Last edited 13 Nov 2020


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In general, the term 'permission' refers to allowing, consenting or authorising something.

In relation to property, permissions sometimes take the form of easements or the rights that certain parties have, such as a right of way (permission to enter another’s land), right to light, right of support, and so on. For more information, see Easements.

In the construction industry, it is most relevant in relation to planning. Planning permission is the legal process of determining whether proposed developments should be permitted, and it can present the greatest risk on a construction project.

Section 57 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 states that all developments fitting the description of such require planning permission. The developer has the responsibility for ensuring any necessary permissions and permits are in place before works begin.

However, development does not in all instances require planning permission. In England and Wales, the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 1995 enables central government to permit certain types of developments known as permitted developments. These are generally minor changes to existing properties. Permitted developments do not require approval from the local planning authority as permission is granted by the Order.

A Local Development Order, Neighbourhood Development Order or a Community Right to Build Order are other forms of permission that are granted.

A Development Consent Order (DCO) is the means of obtaining permission for developments categorised as Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP). This includes energy, transport, water and waste projects.

Other permissions or consents that may need to be obtained before carrying out development include:

For more information see: What approvals are needed before construction begins.

The Housing and Planning Bill 2015 included measures to introduce a 'permission in principle' (PiP) on land allocated for development in a qualifying document such as a brownfield register, development plan or neighbourhood plan. For more information, see Permission in principle.

Developments may not be used for purposes that are not within the use class for which they received planning permission. Planning permission is not needed to change the use of a development when the current use and the proposed use are within the same class. Changing the use of a development from one class to another may require planning permission, however, some changes are considered to be ‘permitted developments’ that are allowed without the need for a planning application.

For more information, see Change of use class.

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