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Last edited 09 Feb 2022
Outline planning application
Before making a planning application it is important to ask the local planning authority what their procedures are for making a submission, when planning meetings are held and what the procedures are for planning meetings.
Outline planning applications can be used to find out whether a proposed development is likely to be approved by the planning authority, before substantial costs are incurred developing a detailed design. Outline planning applications allow the submission of outline proposals, the details of which may be agreed as 'reserved matters' applications at a later stage.
As a minimum outline, planning applications should include information on:
- The uses proposed for the development and any distinct development zones.
- The amount of development proposed for each use.
- The indicative layout.
- An indication of the minimum and maximum height, width and length of proposed buildings.
- Areas in which access points to the site will be located.
- Outline planning applications for most developments will require a design and access statement.
(Ref. Department for Communities and Local Government Circular 01/2006).
NB: The National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that there should be a presumption in favour of granting planning permission for sustainable development. This should be reflected in design and access statements for outline planning applications.
Applications for outline planning permission might also include:
- A description of proposed works.
- The number of dwellings and footprint of non-residential development.
- The existing use.
- Pedestrian and vehicular access, roads and right of way.
- Waste storage and collection.
- Materials and character.
- Vehicle parking.
- Foul sewage.
- An assessment of flood risk.
- Biodiversity and geological conservation.
- Boundary treatments.
- Trees and hedges.
- Trade effluent.
- Likely contribution to local employment.
- Hours of operation.
- Site area.
- Industrial or commercial processes and machinery.
- Hazardous substances.
- Agricultural holdings.
- Main infrastructure.
- Public open spaces.
- Water features.
- Compliance with planning policy (see National Planning Policy Framework).
- Ownership certificates.
Reserved matters that might be the subject of further applications once outline planning consent has been obtained can include:
- The layout of buildings within the proposed development.
- The actual height, width and length of individual buildings.
- Appearance of buildings.
- Access to and within the site for vehicles, cycles and pedestrians.
If permission is refused, the applicant may lodge an appeal which will then usually be decided by an Inspector acting for the Secretary of State.
Once outline planning permission has been granted, ’reserved matters’ applications must be made within three years.
Permissions may be the subject of planning conditions, where, rather than refusing a planning application, a local planning authority might grant permission, but might for example restrict the use of the site or require additional approvals for specific aspects of the development.
Permissions may also be subject to planning obligations (also known as Section 106 Agreements) which are used to mitigate or compensate for negative impacts of development that might otherwise make them unacceptable. Planning obligations should become less common with the introduction of the Community Infrastructure Levy.
Once planning permission has been received, the client may choose to advertise the main contracts for the development, if advertisement is considered the appropriate method for identifying potential tenderers or if this is required by OJEU procurement rules
NB: Applying for outline planning consent may not fall within the scope of services for members of the consultant team unless it has been separately identified under 'other activities'.
NB: For detailed descriptions of the sequence of activities that should be undertaken in order to prepare and submit a planning application, see the free work plan stages:
- Traditional contract: planning permission.
- Design and build: planning permission (design by contractor).
- Design and build: planning permission (design by consultant team).
- Construction management: planning permission.
- Management contract: planning permission.
- Public project: planning permission.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings
- Approval of conditions on a planning permission.
- Avoiding planning permission pitfalls.
- CIOB Planning Protocol 2021.
- Construction management statement.
- Consultation process.
- Detailed planning application.
- Flood risk management.
- How long does it take to get planning permission.
- How long does planning permission last.
- Indicative layout.
- Land use.
- National Planning Policy Framework.
- Planning appeal.
- Planning fees.
- Planning conditions.
- Planning permission.
- Planning objection
- Planning obligations.
- Planning performance agreement.
- Pre-application advice.
- Reserved matters.
- Statutory approvals.
- Statutory authorities.
- Community Infrastructure Levy.
- Design and access statements.
 External references
- Department for Communities and Local Government Circular 01/2006.
- Planning Portal: Application for outline planning permission
- Department for Communities and Local Government Guidance on information requirements and validation.
- Planning Advisory Service. Helping councillors and local authority officers understand and respond to planning reform.
- The legislation, policy and guidance that underpins planning in England can be found on the government's National Planning Practice Guidance website.
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I have outline permission for a build the footprint of the build being a particular size, my question is "Am I restricted to that footprint or is there flexibility by a couple of metres"
Depends whether it is considered a material change - the only real way to know the answer is to talk to the planning authority.