Glossary of Planning and Building Control Terms


Deciphering the jargon and understanding exactly what’s being said when you first join or deal with a Planning or Building Control department can be difficult.

We’ve created this glossary as your go-to source of information for when your colleagues are using industry terms that you haven’t yet mastered:


Adoption: Final confirmation of a development plan or the Local Development Document status by a Local Planning Authority (LPA).

Affordable Housing: Housing that’s for sale or rent at a more affordable price to meet the needs of locals.

Agricultural Dwelling: A dwelling subject to condition or legal agreement that restricts occupation to someone employed, or last employed, in forestry, agriculture, or other rural environments.

Amenity: Positive and pleasing attributes that contribute to the character and/or enjoyment of an area for residents.

Amenity Space: Land, such as open spaces and gardens, which improve the lives of residents or those working in the area.

Ancillary Use: A secondary or subsidiary use associated with the main use of a building or land.

Appeal: A process whereby applicants may challenge an adverse decision.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB): An area with the purpose of conserving and enhancing natural beauty.

Article 14 Direction: Withdraws automatic planning permission granted by the General Permitted Development Order. The Direction prohibits a LPA from granting planning permission until further notice.

Article 4 Direction: Removing some or all permitted development right. This direction is issued by local planning authorities.


Back-land: Land which is situated behind existing buildings with no street frontages.

Biodiversity: The range and diversity of species – both plants and animals – in a given area.

Biodiversity Action Plan: A strategy for conserving and enhancing biodiversity in a local area.

Breach of Conditions: Notice served by LPA when there is a suspected breach of a planning condition linked to a planning permission.

Brown-field Site: Land which has been previously developed.

Building Notice: An application which allows work to be carried out without completion of full plans, although plans may be requested.

Building Preservation Order: Under Section 3 of the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, this order protects building of architectural or historic interest from any demolition or alteration deemed harmful to the building’s character.

Building Regulations: Minimum standards for the design, construction, and alterations of a building.


CABE: Stands for Commision for Architecture and the Built Environment; this is a public body acting as an advocate for good design.

Called-in Application: When a planning application is called in by the Secretary of State for determination by virtue of the powers contained in the Planning Act.

Certificate of Immunity from Listing: This grants immunity from listing / issuing a Building Preservation Notice for five years. This can only be issued when Planning permission has been granted or is being sought for a development.

Change of Use: A change to the main use of an establishment often requires planning permission.

Chief Planning Officer: Sometimes referred to as Head of Planning, this person is the lead Planning Officer at a local authority.

Commitments: Land with current planning permission or allocated in adopted development plans for development (particularly residential development).

Community Infrastructure Levy: A planning charge, introduced by the Planning Act 2008, as a tool for local authorities in England and Wales to help deliver infrastructure to support the development in their community.

Community Right to Build Order: Made by the local planning authority, this order grants planning permission for a site-specific development proposal or classes of development.

Competent Person: Someone with relevant, recognised qualifications, membership of a relevant professional organisation, registered on the Government’s list providing an alternative to submitting a building notice or using an approved inspector.

Compulsory Purchase Order: Issued by the government or local authority to acquire land or buildings for public interest purposes.

Conditions: Stipulations attached to a planning permission to limit or control how a development is carried out.

Conservation Area: Areas of special historical or architectural interest, as dictated by a local authority. It allows the local authority additional powers to control demolition and works to protect the area.

Conservation Area Consent: Required consent from a local authority before demolition of an unlisted building in a conservation area.

Consultation: Consulting with the public regarding a plan or planning permission – gathering views of affected neighbours and interested people.

Contaminated Land: Land that has been harmed or polluted, making it unfit for safe development without cleansing.

Conversions: Alterations to, or divisions of, a property to serve a different purpose.

Curtilage: Area of land within the boundaries of a property, surrounding the building and used in connection with the building.


Dangerous Structure: Buildings or parts of buildings, including garden walls, fences or hoardings, or other structures which could endanger the public due to their condition.

Demolition: Knocking down a building does not normally require planning permission, unless the local authority has made an article 4 direction restricting the permitted development rights that apply to demolition.

Density: A measurement of the number of habitable rooms per hectare or the number of dwellings per hectare.

Departure: A proposed development which isn’t in accordance with the development plan, but for which the local planning authority proposes to grant planning permission.

Derelict Land: Land severely damaged by industrial or other development – making it incapable of beneficial use without prior treatment.

Design and Access Statement: A document explaining the design principles and thinking behind a planning application.

Detailed Application: Most common type of planning application; it seeks full / detailed planning permission. This should contain all information needed so the Local Planning Authority can make a decision.

Determination: Process carried out by the local authority to determine if a proposed development requires planning permission.

Development: Defined under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act as the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operation in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any building or other land.”

Development Brief: A document containing detailed information for developers on the type of development, layout and design constraints plus other requirements for a particular site.

Development Control and Development Management: The process whereby a local planning authority receives and considers the merits of a planning application and whether it should be given permission having regard to the development plan and all other material considerations.

Development Plan: A document setting out the local planning authority’s policies, proposals and plans for the development and use of land and buildings in the authority’s area.

Development Plan Documents (DPDs): Documents outlining the key development goals of the local development framework.

Discharge of Conditions: Most planning permissions have conditions attached; some need to be approved prior to development while others can be discharged during the course of the development.

Discontinuance Notice: Notice given, if the planning authority deems it necessary, requiring the discontinuance of the display of any advertisement, or site use for the display of an advertisement, which has the benefit of deemed consent under the Control of Advertisements Regulations.


Economic Development: Development, including those within the B Use Classes, public and community uses and main town centre uses (but excluding housing development).

Eight Week Determination Period: The local planning authority must determine an application within 8 weeks of receipt of the application.

Enforcement: Procedures to ensure the terms and conditions of a planning decision are met, or that development carried out without planning permission is brought under control.

Enforcement Notice: Served by a local planning authority, an Enforcement Notice sets out the remedial action necessary to correct work or an activity that appears to have been undertaken without, or in breach of, permission.

English Heritage: A national, government-funded body responsible for giving advice, protecting and promoting the historic environment.

Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA): A procedure evaluating the impact a development may have on the environment, ensuring that decisions are made in full knowledge of any likely significant effects.

Established Use: Where a use doesn’t conform to a plan, but enforcement proceedings cannot be taken due to the length of time a use has been in operation.


Free Go: When a planning application is refused, you can submit one amended request within 12 months of the original application.

Fee Schedules: A schedule of fees to be paid during the planning process; different types of planning will have different schedules.

Front-loading: Involving the community and obtaining public input and consensus when producing Local Development Documents.

Full Application: An application for full planning permission with nothing reserved for later approval.

Full Plans: An application covering plans, specifications, and structural calculations (if necessary). Commercial developments can only be submitted under a Full Plan Application.


General Permitted Development Order (GPDO): Grants Permitted Development Rights for specified limited or minor developments without the need for planning permission.

Geographic Information System (GIS): Web-based mapping of spatial data used to plot and inform during the planning process. GIS helps to calculate constraints and highlight conflicting planning applications.

Green Belt: Land around certain cities and large built-up areas being kept permanently open or largely undeveloped.

Green Corridor: Used to link residential areas to towns and city centres, business locations, community facilities, and the national cycle network. Green Corridors help to promote environmentally friendly transport, such as walking and cycling, within urban areas.

Greenfield Land: Land that hasn’t previously been used for development.


Habitable Rooms: For the purposes of density calculations, rooms such as living rooms and bedrooms are classed as habitable. The term does not encompass kitchens and bathrooms.

High Court Challenge: Where an applicant can challenge a planning decision or a notice of intention to adopt a development plan in the High Court.

High Demand Housing Areas: Locations, often in rural areas, where there is high demand for housing – this results in high property and rental prices, and can make it difficult to enter the property market.

Housing Land Availability (HLA): The amount of land which is reserved for residential use and thus awaiting development.

Housing Supply (5 year): Local authorities have a requirement to provide a 5-year plan for supplying housing in their area.

working in a modern planning and building control department


Inclusive Design: Ensuring the built environment is designed in an accessible and usable way.

Independent Examination: When a Planning Inspector publicly examines a Development Plan Document (DPD) or a Statement of Community Involvement (SCI), in respect, before issuing a binding report.

Index of Multiple Deprivation (IMD): An IMD can help to identify areas for regeneration; the index is made up of the following indicators: employment, income, housing, health deprivation and disability, education, skills and training, and geographical access to services.

Infill Development: The development of a small gap between established buildings.

Informal Hearing: A structured planning appeal hearing that doesn’t have the full formality of a local inquiry.

Infrastructure: Permanent and basic services necessary to serve societal needs for development to take place, for example: water, sewerage, roads, electricity, education, and health facilities.

Inquiry: A hearing about a local plan or appeal, held by a planning inspector.

Inspection: There is a legal requirement to inform the local planning authority when building works begin, and during other key stages in the development, so that an inspection can be carried out. The inspection will ensure building works comply with regulations.


Judicial Review: The High Court may review the planning decisions made by local authorities, the first Secretary of State or lower courts.


Land Compensation: Assessment of compensation of land either compulsorily acquired in the public interest, or acquired by agreement.

Lawful Development Certificate (LDC): Issued by the LPA, this certificate states that an existing (LDC 191) or proposed use (LDC 192), or other forms of development, can be considered as lawful for planning purposes.

Listed Building: A building of architectural or historical interest which is included on a statutory list and assigned a grade. This type of building is protected under the Planning Act and requires permission for any works to be carried out.

Listed Building Consent: Required consent for alteration or demolition of a listed building.

Listed Building Enforcement Notice: If works on a Listed Building is carried out without consent, the LPA will issue a notice with requirements that the building is restored to its former state or other remedial works take place.

Local Agenda 21: A local authority action strategy to help achieve sustainable development.

Local Development Documents (LDDs): These are comprised of Development Plan Documents and Supplementary Planning Documents.

Local Development Framework (LDF): A non-statutory term used to describe a collection of documents: Development Plan Documents and Supplementary Planning Documents as well as the Statement of Community Involvement, the Local Development Scheme, the Annual Monitoring Report and any Local Development Orders or Simplified Planning Zones.

Local Development Order (LDO): An Order under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 granting planning permission for a specific development proposal / classes of development.

Local Development Scheme (LDS): A local planning authority’s 3-year plan for preparing LDF documents.

Local Planning Authority: The local authority empowered by law to exercise planning functions.


Master Plan: A planning brief created for a developer and outlining the preferred usage of land and the approach to the layout. This provides detailed guidance for subsequent applications.

Material Consideration: A matter that needs to be considered when deciding the outcome of a planning application or on an appeal against a planning decision.

Mixed Use Development: A site or an area being used for a variety of purposes such as residential, leisure and community uses.


National Land Use Database (NLUD): This database provides information on the amount of previously developed land (and buildings) that may be available for development.

New Town: Free-standing, newly planned settlement planned under the New Towns Act 1946 – the main aim being to reduce congestion in major cities with urban units to provide employment for locals.

Noise Exposure Category (NEC): When considering a residential development proposal near to a source of noise, planning authorities use noise exposure categories to help assess the impact and effects.

Non-conforming Use: A use which does not conform to provisions of the development plan for the area in which it is located.


Original Building: A building as it existed on 1 July 1948; if the building was constructed after this date, then it refers to how it was originally built.

Outline Application: A general application for planning permission to establish that a development is acceptable, in principle, subject to subsequent approval of detailed matters.

Out-of-Centre: An area which is not in / on the edge of a centre but not neither is it outside the urban area.

Out-of-Town: An Out-of-Town location is out of the centre, perhaps on green-field land, and also outside of the existing urban area.

Outstanding Planning Permission: Planning permission that has not yet been implemented.

Over-development: Where the amount of development puts excessive demand on infrastructure or services, or impacts local amenities or the local character.

Overbearing: The impact, in terms of scale, massing, and general dominating effect, a development or a building has on its surroundings, particularly neighbouring properties.

Overlooking: Relating to loss of privacy for surrounding buildings when a development or a building overlooks adjoining land or property. Windows in new buildings cannot be positioned in such a way that someone can look directly onto other properties or over a garden in a detrimental way.

Overshadowing: When a building or development casts a shadow over a neighbouring property and has an impact on the amount of natural light this property receives.


Parish Council: A parish council is the administrative body in a civil parish, making decisions for the residents.

Permitted Development: Under the terms of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order, this relates to permission for limited and minor forms of development without the need to make an application.

Phased Development: Phasing of development into manageable parts.

Planning Advisory Service: A help and advisory service to support planning authorities struggling to meet best value performance targets for development control.

Planning Condition: An imposed condition for a grant of planning permission or a condition included in a Local Development Order / Neighbourhood Development Order.

Planning Obligation: A legal agreement, under section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, between a planning authority and a developer, ensuring certain extra works related to a development are undertaken.

Planning Permission: Formal approval from the local authority is required for most developments. Minor alterations and additions may be classed as permitted development and wouldn’t require planning permission.

Planning Policy Guidance (PPG): Documents setting out national land use policies for England on different areas of planning.

Planning Policy Statement (PPS): This statement replaces the existing Planning Policy Guidance notes with the aim of offering greater clarity and removal from national policy, advice on practical implementation, as this is better served as guidance rather than policy.

Pre-application: A consultation with a planning officer for an informal discussion before you submit an application. Some local planning authorities charge for this service.

Previously Developed Land: Land which is / was occupied by a permanent structure, including the curtilage of the developed land and any associated fixed surface infrastructure but excludes agricultural or forestry buildings.

Prior Approval: Permission is deemed granted if the local planning authority does not respond to the application within a specific timeframe.

Private Open Space: Privately-owned open space that is usually not accessible to members of the public.


Reasoned Justification: Supporting text in a development plan or Local Development Document explaining the approach set out in policies from the document.

Regeneration: Renewal and improvement of urban and rural areas for economic, social, and environmental purposes.

Ribbon Development: Where a narrow development extends along one or both sides of a road, but isn’t extended in depth.

Roundtable Discussions: A forum for discussion and expressing views on a Development Plan Document before a government-appointed Planning Inspector.

Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI): A professional body furthering the art of town and country planning.

Rural Development Area: An area in need of social and economic development, and where regeneration initiatives are focused.


Scheduled Ancient Monument: A structure or important monument – such as archaeological remains – protected under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act.

Section 106 Agreement: A legally binding agreement, under Section 106 of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990), between a council and a developer, to ensure certain extra works related to a proposed development are undertaken.

Sequential Approach: Where certain types or locations or land are identified, allocated, or developed before others.

Simplified Planning Zone: If there is an area where the local planning authority wants to encourage development and investment, it may grant a specified planning permission without the need for a planning permission application and the payment of planning fees.

Site Investigation Information: Information including a risk assessment of land potentially affected by contamination, or ground stability and slope stability reports. The minimum information that should be provided is the report of a desk study and site inspection.

Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI): Sites of substantial local nature conservation deemed as locally important by the local authority.

Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI): A site protected and designated by Natural England or Countryside Council for Wales as an area of special interest due to its wildlife, flora, fauna, and geological features.

Site Visit: A visit carried out by a planning officer, councillor, or inspector to obtain clarity on the site appearance or assess the effects of the planning proposal.

Spatial Development: Changes in the distribution of activities in space and links between them regarding the use and development of land.

Spatial Planning: Spatial Planning brings together and integrates policies for the development and use of land with other policies and programmes which influence the nature and function of places.

Spatial Vision: A brief explanation of how the area will be altered after a plan period.

Special Area Of Conservation (SAC): Under the European Union’s Habitats Directive, certain areas are given protection; this is transposed into UK law by the Habitats and Conservation of Species Regulations 2010.

Special Needs Housing: Property built to help combat homelessness and overcrowding or dwellings which are purpose-built / created as supported housing for the disabled and the elderly or those with additional care needs.

Special Protection Areas (SPA): Areas identified under European Community Directive 79/409 on Conservation of Wild Birds as areas of importance for the feeding, breeding, wintering or migration of rare and vulnerable birds within European Union countries. The government is required to avoid pollution or disturbance to these designated areas.

Statutory: Required by law, usually through an Act of Parliament.

Stop Notice: Served with regards to land that is subject to enforcement proceedings, prohibiting specific operations which are an alleged breach of planning control; the notice is designed to stop work pending the outcome of an appeal.

Structure Plan: Old-style statutory development plan setting out strategic planning policies – this forms the basis for more detailed policies in local plans.

Submission Document: A Development Plan Document submitted to the Secretary of State for independent examination by a government-appointed planning inspector.

Sui-Generis: A term for the uses of land or buildings which do not fall into any use classes set out by the Use Class Order.

Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD): Documents adding further information to the policies in the Local Plan. These can be used for further guidance for development on specific sites or for particular issues. These documents can be a material consideration in a planning decision but they are not part of the development plan.

Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG): Supplementary advice issued by a LPA, covering a range of issues and providing further detail of policies and proposals in a development plan.

Sustainable Development: Development which is environmentally responsible – often described as meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.


Topography: A description or visual representation on a map of the shape of the land – contours or changes in the height of land above sea level etc.

Townscape: The character and appearance of buildings and other features of an urban area.

Traffic Impact Assessment (TIA): An assessment of the effects upon the surrounding area by traffic due to a development.

Tree Preservation Order (TPO): A direction to preserve a single or group of trees, making it an offence to cut, top, lop of fell them without permission from the local planning authority.


Unauthorised Development: When development takes places without planning permission. It may then be subject to enforcement action.

Unitary Development Plan: An old-style development plan created by a metropolitan district and some unitary local authorities; it contains policies and documents equivalent to those in a structure plan and a local plan.

Unstable Land: Unstable land that may not be suitable for planning proposals, due to various factors, and therefore should be given due consideration.

Urban Fringe: Open, transitional land between existing urban and countryside areas.

Urban Housing Capacity Study (UHCS): A study of the potential capacity of urban areas to accommodate extra housing, new or redeveloped site, or to accommodate the conversion of existing buildings.

Urban Regeneration: Re-developing urban areas to bring new life, economic vitality, and environmental renewal.

Use Classes Order: The uses of land and buildings are segmented into various categories under the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 – planning permission may not be required for changes of use within the same class.


Village Envelope: Defined on a map, boundaries around a village, or part of a village, which the local planning authority proposes a village should not extend beyond.


Ward: A small sub-area of a local authority district.

White Land: Land and buildings without a specific proposal for allocation in a development plan – existing uses shall mostly remain unaltered and undisturbed.

Windfall Site: Normally, these refer to sites which haven’t been identified as available in the Local Plan process, and often comprise previously-developed sites that have become unavailable unexpectedly.

World Heritage Site: A site of cultural or natural universal value, as designated by the International Council on Monuments and Sites.

Written Representations: The written procedure for deciding on and dealing with planning appeals, development plans, and Development Plan Documents, in the fastest and simplest way possible – without the need for a full public inquiry or hearing.

Written Statement: A documentary statement supplementing and explaining policy. It forms part of a development plan submitted by a local planning authority.

Is there a term that isn’t in this glossary that you want us to add? Tweet us and let us know.

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