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Planning permission


The majority of building and development projects will require planning approval from the relevant local authority. This is a lengthy process, often taking longer than the quoted eight weeks, as the application is not just considered by the Council, but also some or all of the following:y

  • Highways Authority
  • Local Interest Groups
  • Neighbours
  • Parish Council
  • Landscape Officer
  • Conservation Design Officer
  • Drainage Authority

If you are in any doubt about whether your project requires planning permission, you should write to the Local Planning Officer for guidance. Your letter should include details of the present or last use of the land / buildings and of the proposed new use or operations. You should also advise the authorities at this stage of any processes to be carried out on the site, and any machinery to be employed. It is often relatively easy for the council to determine whether national and local planning laws and policies are being adhered to. What is often more difficult is ensuring that public interest is being protected. When planning your project, it is advisable to consult and inform your neighbours and local interested parties on an informal basis.

This will help you to understand objections early, enabling you to adjust your plans accordingly, before submitting your plans for formal approval. Your Architect can prepare your documents on your behalf (for a fee), or you may wish to prepare them yourself. In either case, if you have any queries, contact your local authority for advice at any stage.



Each application should be accompanied by copies of the plans of not less than 1:2500 scale, showing the site to which it refers and its boundary. The application site should be edged or shaded red, and any other adjoining land owned or controlled by the application edged or shaded in blue.

If you have any problem obtaining copies of your site plans, Ordnance Survey (OS) extracts may usually be obtained from the planning department (N.B. at a cost!)


oAll other drawings should be to a scale of not less than 1:100 metric. They must show existing features of the site including any trees, and be in sufficient detail to give a clear picture of the proposed building.

Materials to be used in the external finish of the walls and roofs and their colour should be indicated on the drawings. The means of access to the site should be specified and shown, as well as the type of wall, fence or other medium to be used to enclose the site.


It is advisable to include any relevant information in your covering letter that may be relevant to the planning application. Don’t try to hide things - they will be found out!


This is the only item that doesn’t need to be sent in multiple copies. There is no VAT chargeable on a planning application fee,and a cheque should be made payable directly to the local authority.


In the unfortunate event that your application is rejected, and you genuinely think the council is wrong, you can appeal. Written representation to the Secretary of State is the quickest and easiest method. You or your council may choose for your appeal to be heard at a public local enquiry or hearing.

Authorities will require multiple copies of documents (often up to 6 of each). Each copy must be signed by the applicant or his agent, as being true copies of the originals.

Plans and drawings will be open to inspection by the public. You are not, therefore, obliged to disclose your security arrangements on any drawings or plans.

Detailed information on the planning process in Northern Ireland is available from the website of the Northern Ireland Planning Service (