Planning – frequently asked questions
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Planning – frequently asked questions

​Get answers to commonly asked questions about applying for planning permission and commenting on planning applications.

Do I need planning permission?

This will depend on:

  • the scale and location of the proposed works or development
  • the planning policies related to the application site.

The Planning Portal provides extensive general advice on the need for planning permission.

Can I get pre-application advice?

Yes – you can discuss your proposals with a planning officer and get planning advice before you submit your application.

Why do I need to pay for pre-application advice?

The cost of pre-application advice and planning performance agreements is based on daily rates for officers, including overheads. The exact cost depends on the scale of the application and the resources required.

The fees cover our costs for providing the advice. If we did not charge this, the cost would have to be met by council taxpayers generally. The fees do not include VAT which we will apply at the appropriate level when we invoice you. Any fees paid will not be refunded if it is decided advice is no longer required, even if we have not yet provided it.

After we assess the resources needed, we may need to bring in additional expertise or temporary staff, to be funded by the applicant. Importantly, any fees paid do not directly fund the person or people involved in the project.

When a planning application for a major development proposal is submitted without a planning performance agreement, it will be handled as a routine application within the existing workload of the team, without dedicated resource.

What documents do I need to make a planning application?

Please check our local information requirements list before making a planning application.

How do I apply?

You can make your planning application online through the Planning Portal, by email or post.

The Planning Portal is easy to use – after registering your name and address just follow the steps. Guidance is given at every stage and step-by-step video tutorials are also available. You can attach drawings and documents (e.g. a design and access statement) and pay fees online.

Using the Planning Portal could save you the cost of agents or other advisers. It can take time to apply, but you can save your work and come back to it at any time.

If emailing or sending by post you will need to download and print the correct planning application form and check which documents you need to submit by using our local information requirements list. If emailing please email planning@lewisham.gov.uk and if posting please send to:

Planning Department
London Borough of Lewisham
3rd floor Laurence House
Catford
SE6 4RU

Please thoroughly check everything before sending your application. Getting it right first time can save a lot of time and trouble. It is always helpful to clearly state the site address on all documents.

How much will my application cost?

The cost of an application varies. Please see the list of fees below.

Documents

Do you prioritise valid applications?

We will prioritise applications which are valid on receipt (i.e. the application contains all the required documents and plans which are in the correct format). We aim to validate them within five days of receipt, or 10 days for major applications.

If your application is found to be invalid (applications must follow the requirements set out in the local information requirements list we will write to you explaining why. We aim to do this within 10 days.

If your submission is totally inadequate, we will return it to you. If you get a letter advising that your application is invalid then you will have 21 days in which to submit the information. After that date we will treat the application as ‘withdrawn’, unless you have made contact with the Planning Validation Team and explained why, in which case we may give you longer to submit the information.

Who is consulted about a planning application?

Consultation is an invitation to anyone who may be interested in the application to comment on it. We must allow at least 21 days for responses. Depending on the type of application, we may consult in the following ways:

  • individual letters to neighbours and others nearby
  • a site notice
  • a press advert

We may also write to other council departments, amenity groups, or bodies such as the Environment Agency or Historic England for their views on your proposal.

Our statement of community involvement gives more information about our consultation standards.

How do I comment on a planning application?

You can comment on planning applications online.

Alternatively you can email or write to the Planning Service, including your address. You can comment on an application even if you have not been formally consulted.

We must receive your written comments within 21 days of the start of the consultation period. If you need help making comments on a planning application, contact the planning officer named on the consultation document.

If the planning application needs to be considered by the Planning Committee, and you have submitted comments, you will be informed when the meeting will take place.

What comments are taken into consideration during a consultation?

We can only consider planning comments about:

  • design and layout
  • external appearance and materials
  • access for disabled people
  • loss of daylight, sunlight and privacy of neighbours
  • noise nuisance
  • traffic and parking issues
  • loss of, or an increase in, a particular type of use of land.

Can I make amendments once my application has been validated?

If your scheme only requires relatively minor changes to make it acceptable, negotiations may be undertaken to obtain satisfactory amended plans. A number of factors influence this judgment although the primary ones are:

  1. planning policy considerations
  2. the scale of the amendments required.

If the proposal is contrary to policy and it is unlikely that negotiations could overcome this or if the scheme is sub-standard (for example owing to density, design or highway reasons), the case officer will progress your application to a determination without conducting negotiations. The reasons for refusal will advise the applicant/agent of which issues were considered to be unacceptable.

How long will it take to get a decision?

We aim to determine most planning applications within the statutory time periods – usually eight weeks (or 13 for major developments and 16 for EIA development) from the date of validation.

For reference, please visit: http://planningguidance.communities.gov.uk/blog/guidance/determining-a-planning-application/what-are-the-time-periods-for-determining-a-planning-application.

Most applications are decided by planning officers under delegated powers, but in some cases may be referred to the Planning Committee. Planning committee meetings are held every two weeks.

8 weeks have passed, why haven’t I got a decision on my planning application?

Please first check your emails as we usually send them to the email address given by your agent or by you if you did not use an agent. If you still find that you have not received a decision, then please phone Business Support on 0208 314 7400.

Can I speak to my Case Officer/ Validation Officer?

We deal with a large number of calls, and in the first instance, please review the information on the pages below as your question may have been addressed there.

More information on the planning application process can be found here.

More information on validation requirements can be found here.  

If the information above does not address your enquiry, and you would like to speak to the Case Officer/ Validation Officer, you will find their numbers at the top right hand side of the letter you received from them.

How long does planning permission last for?

Full permission is usually valid for three years.

Once an application is made to discharge conditions attached to a planning permission can I add to or revise the information?

We will progress the application on the basis of what we have received. 

What are reserved matters?

Reserved matters relate to design, external appearance, siting, means of access and landscaping for the erection of new buildings, where outline permission has been granted. Conditions attached to the permission may require other details to be approved e.g. materials, but only those in the five categories mentioned are reserved matters.

When can I start work?

Once you have received planning permission from us or, if the permission includes details to be approved by condition, once those details are approved.

What if I am unhappy with a planning decision?

If we refuse permission or impose conditions we will give reasons. If you are unhappy or unclear about the reasons for refusal or the conditions imposed, contact the officer who processed your application.

Only applicants have the right of appeal. It is important that objections are made to the Planning Department before planning permission is decided. If the applicant appeals against the decision, objectors will be invited to submit further comments.

If you are the applicant, you can appeal against the decision to the Planning Inspectorate. Their website has appeal forms, or you can appeal online via the Planning Portal.

You can appeal against:

  • a refusal of planning permission
  • conditions attached to a planning approval
  • a decision not being made within eight weeks of our receiving a valid application (this is known as a deemed refusal and we advise you to contact the case officer before you make an appeal of this type)
  • an enforcement notice relating to unauthorised development.

Where do I find professional help?

The Planning Service is here to help and advise you, but if your project is complex or controversial, or involves particular design or conservation expertise, you may want a professional to act for you. We are unable to recommend a particular professional agent but recommend that you seek advice from appropriately qualified professionals. A list of professional bodies is below:

This list is not exhaustive and other professionals may be able to help you.

If you do engage an agent, all correspondence and enquiries will go through them and they will receive the decision notice.

We will assume your agent has advised you about the risks that may arise if you do not follow our advice. Your agent should also be able to advise you about the foreseeable issues associated with your proposal. So, if you have any problems with your application, please contact your agent.

How do I find out if a building is listed?

You can find out if a building is listed by visiting the Historic England website.

How do I find out if a building is in a conservation area?

Please check on our conservation areas page which has a list of conservation area maps.

What changes are permitted in conservation areas?

Details of permitted development in conservation areas can be found here.

If your house is covered by an Article 4 Direction please also read the following pages. An Article 4 Direction means that planning permission will be required for certain changes (e.g. repainting of the front elevation) and as such a planning application would be required. 

Do I need permission to create a drive/dropped kerb outside my house?

An access made onto a classified road requires planning permission. Please note that the consent of the Highway Authority may also be required.

More information about dropped kerbs.

What does the current “use class” mean?

The planning portal provides detailed explanations about use classes. 

What is the site currently used as?

Please contact business rates who will be able to help you with your enquiry.

What is the current permitted use of the site?

Please use our Planning Information Service for more information.

I want to change the use of a property, do I need permission?

You may not need permission in cases involving similar types of uses. More information can be found here.

However, if you need more specific advice about changing use class, it would be better to make an appointment using our Planning Advice Service.
This is a chargeable service depending on the level of advice you require.

I have seen a piece of land who owns it?

If you find that the property is owned by the Council, more information can be found here.

I am buying a house - what is planning history? Can I obtain decision notices? (e.g. did the previous owners have planning permission for the extension?)

Planning history is the record of all planning applications and decisions attached to a property. Our online register Public Access allows you to search planning files, decision notices and the planning history on a property. This is a very easy-to-use tool which will generate any planning applications since 2006 at the address along with drawings/documents and associated decision notices which you can download and save.

If the information you require is not online, then email planning@lewisham.gov.uk. Please note that these requests can only be dealt with via email, and if the enquiry is made by phone, callers will still be advised to send in an email.

How do I find out if a condition has been discharged?

We can check for you at a cost of £65 per hour plus VAT. Fees are payable in advance. Please contact planning@lewisham.gov.uk providing details of the application, its reference and address and the conditions you wish to know about.

If you suspect non-compliance with a planning condition please make a report to the Enforcement Team by emailing planning@lewisham.gov.uk.

What do I do if I want to look at a planning file?

Please contact planning@lewisham.gov.uk giving the site address or planning application number. Within five working days we will retrieve the file (if available) from our archives and tell you that it is available for viewing. If we have been unable to retrieve your file from our archives, we will tell you this also. You will not be able to take the file away with you or make copies of any part of the planning file.

Can I speak to a planning officer/the Duty Planner?

To speak to a planning officer about a general enquiry, please read through the FAQs page carefully before you call as your question may already have been addressed.

To speak to a planning officer in order to get pre-application advice before you submit an application, then please book a session.
To speak to a planning officer regarding your planning application, then please contact the officer directly. Their telephone number will be at the top of the letter you received from them.

To speak to a planning officer for any other matter, please email your enquiry to planning@lewisham.gov.uk and your enquiry will be routed to the most appropriate person or department who will contact you.

What is the difference between planning and building control?

  •  Planning looks at the use of the land and decides whether the proposed building work can go ahead and in what capacity.
  • Building control is concerned with the technical side such as making sure building regulations are upheld and public safety is maintained.
  • More information about building control can be found here.