Your guide to planning

Do I need permission?

You can make certain types of minor changes to your house without needing to apply for planning permission. This is known as permitted development. 

The Planning Portal sets out permitted development limits and building regulations for over fifty common building work projects for the home.

If you need us to confirm that your proposal is a Permitted Development, you will need to submit a Lawful Development Certificate (existing or proposed). Information is available on the Planning Portal - Lawful certificates webpage.

Please note: the fee for a Certificate of Lawful Development - proposed is £103 and a Certificate of Lawful Development - existing is £206.

Building regulations approval is not the same as obtaining planning permission for your work. Planning seeks to guide the way our towns, cities and countryside develop. Building regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings. this ensures that building work is structurally sound, fire safe and reduces your heating bills.

Building regulations are needed for the construction and extension of buildings and is a legal requirement. Visit the building control webpages to check if you need building regulations.

We run regular 'Getting the Builders In' workshops at which, planning and building control experts will be on hand to explain how building designs can be made to comply with planning and building regulations. The workshops are free to residents of Swindon Borough. If you would like to book a place or would like a 'Getting the Builders In' information pack, email: BControl@swindon.gov.uk.

You can search for the planning history of a property via the public access system on the view or make a comment on a planning application webpage.

If you are planning to make a new access point to your property and it crosses a public footpath, we may need to drop the kerb and the pavement may need strengthening. This is to protect any services buried in the ground such as water pipes.

You will need to make an application via the apply for a vehicle crossing licence webapge.  

In addition to obtaining a vehicle crossing licence, planning permission will be required if the vehicle crossing is off a classified road or trunk road. Planning permission may also be required for a new or replacement driveway.

You will not need planning permission if a new or replacement driveway of any size uses permeable (porous) surfacing. These are surfaces that allow water to drain through, such as gravel, permeable concrete block paving or porous asphalt. It also applies if rain water is directed to a lawn or border to drain naturally.

If the surface to be covered is more than five square metres, planning permission will be needed so that a traditional, impermeable driveway that does not provide natural drainage, can be layed.

Planning permission is often not required to change a garage, which forms part of your house, to a room. However, you are likely to need planning permission if:

  • your house was built between 1960 and 2020
  • your home is a flat or maisonette
  • your home is a Listed Building
  • your home was converted through the ‘permitted development’ rights, for example, from an office or an agricultural building

Before starting works you should:

Planning permission may not be needed for a householder to run a business from their home, providing it does not change the overall character of the property as a home.

However, you should consider the following important questions:

  • Will my business operate independently from the rest of my property?
  • Will there be frequent visitors to my property, including deliveries and/or customers?
  • Are there frequent deliveries, collections and/or customers visiting?
  • Am I going to need to employ staff to operate the business?
  • Will several commercial or business vehicles be parked at the property?
  • Is my business going to be noisy or cause disturbance to my neighbours?
  • Will the character of the property change from domestic?
  • If my business is successful, will I want it to expand and grow?

If you answer ‘yes’ to one or more of these questions, it is possible that your business will require planning permission.

In addition, if you decide to put up a building in your garden for the purposes of carrying out your business, that building is likely to need planning permission.

Examples of businesses likely to need planning permission include:

  • dog grooming
  • dog/cat kennels
  • car repairs
  • car sales
  • hairdressing and beauty treatments
  • storage of materials associated with a business elsewhere
  • bed and breakfast, guest house or letting out a separate part of your home
  • food takeaway or home delivery business 

Please note: This list is not exhaustive.

Before starting your business, you should:

Further Information can be found on the Planning Portal.

The casual or temporary parking of a mobile hot food vehicle for a few minutes, in the course of a round for instance, whether it be in a street, a main road lay-by or on other land, is not likely to need planning permission. 

The regular parking of such a vehicle for longer periods is likely to need planning permission. Whether the vehicle is on the public highway or private land does not affect the need for planning permission. However, you will also need a license from the council if parked on a street, in a lay-by or by the land owner if parked on private land.

Before starting the mobile business, you should:

In most cases, planning permission is not required for a fence or wall less than 1 metre high next to a road or 2 metres high in other places. In other cases, planning permission is often not needed if you are replacing an existing wall or fence in the same place and to the same height.

However, planning permission may be needed if:

  • the property or the neighbouring property is a Listed Building or in a Conservation Area 
  • you are adding or moving the wall or fence to enclose a previously open area
  • the wall or fence is new or being increased in height and will be more than 1 metre high next to a road or 2 metres elsewhere 

In most cases, planning permission is needed to change open amenity areas into private garden. However, we look to keep amenity spaces open where they form an important part of the original layout of a locality, natural or built environment. In these cases, planning permission would be refused.

Before starting the works, you should:

  • check that you own/control the boundary (check your title deeds or with your solicitor) or get consent from your landlord. (The council will consider selling its open amenity land to neighbours after planning permission is granted).
  • check whether planning permission is likely to be granted before you begin to buy/lease the land or start works, if you are planning to enclose an open amenity area (with a hedge, wall or fence)
  • check if you need to give notice under the Party Wall Act
  • apply for planning permission or a certificate to confirm planning permission is not required. (You do not need to be the land owner to apply).
  • complete any land purchase, lease or conditions before starting works

Further information can be found on the Planning Portal.

We do not hold a full list of current use classes. A planning history search may provide some indication of the most recent and lawful use class. You can search by property address via the public access for planning system

The only way to be certain of a properties current use class, is through the submission of a Lawful Development Certificate. Further information on this type of application and its requirements is available on the checklists for planning applications webpage.

You may need the following consents before you start work:

Before you start

Replacement windows and doors may not always be necessary. Poor changes to windows and doors may reduce the value of a property.

Careful repair, if possible, should be considered before replacement, especially where historic details or quality materials survive. Original windows and doors in period buildings are always more attractive to buyers.

Do I need planning permission to replace windows and doors

Like-for-like replacements

Like-for-like replacements will not normally require planning permission, for example, for windows and doors of exactly the same design, materials, colour and method of opening.

Care should be taken to ensure that any replacements are exact copies. For instance, a change from single glazing to double glazing would normally require the glazing bars of a window to be thicker to hold the sealed glass unit, and this would not be considered to be an exact copy. A change of material from timber to uPVC would not be considered a like-for-like change.

Replacements are not like-for-like

If your home is a single house or bungalow, for example, not a house converted from shops, storage/distribution buildings or agricultural buildings, altering your windows or doors often doesn’t require planning permission provided:

  • the materials used are of a similar appearance to the existing materials
  • the house or bungalow is not covered by an Article 4 Direction which restricts permitted development rights. These are associated with some conservation areas. These include the Railway Conservation Area and Bishopstone.
  • permitted development rights relating to alterations have not been removed by a condition attached to an earlier planning permission. You can check the planning history of your property. The ‘Decision Notice’ will show the conditions attached to any approved development and will say if ‘permitted development’ rights under the Town and Country Planning (Permitted Development) Order have been removed.
  • You are not adding new windows or doors

In other cases, planning permission is often required. You can check the need for planning permission by submitted a lawfulness application

Do I need listed building consent to replace my windows and doors?

Listed building consent will almost always be required to alter windows or doors on a listed building, but will not normally be required to repair windows or doors. 

If unsure, you can check the need for listed building consent by submitting a lawfulness application.

For listed buildings, before you start think about:

  • whether repair is possible. This is the preferred option. Historic windows and doors are of considerable aesthetic and historic value. 
  • unnecessary destruction of historic fabric which is not acceptable
  • matching materials, which should always be used for repairs
  • the use of uPVC which is almost always unacceptable
  • double-glazing or factory-made standard windows which are rarely acceptable
  • draught proofing or secondary glazing, which may be better options (these may or may not require listed building consent)
  • whether repair is not viable. In this case dentical replacements will almost always be required.

The installation of solar panels (solar photovoltaic systems) will generally not need planning permission.

However, there are certain circumstances where planning permission and/or listed building consent is required prior to the installation of solar panels. These circumstances are explained on the Solar Together webpage.

Before a planning application

Buildings are listed to identify and protect our heritage. To learn more about how buildings are added to the national register and details of the locations of listed buildings in the borough, go to the find out about listed buildings webpage.

There are a number of conservation areas across the borough. To find out if your property is in a conservation area, conservation area maps and appraisal and management plans are available to view on the find out about conservation areas webpage.

Unfortunately, we do not have this information. You may wish to check your deeds or tenancy agreement. If these are not clear or do not cover the land for which you need the information, there are a number of organisations that may help.

Making a planning application

Our pre-application advice service aims to provide consistent and timely advice. This should reduce the risks involved in making a planning application. It can also help to reduce the time taken to progress an application through the formal decision making process.

Information and forms are available on the pre-application advice webpage, along with a list of fees for this service.

The residential extensions and alterations supplementary planning document (2011) which sets out guidance for householder extensions, may also be useful.

For help in submitting an application and for the supply of drawings (if required), see the Partner Agent List on the apply for planning permission webpage.

Validation

We check to see if we have all the information we need and the correct fee has been paid. We will ask for any missing information to be submitted within 14 days. If the information needed to make the application valid is not received within 14 days of a written request for further information, we will dispose of the application.

Publication

We publish all the application information and documents on our website. If you include any sensitive personal data, for example, medical information or health details, details about your children, education details where a name identifies the child, details of any criminal convictions, in your statement or accompanying documents, this information will appear on the website.

By submitting a statement with that sensitive personal data in it, you are giving consent for this information to go into the public domain. However, if you need to supply such information in support of your application, and you wish it to remain confidential, this should be supplied in a separate document clearly marked confidential, which we can withhold from publication.

Consultations

In most cases, we carry out consultations. However, not all applications are the subject of consultation (such as applications to find out if planning permission is needed called a certificate of lawfulness). Other applications are the subject to limited consultation as set out by planning law (such as prior approvals).

Any consultation responses and updates on application progress are put on the public access system.

Site visit

In most cases, the planning officer will carry out a site visit. They will not normally visit neighbours. The applicant does not need to be there for the visit. Appointments are not usually made unless there are problems with access.

Planning officer review

The planning officer will contact the planning agent if more information or changes are needed to the application. We will also contact them with any questions or updates during the process. You can check progress on the application by speaking to your agent or checking progress online.

If the application is: 

  • acceptable as submitted, we will approve without negotiation
  • unacceptable as submitted but only minor amendments are required which do not materially alter the proposal – the planning officer will seek minor changes as long as the changes are received within the statutory period (or an extension of time is agreed) and further consultation is not needed
  • unacceptable as submitted but minor changes are required to respond to issues identified. The planning officer will sometimes seek changes. This will be determined by the planning officer based on whether further consultation is needed and the case officer can consider the response within the statutory period for determination (or within an agreed extension of time).
  • unacceptable as submitted (including key supporting information being missing from the submission), for example, contrary to policy or further consultation is required - we will refuse without negotiation

If a viability assessment is needed: 

  • we will look at the viability appraisal as an open book assessment
  • publish a copy of the Financial Viability Assessment/Appraisal online
  • include a clause in Section 106 Agreements requiring a review of the viability situation within a defined timeframe

If a planning obligation (s106 agreement) is needed we will discuss this with the agent.

The decision

The planning officer will assess the application and write a summary report. The report will include a recommendation whether permission should be granted or refused and why.

Most applications are decided by senior planning officers. All comments, including those from neighbours, have to be considered carefully before a decision is made. Some applications are considered by the Planning Committee, which meets every month.

To find out if your application is going to be considered at Committee, check progress on the public access system. In either case, the planning officers report is published online.

Commenting on a planning application

Give your views

You have 21 days to comment on an application. You should give the reference number of the application you are commenting on and address your comments to the Head of Planning.

View and comment on a planning application

Ensure your comments are kept brief and concise. You can use sub-headings to illustrate each point. You can include other information such as photographs to illustrate your concerns. You should focus on the planning issues as these influence the decision-making process. We cannot take other non-planning related comments into consideration.

When making a comment, please do not include:

  • signatures
  • contact numbers
  • any information you do not want published online
  • comments of a personal, slanderous, defamatory or otherwise offensive or abusive nature

Offensive, racist, discriminatory, threatening and other statements that are not appropriate, will not be published.

These include:

  • offensive statements that lower a person's reputation personally within their trade, profession or business
  • racist statements are those that are offensive or discriminate against individuals on racial grounds, including their race, colour, nationality, ethnic or national origins. Gypsies and other minorities are racial groups.
  • statements that discriminate on grounds of religion, sexuality or disability will also not be published

Comments that include such statements will be returned to you and you will be invited to resubmit removing any defamatory statements.

The council is bound by the Equality Act 2010. This applies to those providing services and public functions. It prohibits direct and indirect discrimination and harassment all of which these types of remarks might amount to.

The planning issues that are taken into account

We have a legal duty to consider the provisions of the Local Plan and any other "material considerations". The most common "material considerations" include (the list is not exhaustive):

  • local, strategic, regional and national planning policies
  • Government circulars, orders and statutory instruments
  • previous planning decisions (including appeal decisions)
  • design, visual appearance, and materials
  • layout and density of buildings
  • loss of daylight or sunlight
  • overshadowing/loss of outlook (but not loss of view)
  • overlooking/loss of privacy
  • noise and disturbance from use
  • smells
  • light pollution
  • highway safety issues
  • traffic generation
  • vehicular access
  • adequacy of parking
  • loss of important trees
  • landscaping
  • nature conservation
  • intrusion into the open countryside/green belt
  • risk of flooding
  • effect of Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas
  • archaeology
  • hazardous materials and ground contamination
  • disabled persons access

What we cannot take into account

Many concerns cannot be addressed through the planning process, these include:

  • loss of view
  • loss of property value
  • breach of restrictive covenant
  • loss of trade to a competitor
  • the level of profit a developer might make
  • personal circumstances of the applicant (in most cases)
  • moral objections, for example, to use such as amusement arcades and betting offices
  • matters controlled under Building Regulations or other non-planning laws, for example, structural stability, drainage, fire precautions
  • private issues between neighbours, for example, land/boundary disputes, damage to property, private rights of way, covenants
  • problems arising from the construction period of any works, for example, noise, dust, construction vehicles, hours of work
  • the development is already completed

Considering your views

The council is legally obliged to take into account the written representations received from neighbours and other interested parties when deciding all planning applications. It encourages local residents to have their say in planning matters and is responsible for making the final decision on the application and for deciding how much "weight" representations have.

After comments have been made

Due to the large number of responses we receive, it is not possible to respond personally to each letter. We make representations publicly available and other members of the public may see your views. Excluding name and address, personal details are removed from comments.

All representations are published on the website within a week of receipt.

An application can only be refused for "planning reasons" and not because of the number of objections.

After the planning decision

Planning conditions are applied to almost every planning permission. 

Planning conditions limit and control the way in which the planning permission is carried out. These are included to make sure the development is acceptable and started within a set time. 

Conditions may run for ever, they may require certain things to happen during construction or before first use. The decision notice identifies which conditions require further details to be submitted and when these have to be complied with.

When more information is required it is important to meet this requirement. This process is known as "discharging" conditions. 

Planning conditions show up in any solicitor searches, and can affect property sales if they are not discharged properly.

How to discharge a planning condition

To discharge your conditions, you will need to make an application to us. You can discharge one condition at a time or all the conditions at once.  

A fee is payable for each submission.

Once we have the fee, form and information needed, we have 8 weeks to decide. However, this can increase to 16 weeks if we have to ask others for their technical views. If the information is not agreed you will need to resubmit with a new application and fee.

You can ask us if a condition has been discharged.

Changing the planning conditions

There is no right of appeal against conditions for neighbours or other third parties. 

If applicants do not agree with the conditions set by the council, they can apply to get the condition changed or removed by: 

Informatives and enforcement

As well as conditions that have to be complied with, there may be informatives. These are guidance for applicants to other consents needed, people that they will need to talk to, or other matters of use.

If you think that a development is not being built as it should be, then the first thing to do is check if any of the conditions on the permission have been breached. You can do this by searching our planning database and reporting any suspected breach to our enforcement team..

You can make certain types of minor changes to your house without needing to apply for planning permission. This is known as permitted development. You can find details of permitted development rights on the Planning Portal - Common Projects website.

If you believe a breach of planning has occurred, you can report it to our Planning Enforcement Team by using the online form on the report an alleged breach of planning webpage. You will be asked to create a My Account before you can complete the form.

The webpage also provides information on how we respond to breaches of planning control, and provides details of works we can and cannot investigate.

If you require copies of decision notices, vendor consents, appeal decisions, section 52/106 agreements or tree preservation orders (TPO’S), you can request these on the find planning document copies and charges webpage.

Sometimes changes need to be made after a scheme has been granted.

You should apply as early as possible for any changes, and not after they have been made (in case they are not acceptable).

There are different processes based on the type and scale of the change:

  • Non-material amendments updating the existing planning permission
  • Minor material amendments
  • Variation or removal of conditions

Requests for changes are shown on our planning applications webpage

Non-material amendments (application under section 96A of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990)

Whether or not a proposed change is non-material will depend on the case. If you care unsure you should apply for a minor material amendment (see below) or submit a planning application.

The purpose of a non-material amendment application is to determine whether or not the proposed changes would require a further application for planning permission.

The non-material amendment process allows for very small changes to be made on a decided planning application. It is not possible to use the non-material amendment process to make changes to a Listed Building Consent.

A non-material amendment should be so minor that it would not raise any interest from other parties, nor impact the comments that they made on the original planning permission. It should be "non-material" to the overall development approved. It should also not conflict or change any condition imposed on the original permission.

Only changes that would be trivial in terms of their scale, magnitude, or degree in relation to the original planning permission can be approved as a non-material amendment.

As part of our review process, we will consider: 

  • if the change will have a negative impact on living conditions
  • if the change would have a negative impact on the appearance of the development and the character of the area
  • if any third party would be disadvantaged
  • if the change would require us to re-consult
  • if the change would be contrary to a previous statutory consultee response
  • if change would result in the development falling outside the description of the development on the approval notice
  • if the change would conflict with the objectives of any condition attached to the original permission
  • if the change needs more conditions to make it acceptable
  • if the change conflicts with planning policy
  • if the change would require an extension to site boundary (the redline shown on the location and site plan)
  • if the change would introduce new works which in themselves constitute ‘development’ requiring planning permission

If the answer to any of these is ‘yes’, then the matter will not normally qualify as a non-material amendment. However, each non-material amendment will be considered on its own merit.

Applications for non-material amendments can be made online via the Planning Portal.

We will aim to determine these within 28 days unless we agree a longer period with you. We do not carry out consultations on this type of application.

If the application is refused, you will need to apply for planning permission if you wish to continue with  the proposed change

Minor material amendments (under Section 73 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990)

There is no statutory definition of a ‘minor material amendment’ as it will depend on the context of each planning permission. However, it is likely to involve any amendment where its scale and/or nature results in a development which is not substantially different from the one which has been approved. 

Amendments should not have a greater impact on neighbours, as this may have affected what they said when consulted originally. 

You can find more information on the flexible options for planning permissions in the "A Flexible Approach to Planning Permissions" document.

There are no set rules however, we will in most cases accept the following as minor amendments to previously approved plans:

  • Reductions in the volume / size of the building/extension
  • Reductions in the height of the building/extension
  • Amendments to windows / doors/openings that will not have any greater impact on neighbours
  • Subtle changes in materials, or detailed matters of design on individual features
  • Small movements or "tweaks" to landscaping, surfacing or parking space positions

When a new planning application would be required

A new planning application would need to be submitted where the development would go beyond the scope of the original planning permission, for example:

  • Significant increase in the volume of the building/extension
  • Significant increase in the height of the building/extension
  • Increases in number of units, dwellings on a site 
  • A change to the external look of a development which would look significantly different to approved plans 

This would include changes from a traditional pitched roof to a box/flat roof type dormer window.

  • Would there be any change to the external materials which would adversely affect the character or appearance of the development or erode the quality of what was originally approved?
  • Would the amendments reverse design improvements secured in the original application?
  • Would there be a greater impact on existing trees, other vegetation/landscape features,  or would it reduce the quality of a proposed landscaping scheme?
  • Would there be any alteration to the application site (red line) boundary?
  • Would the change lead to a significant increase in traffic or parking
  • Would there be significant increases in site coverage or site levels?
  • Would the proposal result in additional or repositioned windows/doors that will have possible negative impacts on neighbours
  • Changes that would alter the description of development from the original application
  • Amendments that could change the opinions of neighbours, other Council departments or external statutory bodies that we consulted (or who would need re-consulting on the changes)

Variation or removal of a condition 

If applicants do not agree with the conditions the Council has imposed they can apply to get the condition changed or removed. This applies to any condition except for the time limit for commencement of the development or submission of reserved matters (in the case of outline permissions).  

To change or remove the condition you can:

  • make an application to us (please note this process does not include discharging conditions/part of a condition). You can apply to change or remove a condition on a planning permission (under Section 73) or Listed Building Consent (under s19 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990).

or

How to apply for a change to a planning permission (Section 73) or Listed Building Consent (Section 19)

Applications for changes can be made online. Further advice is on the Planning Portal

When sending us an application to change an approved scheme, it is important that you make this clear within the description.

For example:

  • Example 1 – variation of conditions. “Variation of condition 3 of planning permission 20/0001 (erection of retail unit) to allow the retail unit to open until 11pm Monday to Friday instead of 10pm”.
  • Example 2 – minor material amendment. “Minor material amendment of planning permission 20/0001 (erection of retail unit) to provide three additional parking spaces to the rear of the three retail units (northern boundary)”.
  • Example 3 – revised new application. “Revised scheme for the erection of retail unit to provide three additional parking spaces to the rear of the three retail units (northern boundary) making a total of eight parking spaces (previously approved application 20/0001)”.

Plans accompanying applications should clearly show the differences between the approved scheme and the proposed amendment(s).

We have the discretion to decide who should be consulted when an application is received. We will take a proportionate approach to consultation and, in deciding who to consult, considering who had a particular interest in, or raised concern about, the original application.

Where the original application was subject to environmental impact assessment, we will normally do a full re-consultation.

When considering the application, we will focus our attention any new changes submitted and any planning considerations that have changed since the original approval.

We will aim to make a decision within eight weeks (13 weeks for major applications or 16 weeks where an environmental impact assessment is needed) unless we agree a longer period with you. 

Where an application under is granted, a new approval will be issued. The expiry date of the new approval will be the same as the original. 

Relevant conditions from the original approval will be added along with any new conditions needed. 

Both approvals (original and new) will still exist and either of these could be implemented (subject to any condition discharge) but, in most cases, not both.

If your application is refused you can appeal.

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