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Planning FAQs

Here are answers to common questions about planning and building control services.


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: Here's a link to the glossary of planning terms.

Q: Do I need to submit a planning application if I'm not making any changes to the building?
A: Sometimes, 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.

Q: How do I know if I need planning permission?
A: There is no fixed 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 several advice services. Guidance on the overall process and services available can be found on the apply for planning permission page. For detailed guidance, see how to prepare a valid application.

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

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.

Q: What does the abbreviated code (e.g. PER, REF, WDN) mean on planning applications?
A: These are abbreviations of decision codes. You can see the most commonly used decision codes on our planning applications and fees page. Sometimes you might see other decision codes; these are set out in our planning glossary.

Before submitting your application

Q: Can I get advice before making an application?
A: Yes, we offer a Pre-application Advice Service.

Q: Why do I need to pay for planning advice?
A: Our Pre-application Advice Service can reduce your risks, increase the quality of your proposal and speed you through the planning process. Planning officers offer their time and expertise. This is why it 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 in question.

Q: What documents do I need to make a planning application?
A: We offer detailed guidance on how to prepare a valid planning application.

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. These fees are listed on our planning applications and 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.

Pre-application Advice Service

Q: Is it mandatory to use the Pre-application 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

The more information you can provide, the more detailed our feedback can be.

Q: How do I apply for the service? 
A: Use our Pre-application Advice Service application 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).

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

Q: Will I get specialist advice on specific technical issues? 
A: Specialist advice from Urban Design at Essex Place Services is a requirement on all major proposals and is included within the Pre-application Advice Service fee.  Advice from the Historic Buildings and Environment team at Essex Place Services is also required on any proposals affecting a Listed Building and/or proposals within a Conservation Area, there is a separate charge for this advice.  Specialist advice from Essex Highways or the Local Lead Flood Authority is also available via Essex County Council.

Q: Do I have to follow your advice? 
A: 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.

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 (external website). Anyone can comment on a planning application that has been submitted to us.

Q: How long will it take to get a decision on my application?
A: Most planning applications are decided within 8 weeks. Larger and more complex applications can take up to 13 weeks. Any extensions must be agreed in writing 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 in the Government guidance (external 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 contact your validation officer, please email

Q: What is the status of my application?
A: Your application passes through three stages: registration, validation and determination. 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.

Amending your application

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

If we think you should amend your application we will contact you.

Q: Will making an amendment change the timescale for getting my decision?
A: Usually, yes. The length of delay will depend on the amount of work involved to incorporate the amendment. 

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 date on the decision notice. After this date, your application will be considered ‘expired’ and you would lose your right to undertake the works.

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’.

Q: What are planning conditions?
A: Planning conditions are conditional requirements that you must satisfy before you can build your development, these are set out in your decision notice. See planning portal (external website) for more information.

Q: How do I discharge / amend / remove planning conditions?
A: To discharge / amend / remove planning conditions, you will need to submit a a Discharge of Condition (DOC) application or an application for removal or variation of a condition, often referred to as a section 73 application. You can submit these in the same way you'd submit any other application. 

Q: What if I’m unhappy with the 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 first check whether your proposal needs building regulations approval before commencing works; failure to do so may 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 and any pre-commencement planning conditions have been discharged.

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. See appealing your planning decision for more information.

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. All comments are taken into account by the case officer in their decision.

Q: What does the abbreviated code (e.g. PER, REF, WDN) mean on planning applications?
A: These are abbreviations of decision codes. You can see the most commonly used decision codes on our planning applications and fees page. Sometimes you might see other decision codes, these are set out in our planning glossary.

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. Only comments that are made on planning grounds, known as material considerations (external website), will affect the decision.

Q: Why wasn’t I notified about a particular application?
A: Notification of planning applications is carried out as per the Council’s adopted Statement of Community Involvement.

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. Occasionally your comments may take a couple of days to appear on Public Access.

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.

Q: What does the abbreviated code (e.g. PER, REF, WDN) mean on planning applications?
A: These are abbreviations of decision codes. You can see the most commonly used decision codes on our planning applications and fees page. Sometimes you might see other decision codes, these are set out in our Planning Glossary.

Local Plan

Q: What is the Local Plan and how does this affect a property?
A: The Local Plan is a development plan document that sets out the framework for development in Rochford 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?
A: Here is a link to the currently adopted Rochford Development Management Plan.

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 Rochford MyMaps. Or use the link to the interactive adopted Allocation Plan 2014.

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, 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. The Government provides more information on the Local Plan process.

Allocations and designations

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

Q: How do I find out if a building is listed?
A: You can find out if your property is listed by using Rochford MyMaps. Under ‘show map categories’, open the group for ‘planning constraints’ and select the ‘listed buildings’ layer. You can also check the details of the listing with Historic England.

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

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

Q: How do I find out if a building is in the an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA)?
A: You can find out by using Rochford MyMaps. Under ‘show map categories’, open the group for ‘planning and environment’ and select the ‘Air Quality Management Area' layer.

Q: My property is affected by planning policies/a listed building/in a conservation area/in the green belt. Does this mean I can’t build anything?
A: No, although there are some designations that restrict development (Green Belt for example) there are certain types and scales of development in these areas that may be appropriate. All proposals would have to comply with planning policy and you can read more about these in the currently adopted development plan.

Heritage and Conservation

Please note: It is a criminal offence to carry out works to a listed building without prior listed building consent - even if you did not know that the building was listed 

Q: I’m thinking of buying a listed building, what information is there?
A: Buying and living in a listed building can be extremely rewarding. However, it's important to bear in mind that older buildings differ from modern ones, and that you may not be able to change or extend it as you wish.  Before you buy, we recommend you think about the additional considerations this might involve.

Q: Do I need consent to replace the windows on my Listed Building?  
A: Listed building consent is normally required for replacement windows.  Windows are one of the most important elements in a historic building as they contribute to your property’s character through their design, materials and workmanship.  As a rule, historic windows should be retained wherever possible using careful matching repair. Their complete replacement should be a last resort and is rarely necessary. If repair is beyond the skills of a good joiner or metal worker, an accurate copy should be made.  You should seek advice before replacing windows as listed building consent may be required. You can obtain pre application advice on works to a Listed Building.  This is a chargeable service, details can be found on a pre-application advice page.

Q: Do I need consent to make internal alterations to my Listed Building? 
A: Listed building consent is normally required before internal changes are made to the building and changes may also require building regulation approval.  The historic plan form or room layout within a building helps to tell the story of its use and of social and fashion conventions over time.  Furthermore, the construction and material used in historic partition walls is often of interest in their own right, and they may also provide structural support.  Demolishing historic walls and changes to the layout can diminish the building’s character and should generally be retained.  For further advice, please use our planning advice service.  

Q: I want to install a new bathroom / kitchen in my Listed Building, do I need consent?
A: Historic features such as old kitchen ranges are protected under the listing and should be retained.  Replacing modern sanitary ware or kitchen cupboards in existing locations does not normally require consent.  The introduction of a new bathroom and changes to the internal plan form changes to the building which will require listed building consent.  Consideration should be given to the location and installation of new services to avoid affecting the appearance of the building and to minimize disruption to historic fabric.  For further advice, please use our pre-application advice service.

Q: I want to install central heating / air conditioning in my Listed Building, do I need consent?
A: New flues and extracts will need consideration to ensure they do not detract from the building’s appearance and will require consent.  Replacement boilers and central heating in existing locations is unlikely to require consent. 

Q: I want to improve the energy efficiency of my Listed Building, how can I do this? 
A: Improving the energy efficiency of your building can be done sympathetically and without compromising its historic character.  The best approach is to look at your whole home, its own environment, construction, condition and historic significance. You need to know all the factors that affect energy use in order to devise your own energy efficiency strategy for your home.  Getting energy efficiency measures wrong or doing them badly can result in damage to the historic building and its fabric, and potential harm to your health. It may also fail to achieve predicted energy or cost savings.  Depending on the measures, listed building consent may be required.  See advice on Historic England’s website

Q: I want to extend my Listed Building, how do I do this?
A: Your home may have already been extended over time, or it may have been built in one go. When deciding on an extension it’s important to understand how the house has changed in the past, its particular character and how it sits within the garden or surroundings - its ‘setting’.  There are some cases where extension is not appropriate but, where acceptable in principle, extensions should not dominate the building in location, form or detailing.  This tends to mean that the extension should be smaller and lower than the main building.  Where a building already has been extended, the cumulative result of extensions should not be overpowering. 

Planning permission and Building Regulations approval may be required to extend your house. In addition, Listed Building Consent will be required if your building is listed.  It is strongly recommended that you use our pre-application advice service before submitting proposals. 

Q: I want to convert my loft in my Listed Building, can I do this?
A: Utilising attic space may be an option to increase accommodation in your building.  Listed Building Consent will be required. However, it is likely that building regulations approval will be required and this may have implications on the architectural or historic character of your building.  Would the roof structure need to be altered to provide access and headroom, does the attic already have sufficient windows and is the means of escape sufficient?   It is advised that advice is sought to ensure that proposals for loft conversions are sympathetic to the special interest and structure of the building. Please use our pre-application advice service.

Q: I want a new building in the garden of my Listed Building, can I do this?
A: There are very limited permitted development rights within the garden or curtilage (the land historically associated with the building) of a listed building and most new structures - garages, greenhouses, annex buildings etc - will require planning permission.   

Q: I want to alter/convert/demolish an existing building in the garden of my Listed Building, can I do this?
A: The extent of the curtilage (the land historically associated with the building), depends upon a number of factors and must be considered on a case by case basis.  Within the curtilage of a listed building, outbuildings, structures, walls and other features which pre-date 1948 are usually included within the listing protection.  The general rule is that they should be retained.  Listed building consent is required for the demolition or alteration of curtilage listed structures in addition to any planning requirements.   

Q: I need to find an architect or contractor to do works on my Listed Building, where can I find one?
A: Using a professional architect or surveyor with knowledge and experience of listed buildings can help you care for and manage your property appropriately.  Accredited professions can be found on the following websites: 

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 HM Land Registry or through your local archives. We also offer a Planning Research Service.

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 longer to respond.

If you are looking for details on historic planning conditions, you can find out by looking at the planning history or by using our planning history research service.

Q: What do I do if I want to look at a planning file?
A: Planning documents are stored on Public Access. Most planning documents are submitted to the Local Planning Authority via the Planning Portal and so the Council does not routinely hold hard copies of files. If you require assistance viewing documents online you can visit the Council’s reception who may be able to assist you with navigating the screens.

Q: How do I talk to someone in the planning department?
A: The best way is to email or call Customer Services on 01702 318111 or 01702 318191 who may be able to answer your question or signpost you to additional resources. If you still need to speak to a member of the planning team  we will arrange for a member of staff to contact 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 with your question and we'll get back to you as soon as possible.