What specific urban planning permissions are needed for constructing a commercial facility in London?

As you embark on the journey of constructing a commercial facility in London, it's crucial to understand the ins and outs of urban planning permissions. This complex process involves a variety of permissions and regulations, all of which are indispensable to a successful project. Before you commence any building project, it's paramount to ascertain whether you are within your rights to do so. The local planning authority governs these rights, and you must adhere to them assiduously to avoid legal repercussions. This article will delve into the specifics of planning permission, development rights, and building applications required in London for commercial facility construction.

Understanding the Planning Permission Process

Before you start laying the foundation for your commercial establishment, understanding the planning permission process is vital. This process involves seeking permission from the local planning authority, typically a local council, to carry out new buildings, major alterations to existing buildings, or change the use class of a building or land.

Planning permission ensures that your building project aligns with the local development plan, considering factors such as the impact on the local environment, traffic congestion, noise pollution, and the overall suitability of the planned development. By adhering to this process, you guarantee that your project lives in harmony with the surrounding community and abides by the prescribed standards.

Applicability of Permitted Development Rights

Let's delve into what is referred to as Permitted Development Rights. These rights 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. They are subject to conditions and limitations to control impact and to protect local amenity. However, it’s important to note that commercial buildings have fewer permitted development rights compared to residential homes.

For instance, you may change the use class of a building without requiring planning permission, provided that the change fits within the realm of permitted development rights. But, always double-check with your local planning authority, as sometimes an application is required to determine if prior approval is needed regarding specific elements such as transport and highways impact, and noise impact.

Navigating the Building Regulations Approval

In addition to planning permission, your commercial construction project will also need to comply with building regulations. This is separate from planning permission and is geared towards the construction details of the project. Building regulations are minimum standards for design, construction and alterations to virtually every building in the UK. They are developed by the UK government and approved by Parliament.

These regulations cover all aspects of construction, including foundations, damp-proofing, the overall structure, insulation, ventilation, heating, fire protection and means of escape in case of fire. They also ensure that adequate facilities for people with disabilities are provided in certain types of buildings.

The Role of Local Housing Strategy

On a broader scale, your project will also be assessed in line with the local housing strategy and development plan. This plan provides a vision for the future of the local area, including what can be built and where. It also highlights areas where improvements are needed, such as in transport and other infrastructure, and sets out how the environment can be protected and enhanced.

In London, for instance, the Mayor's London Plan provides strategic guidance for development and use of land in London. It sets out a fully integrated economic, environmental, transport and social framework for the development of the capital to 2031. All local planning authorities in London must consult the London Plan when taking planning decisions.

Submitting a Planning Application

Submitting a planning application is the final step in the process. The application should include detailed information about your proposed development, including drawings of the existing site, an outline of the proposed development, and a Design and Access Statement. This statement is a short report accompanying and supporting a planning application that justifies the proposal in a structured way.

In your application, highlight how your project fits with the local development plan and addresses any potential impact on the local environment. You also need to pay an application fee, which varies based on the size and type of your development. Once submitted, your application will undergo a consultation process, where neighbours, the parish council and consultees such as the Highways department have a chance to object or support your development.

In the end, it is imperative to remember that the intricacies of planning permissions and regulations can be complex and daunting. However, understanding the process, your rights, and the requirements can significantly ease the process. Always seek professional advice and consult the local planning authority to ensure that you build not only a commercial facility but also a responsible addition to London's urban landscape.

Complying with the Town and Country Planning Act

When considering urban development in London, one has to take into account the Town and Country Planning Act. This act is the main piece of legislation that controls the development and use of land across England and Wales. It is the bedrock of the planning system and is crucial to understand if you're looking to construct a commercial facility in London.

The Town and Country Planning Act requires that any development of land or change in land use must have permission from the local planning authority. This can be the local borough or district council. In London, the Greater London Authority plays a significant role in strategic planning decisions, so it is vital to consult them where necessary.

The Act also provides the framework for the system of Planning Classes Order, which categorizes land and buildings into various use classes. This classification is important because it dictates what a particular building or land can be used for. For instance, a commercial facility would fall under Class B, which encompasses offices, research and development premises and light industrial uses.

When it comes to the planning portal, essentially, it's an online tool provided by the UK government to guide you through the planning permission process. It contains a wealth of information, including advice on how to make a planning application, and allows you to apply for planning permission online.

Requesting for Prior Approval

Sometimes, your project may require you to obtain prior approval. This isn't the same as planning permission, but it can still be a vital aspect of your project. Prior approval refers to the requirement for the developer to seek approval from the local planning authority on specific aspects of the development.

Prior approval is often required for developments that are permitted under the General Permitted Development Order. These are developments that, ordinarily, would not require planning permission. However, due to their potential impact on the local environment or the local community, the local planning authority must first approve certain aspects of the development.

These aspects can include transport and highways impact, noise impact, contamination risks on the site and the impact of the proposed building on flood risks. The local authority may also consider whether the location or siting of the building makes it impractical or undesirable for the change of use.

The process for obtaining prior approval is similar to that of obtaining planning permission. It involves an application to the local planning authority, who will then consult with relevant bodies before making a decision.


In conclusion, constructing a commercial facility in London requires navigating a maze of planning permissions, building regulations, development rights and potentially the need for prior approval. Understanding each component of this process can be overwhelming, but it is crucial for the success of your project.

Don't forget to utilise the resources available, such as the planning portal, and to consult professionals who can guide you through the process. The factors that the local planning authority will consider in granting permission are varied and complex, from the Town and Country Planning Act and the Planning Classes Order, to the Mayor's London Plan and local housing strategy.

Remember, the planning process is there to ensure that any development benefits not just the developer, but also the local community and the wider public. By adhering to these principles, you can ensure that your project aligns with the local development plan, respects the local environment and contributes positively to London's urban landscape.