Outline Planning Permission

Obtaining Outline Planning Permission (OPP) is the first step in getting your self-build project off the ground. OPP is, in its simplest terms, the local planning authorities agreeing in principle to building work being carried out on a plot of land or in renovating a derelict property, but it is far from the green light to start your self-build project.

Very little needs to be done in order to obtain Outline Planning Permission, and you’ll probably find when you begin your search for land that many empty plots or plots with derelict dwellings on them already have OPP in place. OPP can usually be obtained with as little as presenting the local authorities with a map of the area highlighting the plot you are interested in developing. For most self-builders this is just a case of dipping a toe in the water before they sink any money into purchasing land, a way to check that they can, in theory, build the sort of property they want.

What Does OPP Allow Me to Do?

The short answer is very little. Just because you have a plot with valid OPP in place does not mean you can begin building, as this is just the initial phase in what is essentially a three-part process. OPP should simply be treated as a preliminary step in your plot search, which lets you know whether it is or isn’t worth buying a site.

Should the authorities agree to it, what OPP does allow you to do eventually is apply for Full Planning Permission (FPP), where you submit your in-depth designs to the council. If FPP is granted, then work on your self-build project can begin.

How do I Apply for OPP?

If the plot of land you’re interested in doesn’t already come with valid OPP, then applying for it is very simple. Before putting in an application to the local planning authorities it might be worth approaching them and discussing your proposals, that way you can gain some understanding of what they consider reasonable and whether it’s worth the fee and paperwork which goes with putting in an application. Some councils charge for advice and fees will vary, but you could be saved time and money in the long term if you get guidance early on.

The application itself will require you to submit a very basic drawn site plan and some simple forms, and decisions in the form of a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ will usually be returned within a few weeks.

What Happens Next?

If OPP is granted, it will usually have a number of strict conditions attached to it which are known as ‘Reserved Matters’. These set a framework for the appearance of the building and also guidelines on the layout, means of access, scale and landscaping which your designs will have to comply with. A date will be set when you will have to have worked out your final plans and applied for an Approval of Reserved Matters, usually within three to five years of OPP having been granted.

An Approval of Reserved Matters has to show the authorities that you have addressed the conditions placed on your self-build project and have kept your designs within the parameters they have set. Once they have reviewed and given the stamp of approval to your Approval of Reserved Matters, you then need to upgrade your planning permission to Full Planning Permission before you can start work.