of the Highways Act 1980, where a person who derives special benefit from highways works enters into an agreement with the highway authority to fund them. A condition can require the completion of a section 278 agreement.

Sequential test

In order to encourage town centre development, government policy insists that all town centre sites must be explored first. Only if there is no town centre site available can a developer look to edge-of-centre sites and finally out-of-centre sites. Developers must be flexible and must mould proposals to suit sites that are available. The test is used for retail, office and leisure developments. Housing is also proposed to be subject to the test.

SSSI (site of special scientific interest)

Site containing natural features or wildlife that enjoy protection by this designation.

Statement of Community Involvement

A statement defining an LPA's policy for involving interested parties in the development process. The statement will apply to the preparation and revision of LDFs and to the exercise of the authority's functions in relation to development control.

Statutory challenge

Certain planning decisions may only be challenged under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 and not by judicial review. For example, the decision of the Secretary of State on a planning appeal or matters relating to the adoption of a development plan.

Statutory consultees

When considering a planning application the local planning authority is obliged to consult with various other bodies, for example the highways authority, English Heritage or the Environment Agency. The identity of the statutory consultees varies depending on the nature of the proposed development.

Stop notice

A draconian power permitting a local planning authority to impose an immediate ban on specified activities which are the subject of an enforcement notice which has not yet come into effect. Rarely used as compensation is payable if the notice is not upheld.

Structure plan

Old style Development plan produced by a county council for its area.

Sui generis

A use which is "of its own kind" and does not fall within a use class, for example night clubs and casinos.

Sustainable Development

Development that meets the needs of today without compromising the requirements of the future. The Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 makes it a statutory requirement of decision makers to exercise their functions that achieves sustainable development. There is no statutory definition of what is "sustainable".


Time limits

Generally, a detailed planning permission will be granted subject to a condition that it is implemented within three years. Similarly, an outline planning permission will be subject to a condition that an application for approval of reserved matters is made within three years.

Third parties

Third parties may object to applications and at appeals but currently have no right to appeal against the grant of planning permission. Third parties can apply for judicial review and make statutory challenges in some circumstances.

Town and Country Planning Act 1990 ("TCPA")

The central piece of town planning legislation as amended by subsequent legislation.

TPO (tree preservation order)

Trees enjoy special protection under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990. If a tree is protected by a TPO then it is an offence to top, lop or fell it without planning permission.


UDP (unitary development plan)

Development plan historically produced by a unitary authority for its area now superseded by LDFs.

Unilateral undertaking

Planning obligations may be entered into by agreement (see section 106 agreements) or, usually at appeal, unilaterally.

Unitary authority

Typically a metropolitan authority where strategic and local functions are combined, as distinct from the two-tier structure of county and district councils.

Use classes order (Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987)

Under the schedule to this order, land uses are arranged in classes, for example shops and offices. A change of use within a particular class does not require planning permission.



The treatment and disposal of waste is development for planning purposes.

White land

Undeveloped land, generally rural, which is not the subject of any specific planning proposals.

Written representations

Many single issue appeals are dealt with in writing.


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