Planning FAQs

Get answers to some commonly asked questions about planning and building control services.

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General

Q: What is the difference between planning and building control?
A: Planning concerns the use, appearance and impact of buildings, while building control concerns the internal design, construction and safety of buildings.

Q: Are planning permission and building regulations approval the same thing?
A: No. Planning permission is the approval of a proposed development, while building regulations approval is the meeting of the standards for the built development. Not all developments require both.

Q: Where can I find a glossary of planning terms?
A: You can find a glossary of planning terms on our website.

Q: What are 'use classes'?
A: You can find guidance on different use classes and some of the permitted development rights of these 'use classes' on our website.

Q: Do I need to submit a planning application if I'm not making any changes to the building?
A: Yes, for example in a 'change of use' application (where you intend to use the building/land for something different to what it currently is). The use of a building/land does not need to involve any structural changes, and a planning application may still need to be submitted for a change of use. See What are 'use classes'? for more information.

Q: How do I know if I need planning permission?
A: There is no agreed list of what you can or can’t do in planning. See apply for planning permission for details on when you do and don’t need planning permission.

Q: How do I apply for planning permission?
A: Step-by-step guidance can be found on the apply for planning permission page.

Q: Where can I pay for my planning application?
A: You can pay for your planning application using our online payment service.

Q: I need help putting together an application, can the Council help?
A: Yes, we offer an application advice service. More details can be found on the apply for planning permission page.

Q: Where can I view plans?
A: You can view plans for submitted, permitted and refused planning applications through Public Access.

Q: Are all planning documents shown on the Public Access website?
A: No. There are many reasons why something may not be shown/visible on the website.

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Before submitting your application

Q: Can I get advice before making an application?
A: Yes, we offer a Planning Advice Service which has replaced the former pre-application service.

Q: Why do I need to pay for pre-application advice?
A: The Planning Advice Service can offer certainty for you and/or your developer or agent on where your application may have issues. In order to do this, the planning officers spend a lot of time looking into your application. This is this why this is a charged service.

Q: Who can apply for planning permission?
A: Anyone can apply for planning permission, even if you are not the owner of the land you want to apply for. This is called having an ‘option’ on a site.

Q: What documents do I need to make a planning application?
A: There are several documents required to make a valid planning application. Details on what is needed, how to create those documents, and best-practice examples can be found on the apply for planning permission page.

Q: How do I know what type of planning application I should make?
A: There are many types of planning application. Information can be found on the apply for planning permission page.

Q: How much does it cost to submit a planning application?
A: The fees for submitting planning applications are set by the Government (not Wycombe District Council). These fees are listed on our planning and building control fees page.

Q: Do you prioritise certain applications?
A: No. All applications are considered equally, regardless of who has submitted the application or the size/scale of the development.

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After submitting your application

Q: Who is consulted about a planning application?
A: When a planning application is submitted there are several statutory (required by law) consultees and these are set out on the Government website. Anyone can comment on a planning application that has been submitted to us.

Q: Can I make amendments once my application has been validated?
A: Yes, however this may or may not result in a charge, depending on the circumstances of the request (for instance, if we have asked you to amend your application). More information can be found on the apply for planning permission page.

Q: How long will it take to get a decision on my application?
A: Most planning applications are decided within eight weeks of submission, however for larger and more complex applications this can be extended to 13 weeks. This can be formally extended in written agreement between the case officer and the applicant.

Q: What is considered by a case officer when making a decision on my planning application?
A: When determining a planning application, a case officer must consider how the development complies with national policy, the local development plan, and material planning considerations. More information on these can be found on the Government website.

Q: Can I speak to my case officer/validation officer?
A: Yes, once your case officer has been allocated you will be able to contact them by phone or email. To speak to your validation officer, please contact the planning department by email.

Q: What is the status of my application?
A: Your application passes through three stages: registration, validation and decision. If your application fails either registration or validation you will be contacted by the planning department. Once your application has been validated you can see the status of your application on Public Access.

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After you've received your decision

Q: How long does my planning permission last for?
A: Once planning permission has been granted, you have three years to implement (start) your planning permission.

Q: When does my planning consent expire?
A: Your planning consent expires three years from the point of granting. After this date, your application will be considered ‘expired’ and you will have to apply again for planning permission.

Q:  What are 'reserved matters'?
A: Reserved matters accompany outline planning applications that seek approval for development ‘in principle’ with some of the details to be covered later or ‘reserved’. Details on what this means are set out on the apply for planning permission page.

Q: What if I’m unhappy with my decision?
A: If you are unhappy with the decision on your planning application, you can appeal the decision by applying to the planning inspectorate. Details on how to do this can be found on the apply for planning permission page.

Q: I have planning permission, when can I start work?
A: You should check whether your proposal needs building regulations approval before commencing works, as failure to do so can result in a fine. If your scheme does not require building regulations approval, you can start work as soon as planning permission has been granted.

Q: When do I have to complete the works?
A: In most cases once you have started building there is no restriction on when these need to be completed. Certain permitted development rights, however, do have restrictions on when works must be completed. See use class orders explained for requirements on permitted development.

Q: I have been refused planning permission, can I appeal the decision and where can I do this?
A: Yes, if you wish to appeal the decision on your planning application you can apply to the planning inspectorate. Details on how to do this can be found on the appeal a planning decision page.

Q: My neighbour wants to build houses in their garden, can I appeal against their application if they are successful?
A: No, only the applicant can appeal a planning decision. However, anyone can make a comment on a planning application during the determination process, and all comments will be taken into account by the case officer in their decision.

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Commenting on a planning application

Q: How do I comment on a planning application?
A: You can find out how and where to comment on planning applications on the comment on a planning application page.

Q: How are my comments taken into account?
A: Comments received on planning applications are considered by the case officer as material planning considerations (external website). This means they must be weighed up when making a decision.

Q: Why wasn’t I notified about this application?
A: Unless you have requested to be notified, or are a statutory consultee, you will not be automatically notified about planning applications. Setting up notifications is straight forward and you can find out how to set this up on the comment on a planning application page.

Q: I've commented on a planning application. Are my comments visible?
A: All comments made on planning applications are visible on Public Access, unless there are exceptional reasons for not doing so.

Q: Can I make private and confidential comments on planning applications?
A: We do redact (censor) personal information by default (email addresses and phone numbers). However, if you wish for other details to be redacted (name, address, etc) this should be made clear at the point of submitting comments.

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Local Plan

Q: What is the Local Plan and how does this affect my property?
A: The Local Plan is a development plan document that sets out the framework for development in Wycombe for the next 20 years. It contains the planning policies (rules) for what can/can’t be done in a certain area.

Q: Where can I view the current development plan for Wycombe?
A: You can view the currently adopted Wycombe development plan on our website.

Q: How do I find out whether there is an allocation adjoining/near to my property?
A: For allocations in an adopted Local Plan you can look on the MyMaps section of MyWycombe. Make sure to select all layers in the 'planning policy' category. (For proposed allocations in a draft Local Plan, you will need to look in the document for the policies maps which will show the proposed areas for allocation. These allocations are not finalised until the Local Plan is adopted.)

Q: How do I comment on the Local Plan?
A: The Local Plan is consulted on at various stages in the process (for specific periods of time) and these consultations will be advertised on our website.

Q: The draft Local Plan has allocated land for housing by my property, is this definitely going to happen?
A: No. The allocations in a Local Plan are only finalised once it is adopted. Before the Local Plan can be adopted it must go through an examination by the planning inspectorate, who may suggest changes. More information on the Local Plan process can be found on the Government website.

Q: If an allocation is adjoining/near to my property, will it affect the value?
A: Research undertaken by LSE in 2015 [PDF | 830KB] has found that house prices do not always decline around new housing developments, at least not for a sustained period of time. Short-term price reductions during or immediately after the construction period were noted in some cases. The impact of development on adjoining house prices is not a planning matter and is therefore not a material consideration for planning decisions.

Q: The land near to my property has been allocated in the adopted Local Plan. When will this be built?
A: There is no definitive answer as to when allocated land is built, however the rough phasing (usually split between 0-5 years, 6-10 years and 11-15 years) is identified in our Housing Land Supply. You can view the housing trajectory for the emerging Local Plan (not yet adopted) on our website.

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Allocations and designations

Q: What are planning policies and how do I find out if my building is affected?
A: Planning policies are the ‘rules’ for development in your area. These are found in a variety of documents: the Local Development Plan (Local Plan), Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs), or Neighbourhood Development Plans (Neighbourhood Plans). The planning policies for Wycombe can be found in the currently adopted Wycombe development plan.

Q: How do I find out if my building is listed?
A: You can find out if your property is listed by using MyMaps on MyWycombe. Under ‘show map categories’, open the group for ‘planning constraints’ and select the ‘listed buildings’ layer.

Q: How do I find out if my building is in a Conservation Area?
A: You can find out if your property is listed by using MyMaps on MyWycombe. Under ‘show map categories’, open the group for ‘planning policy’ and select the ‘conservation areas’ layer.

Q: How do I find out if my building is in the Green Belt?
A: You can find out if your property is listed by using MyMaps on MyWycombe. Under ‘show map categories’, open the group for ‘planning policy’ and select the ‘green belt’ layer.

Q: How do I find out if my building is in the AONB?
A: You can find out if your property is listed by using MyMaps on MyWycombe. Under ‘show map categories’, open the group for ‘planning policy’ and select the ‘area of outstanding natural beauty' layer.

Q: My property is affected by planning policies/a listed building/in a conservation area/in the green belt/in the AONB. Does this mean I can’t build anything?

A: No, although there are some designations that restrict development (Green Belt and AONB for example) there are certain types and scales of development in these areas. All proposals would have to comply with planning policy and you can read more about these in the currently adopted Wycombe development plan.

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Planning Advice Service

Q: Is it mandatory to use the planning advice service?
A:No, but we often recommend it.

Q: Why should I use the service?
A:Using the service could:

  • help you make the most of your opportunity
  • reduce the likelihood of an invalid application
  • help you understand how policies affect proposals
  • improve the quality of your application and proposal
  • avoid delays during the planning process
  • reduce your development costs and the risk of refusal

Q: What information should I submit?
A:We want to engage with you as early as possible, so if all you have is a concept, that's not a problem, we'll still work with you. If you can provide the following they are really useful:

  • A location plan (1:1250 scale) with the proposed development site outlined in red and all other land under your control (owned, leased or with options) outlined in blue.
  • A brief description of the development.
  • Details of any consultations already undertaken, eg highways authority, environment agency.
  • A site history - ie occupancy of the site.
  • Photographs of the site.

Q: How do I apply for the service?
A: Use our online apply for planning advice form.

Q: How much does it cost to use the service?
A: The fee for planning advice depends on the type/scale of your proposal (householder/residential, commercial and other). See the planning and building control fees for a breakdown of fees.

Q: What happens after I apply?
A:We will contact you within one week to arrange a meeting, preferably to take place the following week. After the meeting we will respond in writing within two weeks. In total, the process should take no more than four weeks, unless your availability for the meeting causes delay.

Q: Will I get specialist advice on specific technical issues?
A:Specialist advice is not part of our Initial Advice Service. If you choose to use the Follow-on Advice Service at your case officer’s recommendation, they may co-ordinate the input of specialists as they consider necessary.

Q: Do I have to follow your advice?
A:The advice letter will give a recommendation to:

  • submit a planning application
  • withdraw the proposal
  • seek follow-on advice
  • enter a planning performance agreement

You do not have to follow our advice, but not doing so is likely to carry greater risk for you.

Q: If I follow your advice to submit an application, will it definitely be approved?
A:No, but we rely on our reputation when selling advice services. We therefore work hard to ensure our advice is correct. The advice process may be less probing than assessing a planning application, so there is a risk that:

  • the proposal may raise further issues as it is worked up in detail
  • consultees may identify additional issues
  • the planning committee may take a different view to our advice

Q: If I submit a planning application after receiving initial advice, will I be assigned the same case officer?
A:Where possible, yes.

Q: What is a planning performance agreement?
A:Planning performance agreements (PPAs) are voluntary agreements between applicants and local planning authorities for large or complex planning proposals. They bring the developer and local planning authority together to work in partnership throughout the planning process. This ensures that the required resources and expertise are available to deliver high-quality developments.

Q: What should I do if you recommend that I withdraw the proposal?
A:We only recommend a proposal is withdrawn where we see no way of resolving the issues created in trying to meet your aims. You could still make an application, but it is very unlikely that it will be approved. A better course of action would be to revise your aims and submit a new initial advice request.

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Amending your application

Q: Can I amend my application after submission?
A: Yes. For applications submitted after 1 April 2019, you will need to use the Planning Application Amendment service.

Q: What happens if my case officer wants me to amend my application?
A: There are several reasons why we may recommend an amendment, such as:

  • improving your likelihood of approval
  • improving the quality of your development
  • improving the value or benefit to the applicant of the development
  • preventing you from having to start a new application from scratch

Q: Why are you charging for this service?
A: Currently, our officers spend a lot of time incorporating amendments from applicants. The cost of this work is rarely covered by the planning application fee. By introducing a paid service, we will recover the cost of this additional time and deliver a more efficient service. 

There will also be an increase in the quality and value of some developments. We would prefer applicants to use our Planning Advice service to seek out improvements before submission, but we recognise that some changes are only spotted after submission. 

Q: Do I have to use this service?
A: This is a discretionary service. You only have to use it if you wish to amend an application after submission. 

If your case officer has suggested an amendment, you are not required to follow their advice. However, you should think carefully about the impact of the amendment before dismissing it. It is likely to be to your advantage.

Q: Will using this service guarantee that my application is approved?
A: No. Using this service will not ensure that your application is approved. If an amendment is suggested by your case officer, it is likely to improve your chances of being approved. 

If you request an amendment that is likely to harm your application, we will discuss this with you. 

Q: Will making an amendment change the timescale for getting my decision?
A: Usually, yes. By submitting the Request Form you are agreeing to the extension of your determination period by one week. If the request is accepted, a further extension to the determination date will be notified to you. The length of delay will depend on the amount of work involved in incorporating the amendment. 

Q: Can I request for an amendment before creating supporting documentation?
A: Yes, you can make a request describing the amendment you would like to make without submitting supporting documents. However, before we can process your amendment we must have received all supporting documentation.

Q: What happens if my supporting documentation fails validation?
A: Supporting documents are validated in the same way as during a normal application. If a document fails validation you will need to correct it and resubmit it. 

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Help and guidance

Q: Where can I find professional help for planning services?
A: There are many professional services that can assist you with the planning applications and building regulations approval process. Details on recommended trade-professionals can be found on the Planning Portal.

Q: How can I find out who owns a certain piece of land?
A: You can purchase copies of registry details and title plans from HM Land Registry We cannot provide copies of these documents for you.

Q: I am buying a house, how do I find out what the planning history is?
A: You can research the planning history of your property through a planning consultant, by looking at the Government's register of planning decisions or through your local archives. We also operate a planning history check service which can be applied for on the apply for planning permission page.

Q: How do I find out if a condition has been discharged?
A: We aim to respond to applications to discharge planning conditions within four weeks, however it can sometimes take eight weeks or more to respond. Like planning decisions, you have a right to appeal if it is taking too long to issue a decision.

If you are looking for details on historic planning conditions, you can find out by looking at the planning history.

Q: What do I do if I want to look at a planning file?
A: All planning documents are stored on Public Access. If you wish to see a hard copy of these documents please contact the planning department by email.

Q: How do I talk to someone in the planning department?
A: The best way to speak to someone in the planning department is by email. A member of the department will get in touch with you.

Q: I am concerned that someone is building/demolishing without planning permission, how do I notify the Council?
A: If you feel that there has been a breach in planning, please complete the online planning complaint form as soon as possible to report it to the planning enforcement team.

Not found the answer you were looking for? Please email planning@wycombe.gov.uk with your question and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.