Planning Terminology Unravelled

Here is an A-Z glossary that gives simple definitions of some of the most commonly used terms in planning.

The Standard Planning Application Form (1APP) was introduced by Communities and Local Government and the Welsh Assembly Government to replace all existing types of planning application forms (except minerals) within England and Wales. Previously, local planning authorities produced their own planning application forms, which often differed
from one another and were inconsistent in the information they asked for from applicants. 1APP removes the differences in application forms by ensuring the same information is requested for comparable applications by every local planning authority in England and Wales.

This standardisation helps make the planning system clearer and more efficient for planning professionals and citizens alike. The new form is the only legal way to apply for planning permission (except minerals) in England and Wales.

The term used to indicate how people get to a property (eg a building or land) by vehicle or on foot, and the means of doing so (eg footpaths, roads). The term is also used more specifically in relation to elderly and disabled people and the way they might get to a property and move around in or on it.

For planning purposes, an advertisement is any sign, placard, board, notice, letter or word, model, device or representation (illuminated or not) used to advertise, announce something or give directions, including any hoarding or structure on which these are displayed.

Affordable housing
Affordable housing includes social rented housing and intermediate housing (eg shared equity) provided for households whose needs are not met by the housing market. Affordable homes are provided at sub-market prices, and restricted to specified types of household.

Agricultural dwelling
A dwelling that is subject to a planning condition or legal agreement restricting occupation to someone employed, or was last employed, in
agriculture, forestry or other appropriate rural employment.

The pleasant or normally satisfactory aspects of a location which contribute to its overall character and the enjoyment of residents or visitors.

Ancient woodland
Ancient woodland is land continuously wooded since 1600AD in England and Wales or 1750AD in Scotland.

Ancillary use
A subsidiary or secondary use or operation closely associated with the main
use of a building or piece of land.

In planning terms, the right of an applicant to seek a review of a decision
made by the local planning authority in respect of an application. Appeals can
be made following the refusal of permission, upon the granting of permission
subject to a condition or conditions and after the expiry of the statutory
decision-making period if the authority has failed to make a decision.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB)
A large area of countryside designated by the Government for special
protection on account of its particularly fine countryside landscape; its
natural beauty. Within Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) planning
permission for urban type development would be most unusual. Permitted development
is also more restricted.

Backland development
The development of sites behind existing buildings, such as rear gardens
and private open space. Backland development sites are generally within
predominantly residential areas, and many of them are not visible from public
vantage points.

The variety of life on Earth at all its levels, from genes to ecosystems,
and the ecological and evolutionary processes that sustain it.

Breach of conditions notice
A notice served by a local planning authority in respect of non-compliance
of planning conditions linked to a planning permission. These notices offer a
quick means to remedy an undesirable situation and a failure to comply can lead
to immediate prosecution without the right of appeal.

Brownfield land
Land that has been previously developed, or land that contains or contained
a permanent structure and associated infrastructure.

BuildingChange of use
A change in the way that land or buildings are used. Planning permission is
usually necessary where the change of use is ‘material’ (ie significant from a
planning point of view). Examples include changing the use of a building from
one ‘use class’ to another (eg from a business use to residential use, or from
a shop to a bank). Other less significant changes (eg from a travel agents to a
shop) do not require permission.

A term relating to conservation areas or listed buildings, but also to the
appearance of any rural or urban locations in terms of its landscape or the
layout of streets and open spaces, often a wide catchment giving places their
own distinct identity.

Conservation area
Conservation areas have a special architectural or historic interest.
Councils designate conservation areas to try and protect or enhance the special
characteristics of the locality. As these areas are sensitive, extra planning
controls apply that would not normally apply elsewhere (eg planning permission
is required for certain developments which usually do not require permission).
Conservation areas include parks and open spaces, not just buildings.

Contaminated land

The statutory definition of contaminated land is land which appears to the
local authority in whose area it is situated to be in such a condition, by
reason of substances in, on or under the land, that significant harm is being
caused or there is a significant possibility of such harm being caused or
pollution of controlled waters is being, or is likely to be, caused.

Core strategy
A development plan document setting out the spatial vision and objectives
of the planning framework for an area, having regard to the community strategy.

Crown land
Land in which there is a Crown interest. An interest means belonging to Her
Majesty in right of the Crown, or belonging to a government department, or held
in trust for Her Majesty for the purposes of a government department.

The area of land attached to and around a building, used with the building
and within which the building is set (eg the garden and driveway areas of a
house, the storage yard of a factory).

Delegated powers
A power conferred to designated planning officers by locally elected
councillors so that officers may take decisions on behalf of the local planning
authority upon specified planning matters.

Partial or full removal of a structure or building.

A proposed development that is not in accordance with the development plan,
but for which the local planning authority proposes to grant planning

Indicates the look and ‘feel’ of the building both inside and outside.

Design code
A document that sets rules for the design of a new development.

The local planning authority process to decide whether a proposed
development requires planning permission.

The carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations, in,
on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any
buildings or other land. Most forms of development require planning permission.

Development control
The process through which the local planning authority determines whether
applications for planning permission should be granted (often subject to
conditions or a legal agreement) or refused. It also involves the planning
enforcement function and giving of advice on planning matters.

Development plan documents (DPDs)
The statutory component parts of the local development framework, for
example the core strategy, area action plan and site-specific allocations.

Enforcement action
Action taken by a planning authority to ensure that development carried out
without permission is brought under control. Any action taken depends upon the
seriousness of the breach and must be based on sound and defensible planning
reasons. Action can range from the issuing of notices with the aim of stopping
unlawful development, to prosecution where an offence has been committed.

Environmental impact assessment (EIA)
A comprehensive procedural study required to be undertaken by a developer
in respect of certain types of development (normally major proposals) to
demonstrate to the local planning authority the likely impact of the plans on
the environment and how any negative impacts could be mitigated. The results of
the study as presented to the planning authority as an environmental statement.

Environmental statement
An environmental statement is a report of an environmental impact
assessment (EIA) that is required to be submitted with planning applications
for major and other developments that are likely to have significant impacts on
the environment. It evaluates the likely environmental impacts of the
development, together with an assessment of how the severity of the impacts
could be reduced.

Examination in public
The method of considering public views on a draft regional or local
development plan or proposed changes to it.

All additions and enlargements to a building whether attached or not,
including garages. An extension should relate closely to and harmonise with the
existing building in its scale, proportions, materials and appearance.

External appearances
The look of a building from the outside (eg. the brickwork and roofing materials etc).

Floor space
Taken to be the gross floor space (all storeys) to be created by the
development shown in the application. For fees purposes this measurement is an
external measurement, and includes the thickness of external and internal
walls. Floor space does not include other areas inside a building which are not
readily usable by humans or animals (eg lift shafts, tanks, loft spaces).
Exclusions include toilets, bathrooms, cleaners’ cupboards; lift rooms, plant
rooms and tank rooms where these are necessary for the management of the
building but not where they form part of any industrial process; fuel stores;
stairwells, lift wells and those parts of entrance halls, atria and balconies
used in common or for essential access; corridors in common use with other
occupiers or of a permanent essential nature (eg smoke lobbies); areas under
the control of service or other external authorities; internal structural
walls, columns, piers, etc; and space occupied by permanent air-conditioning
heating or cooling apparatus.

Green belt
Green belt is an area of designated land – primarily open land – around
built-up areas designed to limit urban sprawl and to define town and country
areas. It is protected land through this designation with a particularly strict
restraint on urban development. It is therefore unusual to see new urban type
development (eg. new housing) granted planning permission in green belt (it
requires very special circumstances). However, whilst green belts are meant to
be permanent (to be altered only in exceptional circumstances) they are changed
from time to time. Sometimes more land is included in a green belt, and
sometimes land is taken out and urban type development allowed (eg for a park
and ride site). In addition, small extensions and changes to the use of
existing buildings are permitted, with appropriate safeguards.

Habitable rooms
All living rooms and bedrooms, but not kitchens, bathrooms, WCs or
circulation space, are normally regarded as habitable rooms for the purposes of
density calculations.

This refers to an area, typically outside your house, where you can park
the car off the street.

Hazardous waste
Waste that contains hazardous properties that may render it harmful to
human health or the environment.

A publicly maintained road intended for travel and including footways and

Housing association
A non-profit making body that provides housing for people on low incomes
who cannot afford to rent privately or buy their own home through traditional
means. Housing is rented or sold under shared ownership arrangements. Most
housing associations (HAs) are registered social landlords (RSLs). HAs are
regulated by the Housing Corporation in England, the Scottish Housing Regulator
in Scotland, the Welsh Assembly Government in Wales and the Department for
Social Development in Northern Ireland. HAs have taken over much of the role of
local authorities in providing social housing in the UK.

Industrial building
A building used for the carrying out of an industrial process, such as a

Infill development
Development of relatively small gaps of land between existing buildings.

Informal hearing
A planning appeal hearing undertaken in a structured way, but without the
full formality of a local inquiry.

The services necessary for any development: water, sewers, roads, gas and
electricity. Infrastructure can also refer to services which are necessary for
a community to function, such as schools, health services, shops and employment
opportunities. Contributions towards the cost of infrastructure provision can
be obtained from developers through legally binding planning obligations.

An experienced planner employed by the government to preside over inquiries
into development plans and rule on planning appeals.

Land use
The way land is developed or used.

The look and design of the area of land not built on. This usually includes
gardens, roads, fencing, trees etc.

Lawful development certificate
A statutory document confirming that the use, operation or activity named
in it is lawful in respect of planning legislation.

The way buildings, roads and open spaces etc are laid out in relation to
each other.

Listed building
A building of special architectural or historic interest afforded
additional legal protection against development.

Local development framework (LDF)
A folder of key development documents that sets out how a local area may
change over the next few years. Community involvement is key to the process of
developing these spatial plans.

Local plan
A statutory development document prepared by a local planning authority in
consultation with the public. Local plans sets out detailed policies and
specific proposals for the development and use of land, and guide most
day-to-day planning decisions.

Local planning authority
The statutory authority (usually the local council) whose duty it is to
carry out the planning function for its area.

Material consideration
A planning matter relevant to an application. The range of consideration
that can be considered as material is very wide, but can include national
policies, representations made by the public, comments made by statutory and
non-statutory consultees, draft plans, design issues and development impacts,
for example.

Natural England
Natural England is a public body which works to conserve and enhance the natural environment.
Natural England was formed by bringing together English Nature, the landscape, access and
recreation elements of the Countryside Agency and the environmental land
management functions of the Rural Development Service.

Neighbour notification
The process, required by law, of alerting those most likely to be affected
by proposed development about new plans (normally neighbours and owners of
adjoining land). This can include notification by letter, site notices and
advertisement in a local newspaper. The process is undertaken so that those
affected can make comments on plans, which can then be taken into account by
the local planning authority in the application decision-making process.

Outline application
A general planning application for permission to establish that a
development is acceptable in principle, subject to subsequent approval of
detailed ‘reserve’ matters.

Terms used to describe the impact of a development or building on its
surroundings in terms of its scale and dominating effect.

Term used to describe the effect when a development or building provides an
outlook over adjoining land or property, often causing loss of privacy.

The effect of a development or building on the amount of natural light
presently enjoyed by a neighbouring property, resulting in a shadow being cast
over that neighbouring property.

Permitted development
Permission to carry out certain limited forms of development without the
need to make an application to a local planning authority, as granted by
planning law. A planning authority may use its powers to extend the list of
permitted development in its own area.

Planning application
A standard form or forms, along with plans and maps, used by a householder
or developer to apply to a local planning authority for permission to carry out
development. The applicant may submit a single application for full permission,
or an application for outline permission (covering only the principle of the
development) followed by an application for approval of any outstanding or
reserved matters. Occasionally, prior notification/approval will mean that
planning permission is deemed to have been granted, so an application is not
necessary. Some developments, known as permitted developments, do not need
planning permission at all.

Planning committee
An appointed body of locally elected councillors that makes decisions on
planning matters, although these are usually restricted to major or sensitive
planning proposals. Members of the public are normally welcome to attend
committee meetings and listen to the debate.

Planning conditions
Specific terms or limitations imposed on a planning permission that might otherwise have been refused.

Planning Inspectorate
The Planning Inspectorate is an independent government agency that processes planning and enforcement appeals and holds inquiries into local development plans. It also deals with a wide variety of other planning-related casework, including listed building consent appeals, advertisement appeals and reporting on planning applications.

Planning obligations
Legal agreement between the planning authority and the applicant/developer and any others that may have an interest in the land. An obligation either requires the developer to do something or restricts what can be done with land
following the granting of planning permission. Overall, only a few planning applications require a planning obligation before planning permission is granted. They tend to apply to major development schemes.

Planning register
Local planning authorities are statutorily obliged to maintain a register of all planning applications and decisions and this has to be open to public inspection.

Pre-application discussions
A two way process between a developer and a local planning authority before
the submission of a planning application which involves an element of dialogue
and possibly negotiation over the details of the proposed development.

Prior approval
A procedure where permission is deemed granted if the local planning authority does not respond to the developer’s application within a certain time period. Most commonly relates to telecommunication or agricultural developments.

Private road
A road owned and maintained by a private individual, organisation or company rather that a public authority. Unauthorised use of the road may be considered trespassing, and some of the usual rules of the road may not apply.

Protected species
Plant and animal species protected under certain Acts and Regulations.

Public road
Any road or street owned and maintained by a public authority and open to public travel. A road which appears in the list of public roads.

Reserved matters
Areas over which approval must be sought from the planning authority after outline permission has been awarded and subsequent to full planning permission being granted (eg siting, design, external appearances, access or landscaping).

Retrospective permission
Planning permission which is applied for by a developer for development already started or completed unlawfully. Permission may be granted after development has started or been completed, to make it lawful. As with any other planning application, the planning authority may impose conditions on retrospective applications. It may be that such conditions can help to remedy any perceived problems with the development, without the need for demolition or other more drastic action.

Section 106 agreements
Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 allows a local planning authorities in England and Wales to enter into a legally-binding agreement or planning obligation with a land developer over a related issue. The obligation is commonly referred to as a ‘Section 106 agreement’. Section 106 agreements are one of the major sources of affordable housing provision.

Sequential approach
A planning principle that seeks to identify, allocate or develop certain types or locations of land before others. For example, brownfield land before greenfield sites and town centres before out of center.

Site of special scientific interest (SSSI)
An area requiring protection from damaging development on account of its flora, fauna, geological and/or physiological features.

Site visit
An official visit, which can be conducted by a planning officer, councillor or inspector, to a proposed development site in order to clarify the appearance or condition of the site and also visualise the effects of a development proposal.

Special areas of conservation (SAC)
Strictly protected sites designated under the EC Habitats Directive to protect internationally important natural habitat and species.

Statutory period
The time period (usually eight weeks) within which a local planning authority is expected to make a decision on a planning application.

Stop Notice
A legal notice served by the planning authority to an owner/developer insisting that development activity be halted immediately. Used when the authority suspects that development is taking place without, or not in accordance with, planning permission. Usually used only as a last resort as the planning authority can incur claims for compensation as a result of issuing a stop notice.

Structure plan
A statutory written statement and a key diagram which contains broad land-use planning policies and proposals that cover a wide area and map out future development for a period of at least 10 years.

A term given to the uses of land or buildings which do not fall into any of the use classes specified by the Use Classes Order, including theatres, laundrettes, car showrooms, nightclubs and filling stations.

Sustainable communities
Places where people want to live and work, now and in the future.

Sustainable development
Development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

Tree preservation order (TPO)
An order made by a local planning authority in respect of trees or woodlands. The principal effect of the order is to prohibit the cutting down, uprooting, topping, lopping, wilful damage, or wilful destruction of trees without the local planning authority consent.

Unauthorised development
Development which has taken place without the required planning permission.

The way in which land or buildings are utilised.

Use classes order
An official schedule which puts uses of land and buildings into various categories. Planning permission is required for changes of use between different classes.

Village envelope
Boundaries on a map, usually set out in the local development plan, beyond which the local planning authority proposes that a village should not be allowed to extend.

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