Frequently asked questions - Planning

Find answers to common queries or contact details for Planning Services here.

On this page we answer some of more common questions about Planning.

We are currently receiving an unprecedented number of enquiries so it would assist us if you could see if the following answers your query before trying to contact us. 

Please note: Building regulations approval is different from planning permission and is dealt with by a separate Building Control department within the Council or a private approved Inspector. Please redirect your enquiry to the relevant department/ individual. 

If you are enquiring whether you need planning permission, what use class a property can be changed to or what options you have regarding what you can build on a site etc. the only way to obtain advice from a Planning Officer is to submit a pre-application enquiry.  We really cannot answer this question over the phone, by email or in person as we require specific information in the form of a pre-application enquiry and time to assess it. Please read the advice on our do I need planning permission page first as this information may answer your question. 

If you think planning permission was not required for works that you or a previous owner have carried out and you now require this in writing you can submit a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) for existing use. An LDC provides a legal document stating the lawfulness of past, present (existing use) or future (proposed use) development. If granted by the local planning authority, the certificate means that enforcement action cannot be carried out against the development referred to and is a legal document which may be required if you come to sell the property. Find out more or make your application on the Planning Portal website. To help you work out the cost of your application view the Planning Portal fee calculator 
If you have submitted an application, you will receive an initial letter confirming receipt of your application by email within 7 working days.  Your application will go through the validation process where it is checked against our Validation Checklist to see it has everything we need and that the plans are correct and to scale etc (i.e. it is valid). If your application contains everything we need you will receive an acknowledgement letter to say it is valid and it will be passed to a Planning Case Officer. If it is missing anything/incorrect you will receive an invalid letter asking for the information to be supplied.

We are working with a backlog of applications and are validating them as soon as we can so we would really appreciate it if you kindly do not contact us again unless you have not heard back from us within 20 working days. If you have an agent named on the application form all communication will go through them and not the applicant. Thank you for your patience. 
Planning applications:
Fees for planning applications are set by central government and vary depending on the nature of the development you wish to carry out. View the List of Planning Application Fees and Exemptions. This should be read in conjunction with the Planning Fees and Charges Supplementary Guidance Document for further clarification on how planning fees are calculated.

The Planning Portal fee calculator can help you work out the cost of your application. 

Please note: Application fees and a service charge must be paid directly to the Planning Portal if using their system otherwise the application will not be transferred to Northumberland County Council (we are unable to take these fees directly).

If you have submitted your application by email/post directly to us you can Pay for an application online. Please quote your reference number (e.g. 21/02342/FUL) if you have it or use the site address as your reference. If you are unsure of the fee it will be checked/calculated by the validating officer once the application has been submitted and you will receive a letter asking you to pay the correct amount.

Pre- application advice:
View the schedule of pre-application fees

Please pay for your pre-application online. You can use the site address as your reference if you don't yet have a PREAPP reference number. Please quote your payment reference number on the application form before submitting it. If you are unsure of the fee it will be checked/calculated by the validating officer once the application has been submitted and you will receive a letter asking you to pay the correct amount.
 
All details of a valid planning application are available to view on our Public Access system. It ​can take up to 7 working days from validation to allocate a Case Officer ​and any email enquiries received during that time will not be acknowledged. The Case Officer name can be found on the further information tab. The Case Officer will contact you in advance of a site visit if they need you to be present ​and will contact you if any further information is required.  

Our Planners are dealing with high volumes of applications at present so please only contact them if absolutely necessary 0345 600 6400 and request a call back and the Officer will aim to respond within 3 working days. It is helpful if you can provide a description of your enquiry and your application reference number so that the Officer can provide you with the best response.

Please view the Trees and Hedges section of our website to find out what is meant by a protected tree, if your tree is protected and how to apply for any proposed works.

Have they submitted an application?

You can see for yourself if an application has been submitted to us by searching for the address on our planning applications register (known as Public Access). It will show you applications received for that address/site and whether they were permitted or refused. If you find an application you can view the plans and see how the proposal may affect you and make your comments if the consultation expiry date has not ended yet. If you share a boundary with a neighbour or immediately overlook the site you would usually be notified by letter if an application had been submitted and we would invite you to comment by a certain date (usually within 21 days). 

The work must be carried out in accordance with the submitted plans and the conditions stated on the decision notice e.g. materials used, window positions and building size and location, if they are not the works may be classed as in breach of planning.

Do the works need permission?

An application may not have been submitted because some minor works can be carried out without requiring planning permission (subject to certain conditions and limits). This is known as permitted development rights (PD). The Planning Portal website contains easy to read guides on common projects like extensions, fences and walls, windows and doors, changes of use, adverts etc. These explain the conditions and limitations so you can read these to judge if someone else should have applied for permission for their works. View the Planning Portal common projects website.

However there may also be local planning restrictions in place in the area or on the property itself. If a property is affected by any of these the normal permitted development rights may be restricted or withdrawn. This means an application may be needed for work which normally does not need one. Check for any local area/individual property planning restrictions.
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How can I report a suspected breach of planning?


If the work is carried out under permitted development rights set out by Government it cannot be subject to enforcement action even in instances where development is considered to cause harm. 

However if a development is carried out without the required permission it is deemed to be unlawful. If you have read the above advice, you cannot find an application and you think the works should have had permission or something is not built in accordance with the plans you can report a suspected breach of planning to our Enforcement Team (in confidence). View more information about planning enforcement and how to report a breach.

Lawful Development Certificate

If you think planning permission was not required for works that you or a previous owner have carried out and you now require this in writing you can submit a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) for existing use. An LDC provides a legal document stating the lawfulness of past, present (existing use) or future (proposed use) development. If granted by the local planning authority, the certificate means that enforcement action cannot be carried out against the development referred to and is a legal document which may be required if you come to sell the property. Find out more or make your application on the Planning Portal website. To help you work out the cost of your application view the Planning Portal fee calculator 

The Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (as amended) puts uses of land and buildings into various categories known as 'Use Classes' which are detailed on the Planning Portal use classes page

The current use class of a building / land can usually be determined from the last application that was approved for that site. Search for the site and view the planning application history on our Public Access system. If you are unsure about the address or are looking for land try using the Map Search instead.

Some changes of use do not require planning permission, these are listed on the Planning Portal changes of use not requiring planning permission page. However some proposals allowed under permitted development are subject to prior-approval from the planning authority.

If you are still unsure if you need permission or what the current use class is and want Planning Services to advise the only way to obtain this advice is to submit a Pre-application enquiry so we can look into the history of the site.

If you think you do need permission you will need to pay the correct fee and make a planning application. There are specific prior approval forms if the change does come under prior approval. If not you will need to use the full planning consent form or the outline planning consent form. You may also need listed building consent in addition to these.

If you have received a notification of a planning application/observed a site or press notice and wish to make comments please do this using our Public Access system to view application details and submit comments on a planning application. Once you have submitted your comment online it will show on our Public Access system so you can check it has been received. The Case Officer will take your comments into account during the assessment of the application however please note that you will not receive an individual acknowledgment and the Case Officer will not be corresponding with you directly.  

We cannot send paper copies of application documents. 
When uploading supporting documents to the Planning Portal the file size limit for each should not exceed 10MB. If your submission contains documents with a large file size please see guidance on how to reduce supporting documents file sizes.

The largest file size Northumberland County Council can receive by email is 25mb per email. Our security system prevents us from being able to access documents on CD or on USB memory sticks or via links such as We Transfer etc.  However, you can submit documents via https://cryptshare.northumberland.gov.uk which is a secure way of sending larger/multiple documents to us (around 5GB). Please note: The password you create must be sent to us by seperate email, so we are able to log in and retrieve the documents at our end.      

It would assist us if you could ensure no single document is over 40mb and you have removed/redacted any signatures/personal information where possible.

 
If you think planning permission was not required for works that you or a previous owner have carried out and you now require this in writing you can submit a Lawful Development Certificate (LDC) for existing use. An LDC provides a legal document stating the lawfulness of past, present (existing use) or future (proposed use) development. If granted by the local planning authority, the certificate means that enforcement action cannot be carried out against the development referred to and is a legal document which may be required if you come to sell the property.

Find out more or make your application on the Planning Portal website: Lawful Development Certificates

The Planning Portal fee calculator can help you work out the cost of your application.
Decision notices often come with an attached list of conditions. Where planning permission is granted with conditions, the permission stands subject to these conditions being met. Usual conditions require the development to commence within a set time period of 3 years, and in accordance with an approved set of plans.
 
Other conditions may form part of a planning permission and must be adhered to in order for that development to benefit from permission. Certain conditions require additional information to be submitted. These conditions will usually be imposed to secure precise details and further information that was not submitted with the planning application. This type of condition may prevent development from starting until the details have been agreed, or may require certain aspects of the work to have this information submitted and agreed before it can begin.
 
Where permission is granted subject to conditions that require further information to be submitted, an application to discharge those conditions must be made in order for the permission to remain valid. Failure to discharge the conditions and comply with the requirements of a permission may result in enforcement action being taken.

You can check on our Public Access website to see whether the conditions relating to the original planning application decision notice have been discharged. The discharge of condition applications (DISCON) will all be shown on the planning history for that site and there will likely be more than one application as conditions can be dicharged all together or individually. Conditions can also be varied (and sometimes discharged) on a Variation of condition application (VARYCO) so check those too.

If the conditions have not been discharged please submit a discharge of conditions application. The fee is £34 where the original application was a Householder application, free where the original application was a Listed Building Consent or £116 for anything else.

If you think they have been discharged but you require this in writing from us, a Compliance of Conditions application must be submitted for each planning application. There is no form required for this type of application so please email your compliance of conditions request to planning@northumberland.gov.uk with the following details:
  • original planning application reference number;
  • full site address;
  • current applicant/agent name, address and email address;
  • the numbers of the conditions you would like checking; and
  • online payment reference from paying your fee online, (please quote the original application reference/site address when paying so your payment can be matched correctly to your application) the fee is £34 where the original application was a Householder application, free where the original application was a Listed Building Consent or £116 for anything else.
Land Registry is the government department created in 1862 to register the ownership of land and property in England and Wales. Any queries about boundaries and land ownership should be directed to them. Visit the Land Registry website. 

Strategic Estates may be able to tell you if buildings/land are owned by the Council. Email StrategicEstates@northumberland.gov.uk. If possible, please include a plan clearly indicating the land you are interested in. 

Covenants and private rights such as restrictions in the title to your property, conditions in the lease or access over land you do not own can be checked by a solicitor. 

For sewer/drain ownership/building over water/sewerage systems please contact Northumbrian Water. 

Our Public Access system is an online record of planning applications and supporting plans etc submitted in Northumberland which may provide some clue regarding who owned the land/property at the time of submission.
Planning applications and decision notices back to 1974 are available to view on Public Access. We do not hold records prior to this date.

Our File Request Team is currently checking and adding further documents from the Council's records for applications 1974-2008 so if you search for an application where there are no documents or you believe documents are missing you can ask the Team to check for further documents. Requests can be made by email to planningfilerequest@northumberland.gov.uk. Include the planning reference number and full site address including postcode (a map showing the site would be helpful if you have one). If the record is available our Planning File Request Team will locate it and upload the appropriate information to Public Access. They will notify you by email when it is available to view. Please allow 10 working days.

Please note: we are unable to provide paper copies of applications to view.
If you would like to join our Agents forum which will allow you to receive newsletters, updates and information on meetings please complete the Developer and Agent Forum - registration form.

Alternatively you can register or update your preferences.

If you don't know which team within Planning Services your query relates to please send your email to planning@northumberland.gov.uk and it will be distributed to the correct person/team. If you are emailing us about a specific site or application please include the site address and reference number so we can find it.

If you need to contact us by phone please call 0345 600 6400. Please include any application reference and your email address with your message so we can provide an informed response.

Building Control is a seperate department to Planning. All queries relating to building regulations approval are dealt with by the council’s building control team. Contact details for each area team are provided on the building control pages.

We aim to provide you with the best service that we can. If, for any reason, you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the planning process, please do not hesitate to contact us and we will try our best to help you.

We also welcome any general comments, feedback, suggestions or compliments. Any feedback that we receive is passed on to our staff members and is greatly appreciated.
 
To give feedback, provide your comments or suggestions, compliment our staff or process or make a formal complaint about any aspect of the service.

To use the council’s online forms for compliments and complaints click here.