If you can't find the information you need, you can email us at advice@planningaid.rtpi.org.uk


Jargon buster - glossary of planning terms

Affordable Housing:
Government policy, as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), uses the following definition of affordable housing for planning purposes:  

“Social rented, affordable rented and intermediate housing, provided to eligible households whose needs are not met by the market. Eligibility is determined with regard to local incomes and local house prices. Affordable housing should include provisions to remain at an affordable price for future eligible households or for the subsidy to be recycled for alternative affordable housing provision.”

Agricultural (Forestry or Other Rural Occupational) Dwelling:
A dwelling which is subject to a planning condition or legal agreement restricting occupation to someone employed, or was last employed, in agriculture, forestry or other appropriate rural employment.

Ancillary Use:

An ancillary use is something that is incidental to the main use of a building/development. Essentially it is something that is of a minor, casual or subordinate nature. For example, many sandwich shops allow some customers to eat on the premises but this can considered ancillary to the main function as a shop if the majority of sales are to be consumed away from the premises. This is a matter of fact and degree and should the consumption of food on the premises eclipse the sales of food to be eaten off site then a change of use would occur. 

The process whereby a planning applicant can challenge an adverse decision, including a refusal of planning permission. Appeals can also be made against the failure of the planning authority to issue a decision within a given time, against conditions attached to a planning permission, against the issue of an enforcement notice and against refusals of listed building and conservation area consent. In England and Wales, appeals are processed by the Planning Inspectorate.

Area Action Plans:
A type of Development Plan Document focused upon a specific location or an area subject to conservation or significant change (for example major regeneration).

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB):
An area with statutory national landscape designation, the primary purpose of which is to conserve and enhance natural beauty. Together with National Parks, AONB represent the nation's finest landscapes. AONBs are designated by Natural England.

Article 4 Direction:
Article 4 directions remove permitted development rights. They are imposed by local planning authorities and restrict the scope of permitted development rights in relation to a particular site, or a particular type of development in a wider area. They are normally limited to situations where this is necessary to protect local amenity or the well-being of the area (this could include the use of Article 4 directions to require planning permission for the demolition of local facilities, for instance).

Authorities' Monitoring Report:
A report prepared annually by local planning authorities assessing progress with and the effectiveness of the policies and proposals in their Local Plan.

Backland Development:
Building on land to the rear of existing properties, usually in large residential gardens. This is sometimes seen as inappropriate because of access problems, overlooking/shadowing and preventing future comprehensive planning of the area.

Breach of Conditions Notice:
A notice served by a local planning authority where a planning condition linked to a planning permission has been breached. There is no right of appeal against a beach of condition notice.

Brownfield Land:
See previously developed land below.

Building Control/Regulation:
Building Regulations relates to how development is constructed – if a new building is to be erected or an existing one altered, building regulation consent will normally be needed. In contrast, the planning system, which is totally separate from building regulations, deals with the principle of whether or not a scheme goes ahead based on an assessment of how it impacts upon the wider area/people, etc.

The Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government can order that a planning application or Local Plan is taken out of the hands of a local authority – i.e. that it be “called in” for their decision. The application will then be subject to a public inquiry presided over by a Planning Inspector who will make a recommendation to the Secretary of State who will decide whether to approve an application or Local Plan instead of the local planning authority. Call ins are handled by the National Planning Casework Unit.

This is a government publication used to explain policy and regulation more fully, setting out written policy that would be a material consideration in the determination of any relevant planning application. Many circulars include a direction or requirement to take specific action or provide guidance on carrying out specific aspects of national planning policy.

Change of Use:
Planning permission is required for the "material change of use" of a property or land. This is a change of the main use of a property, not ancillary uses, such as if a shop chooses to change part of its customer area to an area where goods to be sold will be stored. The Use Classes Order (see the entry below for this) specifies various categories of use and the General Permitted Development Order (see below) sets out situations in which planning permission is not required to change between uses. 

A term often relating to Conservation Areas or Listed Buildings, but also to the appearance of any place in terms of its landscape or the layout of streets and open spaces, giving it a distinct identity.

Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL):
CIL is a planning charge by which local authorities can raise funds from owners or developers of land undertaking new building projects in their area to support the provision of infrastructure needed to serve the development. It only applies in areas where the local authority has approved and published a charging schedule setting out its levy rates.  Most new development that creates net additional floor space of 100 square metres or more, or creates a new dwelling, is potentially liable for the levy.

Community Right to Build Order:

An Order made by the local planning authority (under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) that grants planning permission for a site-specific development proposal or classes of development.

Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO):
An order issued by the government or a local authority to acquire land or buildings (without needing the consent of the owner) for the purpose of development which is in the wider public interest e.g. for the construction of a major road or to regenerate an area.

Conditions (on a Planning Permission):
Requirements attached to a planning permission that limit or direct the manner in which development is carried out. Should these be breached then the local planning authority can take enforcement action.

Conservation Areas:
Areas of special architectural or historic interest, the character, appearance or setting of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance. In conservation areas there are some extra planning controls and considerations in place to protect the historic and architectural elements which make the place special, for example permitted development rights may be restricted in these areas.

County Councils:
In relation to planning, a County Council is responsible for the preparation of waste and minerals development plans and dealing with waste and minerals applications, and dealing with applications for their own development  - for example, schools and libraries. Where one exists the County Council is also the Highways Authority.

Land surrounding and ancillary to a building which is necessary for its function and enjoyment, for example, the domestic garden of a dwelling or the yard of a factory.

Decision Notice:
A formal, written, legal document which states the decision made by a planning authority in relationship to an application, including any conditions attached to the permission or, in the case of a refusal, the detailed reasons for the refusal.

Design and access statement:
A report accompanying and supporting a planning application. They provide a framework for applicants to explain how a proposed development is a suitable response to the site and its setting, and demonstrate that it can be adequately accessed by prospective users. They can be used to illustrate the process that has led to the development proposal, and to explain and justify the proposal in a structured way.

Design code:

A set of illustrated design requirements that provide specific, detailed guidelines for the development of a site or area. The graphic and written components of the code should build upon a design vision, such as a masterplan or other design and development framework for a site or area.

The legal definition of development is "the carrying out of building, mining, engineering or other operations in, on, under or over land, and the making of any material change in the use of buildings or other land" (Sec 55 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990); this covers virtually all construction activities and changes of use.

Development Control/Management:
The process whereby a local planning authority determines planning applications. In dealing with planning applications authorities have regard to relevant development plan policies, any local financial considerations and any other material considerations.

Development Plan:

This Is defined in section 38 of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004, and includes adopted local plans, neighbourhood plans that have been made and published spatial development strategies, together with any regional strategy policies that remain in force. Neighbourhood plans that have been approved at referendum are also part of the development plan, unless the local planning authority decides that the neighbourhood plan should not be made.  A local plan is a plan for the future development of a local area, drawn up by the local planning authority in consultation with the community. A local plan can consist of either strategic or non-strategic policies, or a combination of the two.

Enforcement Notice:
This is a formal notice served by the local planning authority requiring the owner of a property or land to remedy a breach of planning control, e.g. to demolish an unauthorised building, to require an unauthorised use to cease or to require the conditions on a planning permission to be complied with. It sets out what the alleged breach is, what works are required to remedy the breach as well as the time period within which the works need to be undertaken. An enforcement notice can be appealed up to the day it comes into effect.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and Environmental Statement:
Applicants for certain types of development, usually more significant schemes, are required to submit an "environmental statement" accompanying a planning application. This evaluates the likely environmental impacts of the development, together with an assessment of how the severity of the impacts could be reduced.

General Permitted Development Order (GPDO):
Regulations made by the government which set out ppermitted development rights.  These are a national grant of planning permission which allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without having to make a planning application. Permitted development rights are subject to conditions and limitations to control impacts and to protect local amenity. Permitted development rights are set out in the Town and Country (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 as amended and Permitted development rights for householders: technical guidance has been issued by the government.

Green Belt:
A designation for land around certain cities and large built-up areas, which aims to keep this land permanently open or largely undeveloped. The purposes of the green belt are to:

  • check the unrestricted sprawl of large built up areas
  • prevent neighbouring towns from merging into one another
  • assist in safeguarding the countryside from encroachment
  • preserve the setting and special character of historic towns and
  • assist in urban regeneration by encouraging the recycling of derelict and other urban land

Green Belts are defined in a local planning authority's development plan with changes only being permissible in exceptional circumstances as part of a Local Plan review. A common mistake is to assume all “green” land is Green Belt. Your local planning authority will have a map that corresponds with Local Plan land designations/policies that will clearly set out the extent of the adopted Green Belt and the relevant planning policies.

Greenfield Land:
Land (or a defined site) usually farmland, that has not previously been developed. This should not be confused with Green Belt which is a specific designation.

Habitable Room:
Normally considered to be any room used for sleeping, cooking, living or eating purposes. Enclosed spaces such as bathrooms, toilets, service rooms, corridors, hallways, utility rooms or similar spaces are excluded from this definition, although what precisely is encompassed within the term “habitable” can vary depending on the context.

Informal Hearing:

A procedure for dealing with planning appeals where there is informal discussion of the proposal around a table chaired by a Planning Inspector. It is less formal than a Public Inquiry with no cross examination and all questioning is led by the appointed Planning Inspector.

Listed Buildings:
Buildings of special architectural or historic interest. Listed buildings are graded I, II* or II with grade I having the highest level of protection. Listing includes the interior as well as the exterior of the building and also any buildings or permanent structures, e.g. walls, within its curtilage that was constructed before 1 July 1948. The listing also extends to any structure, such as railings, that are attached to the listed building or any curtilage listed building. You are legally required to obtain the necessary consent for any alterations, extensions or changes to the building and associated structures within the curtilage. Historic England is responsible for listing buildings in England. 
Listed Building Consent:
This type of consent is legally required for the demolition, in whole or in part of a listed building, or for any works of alteration or extension that would affect the character of the building.

Local Development Documents (LDDs):
These include Development Plan Documents (which form part of the statutory development plan) and Supplementary Planning Documents (which do not form part of the statutory development plan). LDDs collectively deliver the spatial planning strategy for the local planning authority's area.

Local Development Framework (LDF):
The Local Development Framework (LDF) is a non-statutory term used to describe a folder of documents, which includes all the local planning authority's local development documents. An LDF is comprised of:

  • Development Plan Documents (which form part of the statutory development plan)
  • Supplementary Planning Documents

The local development framework will also comprise of:

  • Statement of Community Involvement
  • Local Development Scheme
  • Authority Monitoring Report
  • any Local Development Orders or Simplified Planning Zones that may have been added.

Local Development Order:
An Order made by the local planning authority (under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990) that grants planning permission for a site-specific development or classes of development.

Local Development Scheme:
The local planning authority's scheduled plan for the preparation of Local Development Documents. This essentially provides the timetable for Local Plan production.

Local Enterprise Partnership:
A body designated by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, established for the purpose of creating or improving the conditions for economic growth in an area.

Local Planning Authority:
The local authority or council that is empowered by law to exercise planning functions, often the local borough or district council. National Parks and the Broads Authority are also local planning authorities. County councils are the authority for waste and minerals matters as well as the Highways Authority.

Local Plan:
The plan for the future development of the local area, drawn up by the local planning authority in consultation with the community and subject to an examination before an independent Planning Inspector. These set planning policies for the area as well as allocating land for development or protection. A Local Plan is part of the development plan for an area.

Material Considerations:
A matter that should be taken into account in deciding a planning application or on an appeal against a planning decision.

National Park:
The statutory purposes of national parks are to conserve and enhance their natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage and to promote opportunities for public understanding and enjoyment of their special qualities. National parks are designated by Natural England, subject to confirmation by the Secretary of State under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949.

National Planning Policy Framework:
Designed to consolidate all policy statements (except National Policy Statements referring to Nationally Strategic Infrastructure Projects). This sets out government’s planning policies for England and how these should be applied when determining planning applications.  It provides a framework within which locally prepared plans for housing and other development can be produced and can be found here.

Neighbourhood Development Order:
This allows communities to essentially grant planning permission for a particular type of development in a particular area, subject to certain limitations. The process is also subject to independent examination, where specific checks will be carried out to ensure that the Order 1) is consistent with national planning policy, 2) is consistent with the development plan for the local area, 3) complies with EU and human rights requirements, and 4) does not damage local heritage assets. This is then followed by a local referendum as per a neighbourhood plan.

Neighbourhood Plans:
A plan prepared by a Parish or Town Council or a Neighbourhood Forum for a particular neighbourhood area (made under the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004) that give communities the power to develop a vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth to their local area. This is a powerful tool for local people to plan for the types of development to meet their community’s needs. The process is subject to independent examination and a community referendum.

Outline Application:
An application for planning permission which does not include full details of the proposal, and usually only includes sufficient detail to identify the principles of the proposal. Details not submitted at this stage are called 'reserved matters'. If the application is granted, details of the reserved matters are submitted to the local planning authority at a later stage. Essentially an outline consent approves the principle of development; not the detail.

Parish/Town Council:
Where an area is designated as a civil parish, the community it contains may be represented by a Parish or Town Council which is an elected local government body. This provides a limited range of local public services and makes representations on behalf of the community to other organisations; particularly significant to planning in that it can make submissions on behalf of its community when development plan documents are being prepared and on planning applications submitted within the parish. An increasingly important role is in being proactive in the preparation of Parish Plans and neighbourhood planning (in an area covered by a Parish or Town Council it is only these bodies that can lead on neighbourhood planning matters).

Parish Plans:
A community planning tool which assists communities to voice any issues of concern to them. This results in an action plan which can be used to inform and endorse the Parish Council's role in acting on behalf of, and representing, the community. However, they have no statutory force and are not legally enforceable.

Permitted Development:
This term refers to certain types of development that can be carried out without the need to seek planning permission from the local planning authority, although sometimes there are certain conditions and limitations that still need to be met to ‘qualify’ as permitted development. The relevant provisions are detailed within the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015. It should be noted that local planning authorities have the power to remove permitted development rights through planning conditions or Article 4 Directions so always double check with your local authority.

Planning Aid England (PAE):
PAE is an organisation that provides free independent and professional planning advice and support to help individuals and communities engage with the planning system and get involved in planning within their local area. It also works with communities to help them understand, and play a role in, the planning process and Neighbourhood Planning. PAE is separate from both central and local government and provide completely independent and impartial planning advice.

Planning Committee:
Planning committees are made up of elected councillors. One of the key roles of a planning committee is to make decisions on planning applications where the decision making has not been delegated to officers. A planning officer will make a recommendation and the committee will vote on whether or not to go with the planning officer’s recommendation.

Planning Condition:
A condition imposed on a grant of planning permission (in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act 1990). They are normally used to enhance the quality of the development being granted approval and minimise its impact.

Planning Consultant:
A person that specialises in providing advice on planning matters. The Royal Town Planning Institute has an online directory providing information on planning consultancies based within the UK that can be found here.

Planning Inspectorate:
An executive agency of the Department for Communities and Local Government. It is responsible for determining planning appeals and other related appeals, e.g. enforcement, listed buildings and the public examination of local development plans. Their website can be accessed here.

Planning Obligations:
A legally enforceable agreement entered into under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to mitigate the impacts of a development proposal that cannot be controlled through the imposition of planning conditions.

Previously Developed Land (Brownfield land):
Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole of the curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure. This excludes: land that is or has been occupied by agricultural or forestry buildings; land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill purposes where provision for restoration has been made through development control procedures; land in built-up areas such as private residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and allotments; and land that was previously-developed but where the remains of the permanent structure or fixed surface structure have blended into the landscape in the process of time. (N.B. This definition comes from the National Planning Policy Framework)

Proposals (or Policies) Map:
An important part of the development plan showing the location of proposals, designations and area based policies in the Local Plan on an Ordnance Survey base map.

Public Inquiry: A formal procedure for dealing with planning appeals akin to a court of law where parties frequently have legal representation and cross-examination takes place. More information can be found here

Reserved Matters:
A planning permission usually outline, may specifically reserve for later consideration some matters not relating to the principles of the proposed development. Matters reserved at outline stage can include access, appearance, layout, scale and landscaping. This can also refer to conditions placed on a full planning permission that require the approval of additional matters such as materials.

Simplified Planning Zone:
An area in which a local planning authority wishes to stimulate development and encourage investment. It operates by granting a specified planning permission in the zone without the need for an application for a planning application and the payment of planning fees.

Site Specific Policies and Proposals:
This document allocates land for specific uses, such as housing and employment, the documents can identify the criteria for control of development on specific sites i.e. details of any specific criteria related to development of that site, like design, access requirements, or level of affordable housing. Any allocations made in these documents will be clearly linked to the Adopted Proposals Map and other planning policy documents like Area Action Plans.

Spatial planning:
Spatial planning goes beyond traditional land use planning to bring together and integrate policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programmes which influence the nature of places and how they function.

This will include policies which can impact on land use by influencing the demands on, or needs for, development, but which are not capable of being delivered solely or mainly through the granting or refusal of planning permission and which may be implemented by other means.

Statement of Community Involvement:
This sets out the processes to be used by the local authority in involving the community in the preparation, alteration and continuing review of all local development documents and development control decisions.

Supplementary Planning Documents/Guidance (SPD/SPG):
Documents that add further detail to the policies in the Local Plan. They must be consistent with national and regional planning guidance, as well as the policies set out in the adopted Local Plan. They can be used to provide further guidance for development on specific sites, or on particular issues, such as design. SPDs should be used where they can help applicants make successful applications or aid infrastructure delivery, and should not be used to add unnecessarily to the financial burdens on development. Supplementary planning documents are capable of being a material consideration in planning decisions but are not part of the development plan, so do not have as much weight in the decision making process.

Statutory Undertakers:
Organisations which have powers derived from statute to develop and operate utility services, such as gas, water, electricity, and telecommunications.

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA):

Similar to an EIA but is an assessment of the environmental impacts of policy rather than development.

Strategic Flood Risk Assessment:

A study to assess the risk to an area or site from flooding, now and in the future, and to assess the impact that any changes or development on the site or area will have on flood risk to the site and elsewhere. It may also identify, particularly at more local levels, how to manage those changes to ensure that flood risk is not increased.

Sustainability Appraisal (including Environmental Appraisal) (SA):
An appraisal of the economic, environmental and social effects of a plan from the outset of the preparation process to allow decisions to be made that accord with sustainable development.

Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS):

An alternative approach from the traditional ways of managing runoff from buildings and hardstanding. They can reduce the total amount, flow and rate of surface water that runs directly to rivers through stormwater systems. SuDS could include the storage of rainwater for later use, the use of infiltration techniques, such as porous surfaces, green and blue roofs, the attenuation of rainwater in ponds or open water features for gradual release and the attenuation of rainwater by storing in tanks or sealed water features for gradual release.

Tree Preservation Order (TPO):
A mechanism for securing the preservation of individual trees or groups of trees of acknowledged amenity value. A preserved tree may not normally be topped, lopped or felled without the consent of the local planning authority.

Use Classes Order:
The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 puts uses of land and buildings into various categories. Planning permission is not needed for changes of use within the same use class as this does not normally amount to development. Also, subject to the conditions and limitations set out in The Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015 (as amended) (GPDO) change of use can be permitted to another specified 'use class' without the need for express planning permission from the local planning authority. Please note that planning conditions imposed on planning application and/or an Article 4 Directions can affect ability to move in and between use classes.

Is any material or object that is no longer wanted and requires disposal. If a material or object is re-usable, it is still classed as waste if it has first been discarded.

Waste Local Plan:
A statutory development plan prepared (or saved) by the waste planning authority under transitional arrangements, setting out polices in relation to waste management and related developments.

Written Representations:
A procedure by which representations on planning appeals, development plans and Development Plan Documents are dealt with by change of correspondence without the need for a full public inquiry or informal hearing. More information about this process can be found here.



Have more questions? Submit a request
Powered by Zendesk