The requirement to obtain planning permission for most forms of development was introduced as early as 1947. Development can involve not only physical works but also changes of use.

What constitutes ‘development’ is defined  in Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act.  However, it  should be noted that works which a layperson may understand to be development may not actually be development for the purposes of the legislation.  Quite often, a matter of fact and degree has to be applied in order to determine whether or not ‘development’ has taken place.

Definition of Development

Development is defined in Section 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 as the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operation’s in, on, over or under land; or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land.

The definition of ‘buildings’ does not actually set out what constitutes a building. It is therefore necessary to apply the tests which have emerged from judicial  and ministerial consideration of this term.  The tests to determine what a ‘building’ constitutes are:

1.  degree of permanency
2.  size
3.  physical attachment

Therefore, a view has to be taken in light of the above 3 tests to establish whether development has taken place.

Please remember that it is not necessary to obtain planning permission for the following works:

a.  works to the interior of a building (listed building consent may be required for to a listed building)
b.  works that do not materially affect the external appearance of the building.

Material Changes of Use

What constitutes a material change of use is not laid down in statute. Therefore, the local planning authority must take a view on whether the intensity of activities on a site either within or around the buildings, has made it necessary to consider whether such changes amount to material changes of use requiring planning permission.

In conclusion, when approaching any form of development, there are 3 preliminary questions to answer;

a.  does the proposal fall within the definition of ‘development’? If yes:

b.  is the proposal covered by an existing general planning permission?

c.  if the answer to b. is no – a specific planning permission is required for the development.  If the answer was yes, no planning permission is required.