Frequently Asked Questions

Who are Planning Aid for London?

Since 1973, PAL has been providing free or affordable town planning advice and support in the Greater London area. The advice provided clearly reflects the current UK planning system, but is not part of local or central government nor developer influenced - and can therefore be truly impartial. Read more . . .

The query is not about a site in a London Borough, where can I get Planning Aid assistance?

Please visit Planning Aid England website

What is the London Plan? 

The Mayor published the new London Plan, 'London Plan 2011', on Friday, 22 July 2011. This Plan replaces the 2004 London Plan, published in February 2008.

The London Plan describes the Mayor's policies and proposals for the development and use of land in Greater London over the next 20 years (to 2031). It discusses the economic, environmental, transport and social factors that will influence how London will change over time. The Plan's policies guide decisions on planning matters considered by the Mayor. The policies also influence development and use of land in the London boroughs. Each borough's local plan must be in general conformity with the London Plan, so its policies guide day-to-day decisions on planning applications by councils.

PAL participated in the public examination (EiP) of the draft replacement London Plan (DRLP) and gave evidence at a number of the sessions held from June to December 2010.

The Plan is available to download from the following webpage -

Do I need planning permission to start up a small business?

You may not need planning permission to start up a small business if you plan to occupy existing premises that already have the right type of planning permission for your type of business. Different activities have different Use Classes and this will determine whether you will need to apply for planning permission; for example, if you want to open a new shop (Use Class A1), you will not need to apply for planning permission if the property already has planning permission for this use. If you want to open a new office (Use Class B1) within a former shop (A1), you will need to apply for planning permission for a change of use.

If you are planning to build new premises, you will need to apply for planning permission for any new construction.

If you need more information, you can get more information from your local council.

Can I cut down a tree on my property without planning permission?

Not if it is protected by a Tree Preservation Order or a planning condition, or is within a Conservation Area. Tree Preservation Orders are made by the Council to protect either individual or groups of trees. In addition, if worthwhile trees are threatened, a provisional order can be made quickly. Anyone wishing to trim or cut down a protected tree must obtain consent for works to trees from the Council although, in an emergency, work on dead or dangerous trees may proceed without consent, providing they are replaced.

Do I need planning permission to put up a sign or advertisement?

Display of advertisements is covered by the Advertisement Regulations. Consent is required under these regulations for most signs or advertisements, particularly if they are illuminated or are not sited on the building to which they relate. It is advisable always to check with your local Council before displaying any signs or advertisements as you may need to apply for Advertisement Consent.

What grounds of objection can/can't I raise to a planning application?

Councils are only able to take account of what are called material planning considerations. In considering a planning application, the Council has a statutory duty to have regard to the provisions of the development plan and any other "material considerations". The most common "material considerations" include the following, although the list is not exhaustive.

  • Local, strategic, regional and national planning policies, including proposals in the development plan.
  • Government circulars, orders and statutory instruments
  • Previous appeal decisions
  • Loss of daylight or sunlight
  • Overshadowing/loss of outlook (but not loss of view)
  • Overlooking / loss of privacy
  • Highway issues: Traffic generation, vehicular access, highway safety
  • Noise and disturbance resulting from use
  • Smells
  • Light pollution
  • Hazardous materials/ground contamination
  • Loss of trees
  • Nature conservation
  • Effect on listed buildings and Conservation Area
  • Layout and density of buildings
  • Design, visual appearance and materials
  • Archaeology
  • Risk of flooding
  • Landscaping
  • Disabled persons' access

Matters which cannot normally be taken into account

  • Matters controlled under Building Regulations or other non-planning laws, e.g. structural stability, drainage, fire precautions, etc.
  • Private issues between neighbours e.g. land/boundary disputes, damage to property, private rights of way, covenants, etc.
  • Loss of value of property
  • Problems arising from the construction period of any works, e.g. noise, dust, construction vehicles, hours of work, etc.

Where can I find a planning glossary?

Please visit Planning Portal website

Any other questions?

Please visit PAL Publications page or feel free to contact us.