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Self-build plot planning permission

Self-build plot planning permission

Purchasing a plot without planning permission, thinking you can sort afterwards is a very high-risk approach and not advisable for most self-builders. Instead, once you’ve found a plot or conversion opportunity, get hold of the planning permission documents, before you pay for the land.

Most estate agents and sellers should be able to supply copies of the planning permission documents – application forms, plans and drawings and the council’s decision. If not, a bit of detective work on the Council’s website should provide you with the necessary information.

Full or outline planning permission?

This is one of the first steps, to clarify whether the plot has outline or full planning permission. Outline permission means that you can build a house, leaving the exact design and layout to be approved later. Most plots have outline permission because it’s flexible – the purchaser can decide exactly what type of house to build.

Full permission is for a specific design and layout means there will be detailed drawings submitted showing the site layout, floor plans and elevations. If your plot has full planning permission, but you don’t want to build what is permitted, there’s nothing to stop you putting in your own application for a different design. But do be mindful that some mortgage providers insist on a plot having full permission before lending money on it.

It’s also worth noting that planning permission applies to the site, not to the landowner or the person who made the application. This means you can make use of someone else’s permission, but do consider copyright, as you shouldn’t build someone else’s design without the designer’s consent. Get that consent in writing at the time you buy if your heart is set on building that design.

Time limits

Planning permission has a shelf life, so check the dates, noting precisely when the decision was formally made. Next see what the time limit is for carrying out the work. Normally, with full planning permission, there’s three years from the date it was given before work has to start. With outline permission there’s three years in which to submit details of the house design and layout of the site, and then a further two years to start work after those details have been approved.


All permissions have conditions attached to them, set out and numbered on the decision notice itself. Standard conditions cover things like the time limit for starting work and getting external building materials approved. Others, though, might limit the building to a single-storey, require an access to be created to a specified design or, in the countryside, even restrict occupation to agricultural workers.


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Still got questions? Contact us today and one of our experts can provide further advice and guidance.


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