Protection & planning

Totnes, Devon

Planning permissions

Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) By Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) Published 13 December, 2012

What development needs planning permission?

People need planning permission before carrying out any form of ‘development’. Development means constructing new buildings, altering existing buildings, or significantly changing how land or a building is being used.

Some building works or changes of use count as ‘development’ but are considered minor and are therefore automatically granted permission.

Some of these developments that have automatic permission in principle may need prior approval of the details of the work to be carried out by the local planning authority before they are started

If ‘development’ needs planning permission or prior approval, and is carried out before this is obtained, local planning authorities are able to carry out enforcement action against the work

Heritage Assets and planning permission

Some places and types of building have more restrictive rules on development. This is particularly the case for places of built and natural heritage importance. This includes for instance

  • Conservation Areas, including alteration of unlisted buildings within a Conservation Area
  • Listed Buildings
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs)
  • National Parks

Conservation Area Consent and Listed Building Consent

Conservation Area Consent and Listed Building Consent are different to planning permission. For development affecting a Conservation Area or Listed Building these consents are normally required in addition to planning permission. These consents are also administered by your local planning authority. Application forms for these consents are available from them – there are usually online and hard copy forms available.

To find out if you need Conservation Area Consent or Listed Building Consent talk to your local authority Conservation Officer. 

Getting consent in AONBs and National Parks

The planning authority in which an AONB sits is responsible for granting planning permissions within it. They will be able to advise you on what needs consent.

National Park Authorities are statutory planning authorities, which means they make the decisions about development that can happen in the park. If you are thinking of making changes to a building within a National Park, have a look at the National Park Authority website for initial information or contact them directly for further information.

Getting a definitive answer

Not sure if your intended development or a neighbour's intended development needs permission? Speak to your local planning authority. If development needing permission has begun without receiving it, the authority may put a stop to it. It is a criminal offence to carry out unauthorised works to a listed building or unauthorised works that required Conservation Area Consent.

Applying for planning permission

Planning applications are submitted to your local planning authority, which will either approve or refuse it, or approve it with conditions. Your planning application will have a much better chance of gaining approval if you take account of certain things when preparing it. 

For instance:

  • make sure the application fits with the local plan and any neighbourhood plans that exist in your area
  • consider location
  • consider the design
  • consider layout

Commenting on a planning application

If you have heard about a development you're concerned about after a planning application has been submitted, don't delay in getting involved. Once planning permission is granted, you have no right to appeal against the granting of permission, so don't leave it too late.

CPRE has developed a useful eight-step guide on how to respond to a planning application. This can be viewed at

Where to find out more

What development needs planning permission

Speak to your local authority planning department

Information on applying for planning permission

Information on National Parks