Planning permission in Scotland

If you want to extend or alter your home in some way, you may need to apply for planning permission. This page looks at the kinds of work which require planning permission, how to apply and what to do if permission is refused.

What do I need planning permission for?

You may need planning permission if you want to develop land in any way or change the use of a property. This includes:

  • adding a large extension or conservatory to a house

  • adding any kind of extension to a flat or maisonette

  • dividing off part of your home to make a separate home or place of business, such as a bedsit, workshop or office

  • building a separate home on your land (this includes putting a mobile home or caravan in your garden, if it is to be used as a separate residence).

What don't I need planning permission for?

Internal alterations or any work that doesn't alter the outward appearance of the property probably won't need planning permission, but may well require a building warrant. In addition, you probably won't need planning permission if you want to:

  • add a small extension or porch to a house

  • build a garage, garden shed, greenhouse or summerhouse

  • put up a fence

  • lay paving or decking in your garden

  • install equipment including solar panels and ground and water source heat pumps in order to generate your own energy (however, this will depend on the size of the equipment and where you want to site it).

These are known as 'permitted developments'. Whether or not you need planning permission often depends on the size and location of the development and the type of property you live in, so if you're thinking of carrying out work of this type, it's always best to check with the planning authority first. Be aware that if you live in a conservation area, you may need to apply for planning permission to make these kinds of alterations.

Do I need planning permission to put up a satellite dish?

This will depend on the type of property you live in and the size and number of dishes you wish to install. The way planning authorities deal with applications for putting up satellite dishes can vary, so it's best to get in touch with your local planning authority to check whether or not you need to apply for planning permission and if so, what the procedure is.

If you live in a listed building or conservation area, there may be restrictions on where you can put the dish. In the case of a listed building, you'll also need listed building consent. In these situations it may be more convenient to get cable or digital television instead.

How do I get planning permission?

The planning department at your local council handles planning permission. In Scotland, you can apply through e- Planning Scotland. The site includes a 'form wizard', which can help you work out which forms you need to fill in, and will guide you through the application process step-by-step.

Before you make your application, discuss your plans with staff at the planning department. They will be able to:

  • tell you whether you need planning permission for your project

  • advise you on whether permission is likely to be granted, and if not, how you can amend your plans to make them more acceptable

  • tell you whether you need to make a full or outline application

  • give you the relevant forms to make your application

  • give you advice on filling in the forms

  • tell you what you need to do to let your neighbours know about the application

  • tell you how much the fee for your application will be - use the fee calculator at the e- Planning Scotland website to find out how much this is likely to be. If you are disabled and are extending your home to make it more suitable for you, the fee should be waived.

In most cases, you'll need to make a full application, including detailed plans of the proposed work. However, if you want to know what the council thinks of your plans before you come up with detailed designs, you can send in an outline application instead. You might want to speak to Planning Aid for Scotland, a charity that offers free impartial advice on planning.

If you are employing a building professional such as an architect, surveyor or builder, they can make the application on your behalf.

Do I have to tell my neighbours what I plan to do?

Yes, you must let your neighbours know about your plans before you apply for planning permission. Once you've submitted your application, you or the planning department will need to put up notices in the area or write to the people who will be affected by the building work, asking for their comments. Some large developments will also be advertised in local newspapers. Your neighbours then have up to 21 days to comment on the application. If they have good reason to object to your plans, the planning department will need to take this into account.

For example, the council can take into account concerns about:

  • loss of light or privacy

  • potential problems with parking

  • what the development will look like

  • the environmental impact.

They can't take into account:

  • any loss of value to nearby properties

  • any loss of view(s)

  • personal disputes between neighbours

  • complaints about disturbance while the work is being carried out.

What if I change my plan?

If you change your plans before permission has been granted, you may be able to amend your application. However, if the changes are substantial, you may have to submit a new application. Speak to the planning department to find out.

What can the planning department decide?

Once the planning department have assessed your application, they'll write to you to let you know their decision. They should make a decision within two months, although this may be longer in the case of listed building consent. They can:

  • grant permission

  • grant permission with certain conditions attached

  • refuse permission.

If permission is granted, you must carry out the work within three years. You must also let the planning department know when you start and finish the work.

What if planning permission is refused?

If your application is turned down, there are several courses of action open to you.

Requesting a review

In some cases, the planning department may delegate the process of assessing applications to a third party, for example, an independent planning company. In this situation, if that third party turns your application down, grants permission but attaches conditions to this or doesn't look at your application, you can ask the planning department to review your case. If it doesn't do so, you can then appeal to the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals.

Appealing to the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals

The planning department must give you their reasons for turning down your application. You can appeal to the Directorate for Planning and Environmental Appeals (formerly the Scottish Executive Inquiry Reporters' Unit) if you think that:

  • the reasons for refusal are unfair or inadequate, or

  • the conditions imposed by the planning department are impractical or unreasonable.

If you want to appeal, you must do so within six months of the decision date. The Directorate will then reassess your application.

You can appeal through the e- Planning Scotland, using the forms provided.

Appealing to the Court of Session

If you think the planning department or the Directorate have acted unfairly or haven't followed the decision process properly, you may be able to take your case to the Court of Session if you're considering this course of action, but bear in mind that applying to the Court of Session can be a costly and lengthy process. You may wish to consult with a solicitor if you're considering this course of action.

What if I don't have planning permission or don't stick to the conditions?

 There are several notices the planning department can issue if they have reason to believe you are carrying out building work without planning permission or have broken the conditions of your permit.

Your local planning department should have an 'enforcement charter' that sets out:

  • what its policies are for enforcing planning permission laws

  • how you can let them know about possible breaches of planning permission, and

  • how you can appeal if you are issued with a notice.

This charter should be available online, for example on your council's website, and in your local library.

Planning contravention notice

The first step the planning department will take is to issue you with a planning contravention notice. You need to respond to this within 21 days, to explain why you believe you don't need planning permission, or why you believe you aren't breaching your permission. If you don't respond in time or you give any false information, you will be fined.

Application notice

If the planning department decides you have carried out work without planning permission, it can issue you a notice requiring you to apply for permission for the work retrospectively.

Enforcement notice

If you are carrying out work without planning permission or have not kept to the conditions of your permit, the planning department can issue an enforcement notice ordering you to comply with the conditions or undo the work and put everything back the way it was by a certain deadline, which must be at least 28 days away. You have the right to appeal against an enforcement notice.

If you don't appeal or comply with the notice, the planning department can issue you with a fixed penalty notice, ordering you to pay a sum of money within 30 days. If you don't pay the fine, you could be taken to court and forced to pay a much larger fine.

Breach of condition notice

The planning department can issue a breach of condition notice ordering you to put right any work you've done which breaks conditions attached to your planning permission. There is no right of appeal against a breach of condition notice.

If you don't comply with the notice, the planning department can issue you with a fixed penalty notice, ordering you to pay a sum of money within 30 days. If you don't pay the fine, you could be taken to court and forced to pay a much larger fine.

Stop notice

The planning department can also issue a stop notice, ordering you to halt all work within 28 days. A stop notice can be issued at the same time as an enforcement notice, to ensure you halt work while the situation is being sorted out. There is no appeal against a stop notice so if you don't halt work, you'll receive a fine.

Temporary stop notice

A temporary stop notice orders you to stop carrying out a certain activity specified in the notice for 28 days. For example, the planning department may issue a temporary stop notice to prevent you piling up rubbish on site, or knocking down a wall. If you don't comply with the notice, you can be taken to court and fined.

Can I appeal if the council takes enforcement action?

If the council issues an enforcement notice, you have the right to appeal to the Directorate. You can do so using an appeal form, which you can get from the planning department or the Directorate, or you can write a letter explaining your situation. In most cases you'll need to pay a fee to appeal - the amount should be stated in the notice.

You must lodge your appeal within 28 days of receiving the notice, before it comes into effect. If you lodge an appeal, this suspends the notice, so you won't have to comply with the requirements of the notice unless, at the end of the appeal process, the notice is upheld.

You can find out more about appealing at the Scottish Government - Planning and Environmental Appeals Division (DPEA) website

Where can I get help and advice?

Planning Aid for Scotland offers free, independent advice to individuals and community groups on all aspects of Town and Country planning and related issues. You can also get information and advice from your council's planning department and your local Citizens Advice.

Changes to the planning system

The planning system is in the process of changing, following the introduction of the Planning etc (Scotland) Act 2006. This new law aims to modernise the current planning system, making it quicker to get a decision made on your application, and easier to get involved with local and national planning strategy.

You can read the Scottish Government's guide to the Act, and find out more about the new system at the Scottish Government website.

If you need housing advice, contact us for free.

Last updated: 29 December 2014

Housing laws differ between Scotland and England.

This content applies to Scotland only.

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