Planning application process

The information below sets out the main stages that are normally involved in the determination of a planning application. It is intended to provide a broad overview and timescale. It is not intended to cover every eventuality and other issues may arise which require additional steps or time.

There are also circumstances in which a slightly different process is followed (e.g. for other types of applications, where the Department is the applicant/landowner or where an application is referred to the Council of Ministers).

Our Customer Charter and current performance and timescales are available on our Planning and Building Control performance page


Stage A. Before Submission

A1. Confirm whether or not a planning application is required

What happens: It is the responsibility of the developer to ensure they know whether or not they require planning approval, and to obtain it if it is required. If something is not development it does not require planning approval. Some types of development are given blanket approval (aka Permitted Development).

How long it takes: We endeavour to respond to requests for pre-application advice within 10 working days (but it may take longer for more complex schemes).

How you can avoid delays: Look at the available guidance. Ensure any requests for advice contain as much information as possible.

More information: Find out if you need to make a planning application

A2. Preparation of application

What happens: It is the responsibility of the applicant (or their agent) to produce an accurate and complete application, including form, plans and supporting information (including any specialist surveys). Pre-application advice can be sought from the Department.

How long it takes: The process can take several months. We aim to respond to requests for pre-application advice within 10 working days (but it may take longer for more complex schemes).

How you can avoid delays: Look at the available policy and guidance. Review the planning history of the site to confirm the existing situation.

Ensure any requests for pre-application advice contain as much information as possible.

Ensure that any required surveys are undertaken (some are season specific).

Ensure that you submit the correct type of application and submit a separate Registered Building application if required (which includes for the demolition of any building within a Conservation Area).

More information: Pre-application webpage, including guidance on types of applications and validation requirements

Stage B. Submission and Publicity

B1. Submission

What happens: The applicant (or their agent) submits the application (including fee, if required) to the Department.

More information: Making a planning application

B2. Validation

What happens: The Technical Team will check whether the application meets the minimum validation requirements as set out in legislation/application form and the fee. If the application is valid it will be given a number and progress to publicity. If it does not then it will either be held in abeyance (and additional/amended information requested) or returned.

How long it takes: We aim to process applications within 10 working days of receipt. If more/amended information is required this is likely to significantly delay the application.

How you can avoid delays: Ensure that all the required information is provided, that forms are fully completed and that plans meet minimum standards and are accurate.

Around 20% of applications submitted in 2021 were of such poor quality that they could not be processed (this figure excludes those where minor amendments were required).

More information: Guidance on Validation Requirements is included within the Guide for submitting a planning application

B3. Publicity

What happens: Applications are placed on the weekly list (published online Friday AM), an alert is sent to a distribution list, consultees are notified and we may also write to neighbouring properties. A site notice is sent to the applicant (or their agent) and, as per the legislation, it is the responsibility of the applicant (or agent) to ensure that the notice is appropriately displayed and remains in place for at least 21 days.

Any comments are received and acknowledged by the Technical Team (assessed for GDPR compliance/redacted) and given a contributor number.

How long it takes: Publicity is for 21 days starting with the day the weekly list is published (although comments are accepted up until the point the application is determined). Publicity may need to be repeated in the event that amended/additional information is submitted or the site notice has not been correctly displayed.

How you can avoid delays: Ensure that your application is correct/accurate prior to submission and that by looking at the relevant policies/guidance (and seeking pre-application advice) you have included all necessary information. Display the site notice correctly and take a photograph of it in situ in case of later challenge. If your property backs onto several roads, or a site notice is damaged, additional notices can be supplied on request.

More information: Guidance on how to display a site notice is included in the accompanying letter.

Weekly publication list

Publicity operational policy

How to find and comment on applications

Opportunities to contribute to the planning process flow chart

Stage C. Assessment

C1. Case Officer consideration

What happens: The Case Officer will review the application in light of policy, responses to publicity and any other material considerations. They may undertake a site visit. If there are concerns that they feel could be resolved they may request additional information or contact the applicant/agent to discuss potential changes (see below). The Case Officer will produce a report setting out their analysis and recommendation.

How long it takes: If the application is complete and correct, no additional or amended information is required and there is not a high level of consultation response then this process can often be completed within 2 weeks of publicity ending (depending on overall workload).

How you can avoid delays: Review the website for consultation responses to see if any objections/requests for further information. Most applications should not require the submission of any new or additional information. However, if it is required then avoid multiple submissions of information – it is better to contact the case officer after publicity has expired and make a single submission (if required) so that re-consultation need only be undertaken once.

More information: 

Material considerations

Design guidance

C2.  Additional/Amended information (if required)

What happens: The agent/applicant submits additional/amended information. The Case Officer whether (and what level) of further publicity is required and will then re-assess the application prior to completing their report.

How long it takes: Once the information is received it can take a week to process, up to 3 weeks for additional publicity (essentially a repeat of stage B3. Publicity) and then the application needs to be re-assessed.

How you can avoid delays: Ensure that any amended information complies with the requirements published online, and review any documents/plans that you are not amending to make sure there is nothing contradictory in them.

In 2022 about 1 in 5 smaller applications (Type 1 or 2) and 2 in 5 larger applications (Type 3 and 4) were amended.

More information: Amending a planning application (prior to determination)

Stage D. Determination

D1. Decision

What happens: Most applications (around 85%) are determined by Senior Officers under delegated powers from the Minister. Those that meet the relevant criteria (set out in the Standing Orders) are referred to the Planning Committee.

How long it takes: Delegated applications are normally determined within a week. Committee meets once a fortnight, with agendas being issued the week before.

How you can avoid delays: Delegated applications may not be signed off if there is not agreement of the recommendation or a need for more information or other changes.  Committee may defer applications for a site visit or more information. If you have supplied an email address we will notify you (or your agent if you have one) if and when your application is placed on the agenda for Planning Committee.

More information: Planning committee information (including Standing Orders, Speaking Scheme and link to agenda and minutes)

D2.  Legal agreement (if required)

What happens: For larger applications (normally 8+ houses) if a Section 13 legal agreement is required this must be signed prior to the decision notice being issued. The content of this reflects the decision made by Planning Committee.

How long it takes: The completion of a legal agreement can take several months.

How you can avoid delays: Ensure that the application as submitted includes a Heads of Terms of the legal agreement. Consider twin tracking the legal agreement with the application (agreements can be produced – on a without prejudice basis – prior to the determination of an application).

More information: Section 13 agreements

D3. Decision notice

What happens: A notice is issued to the applicant and everyone who has commented advising them how the application has been determined and, if they have been afforded Interested Person Status, how to appeal.

How long it takes: Normally issued within 1 week of the decision being made.

How you can avoid delays: If an application is subject to a legal agreement, the decision notice will not be issued until the agreement is signed by all parties.

More information: Interested person status

D4. Appeal window

What happens: Once a decision notice is issued there is a 21 day period for appeal. If approved, it cannot be implemented until the 21 days has expired (if there is no appeal) or until any appeal has been determined.

How long it takes: 21 Days.

How you can avoid delays: Check your decision notice carefully upon receipt, including any conditions – these must be complied with unless you successfully appeal them. Applications must be implemented in accordance with the approved plans and any conditions. Failure to do so may result in enforcement investigation, the need to submit a fresh application or even legal action.

More information: How to appeal

D5.  Appeal (if one is submitted)

What happens: If an appeal is submitted this is referred to the Cabinet Office to administer. An inspector will carry this out and produce a report which is then determined by the DEFA Minister (unless delegated).

How long it takes: An appeal can take up to 6 months, and in some cases longer.

How you can avoid delays: Review the appeals guidance.

More information: Planning appeals

Stage E. Implementation

E1. Condition discharge (if relevant)

What happens: If there are any conditions attached, these may need to be discharged prior to commencement. If so, applicant/agent submits information required by condition, this is booked on and allocated to a Case Officer. They will consult specialist consultees (if necessary) and make a recommendation, which is then reviewed by a Senior Officer with delegated powers and, if approved, a letter confirming this issued.

How long it takes: We endeavour to determine submissions for the Approval of Information Required by Condition within 8 weeks.

How you can avoid delays: Ensure that you review the wording of conditions and include all of the information that is required.

More information: Discharging conditions

E2. Commencement of development

What happens: Work starts on site.

How long it takes: Planning Approvals have a condition stating how long you have to start work (normally 4 years). There is not normally a deadline for completion of works. Applications must be implemented in accordance with the approved plans and any conditions. Failure to do so may result in enforcement investigation, the need to submit a fresh application or even legal action.

More information: 

Commencement of development

Amending a planning approval (post submission)

Enforcement policy