How to know if you need planning permission to alter your business premises

A guide to the circumstances in which you need to apply for business planning permission

There are several circumstances in which you will need to apply to your local authority for planning permission before you can change or alter your business premises. You may want to extend or change your retail, warehouse or office space. You may want to turn part of your home into a more official business location. You may also need to change the commercial classification of your business premises. In all of these circumstances you will need to go through the planning permission procedure and will also need to conform to the requirements of building regulations.

Minor alterations such as the erection of low walls do not always need planning consent. However, if you are planning any changes to your business property it’s always best to check with the local authority to avoid financial or administrative headaches later on. You should also check whether any changes you make are likely to affect the rateable value of your premises. You can contact the Valuation Office Agency (VOA) for more details.

If you run your business from home, you also need to be careful about making significant property changes. You need to determine whether changes you make will shift the balance of the property so it becomes used more for business than as a residence. You are also likely to need planning consent for home alternations if the following applies:

  • There is a marked increase in traffic or people visiting the premises
  • Your business involves activities that are unusual for a residential area
  • Activates may create a nuisance for neighbours or disturb them at unreasonable hours
  • You employ workers at your home who are not residents there

You should also remember that significant changes to your residential property may make it liable for business rates and/or capital gains tax if you later sell it.

Your first step should be to get in touch with the local authority’s planning department. You can make an appointment with a planning officer who can asses your proposals and advise you of your next steps if you need to obtain planning consent.

If it transpires that you do need planning permission you must then submit a full planning application to the local authority’s planning department along with the variable fee.

For more information visit the government’s Planning Portal website. You can also apply for planning permission through the site as well as submit questions regarding your application.


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Applications are generally decided on within two months but can take longer if they are particularly complex. However, you should be informed if your application is likely to take longer than usual.

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