Planning Permission

The decision by your Local Planning Authority to allow you to build what you want, where you want, is made through a successful application for Planning Permission. Without this permission you cannot progress to building. You will be using all the information you have gathered to date, and the details you have worked up with the professionals who are supporting your project, to show that your proposal meets local and national planning stipulations.

Photo: plans with an “Approved” stamp

Talk to the Hub about funding which may be available through your Local Authority to help meet costs associated with preparing to make a Planning Application. Pre-planning advice is sometimes offered for free by Local Authority Planning Officers, but there will be other support and development costs (professional fees for Architects and Planning Consultants for instance, and costs for Feasibility studies and Housing Needs Surveys). You will find the support you need through our Adviser Pool.

The Hub can

  • Connect you with your Local Planning Authority for pre-planning advice
  • Introduce experts who can help you present information to the Planning Authority
  • Help with Housing Needs Assessment


Why build low-energy homes?

  • Low-energy homes have high levels of insulation and airtightness, which reduces the amount of heating needed and therefore the amount of energy used. Your residents could have heating bills of around £200 a year, compared to £1200 for the average family home!
  • Low-energy homes can also be healthier to live in, as they’re free of dust and damp. That's because of the clever ventilation systems they generally have.

Types of low-energy homes

  • There are several common ways to build low-energy homes, ranging from block build to timber frame, and prefabricated homes where panels are put together on site.
  • Prefabricated homes can reduce build time on site. Once your groundworks are done, some low-energy homes can be constructed on site in just a few days, ready for roofing and external rendering.
  • See a short video of a low-energy home being erected near Kendal in Cumbria, made by Cumbrian firm Eden Insulation.
  • One option for designing and building very low-energy homes is to follow one of the recognised building standards for these, such as Passivhaus. For retrofits of existing properties, there’s a version of Passivhaus called EnerPHit.
  • When considering the cost of very low-energy buildings, factor in the whole lifecycle of the property, including the annual savings in energy bills for your residents, particularly in light of rising energy costs.

Clever features to think about

  • Orientate buildings for maximum solar gain. Rooms that are used the most should be on the south side of buildings. Making the most of the Sun's heat during the day will reduce the extra heating needed. It sounds simple, but it's a key part of Passivhaus design.
  • Using renewable energy is also central to creating low-energy homes. Consider renewables, such as solar photovoltaic (PV) for electricity generation and to heat water.
  • For heating, many low-energy homes use a clever ventilation and heating system that captures the heat naturally created inside the house (heat generated by the residents and appliances, for example) and then redistributes it, mixed with fresh air from outside. A heating assessment is usually done to work out how much extra heat might be needed as a top-up. Ground-source and air-source heat pumps, biomass or wood-burning stoves are sometimes installed.
  • Another option for heating is a 'district heating scheme'. Instead of each home having its own heating system, a larger system serves all the homes in your development. Biomass boilers have been used in some housing developments. It may even be possible to capture waste heat from nearby industry, such as a factory. Find out more about district heating.
  • Also consider the sustainability of the materials that will be used to build your homes. Products such as cement tend to have a high carbon footprint, for example. Think about the wider environmental impact of materials – including how they’re made or sourced and the distance they've travelled.
  • Consider climate change resilience. When designing homes and gardens for the future, think about systems for capturing rainwater for flushing toilets and watering the garden. Clever garden design can even help keep homes warm in winter and cool in summer.

See for yourself!

  • There's a chance to visit low-energy homes and other clever buildings around the region every September, with the Cumbria Green Build & Sustainable Living Festival - find out more.

Permission and Regulation

To make a Planning Application you will need:

  • a location plan using an ordnance survey map
  • plans showing layout and size of the houses, and what they will look like on the site
  • drawings which show outside space, parking areas and access routes

Obviously, you will be working with a range of professionals to get this information together and some of them will be able to help you make your case directly to the Planning Authority. When you are ready to apply, you will need to pay a fee to the Planning Authority.

Decisions should be made within 8-weeks, but can take longer. Conditions may be attached to satisfy the Council that you will do certain things which were not spelled out in your application.

Work with an Adviser to get Building Regulations approval once Planning Permission is secured. This is where you show that the houses will be safe, by design, and built to Government standards. This requires technical information from a Quantity Survey or Builder about how the houses will be built and what type of material will be used.

It's a legal requirement to appoint a Principal Designer to make sure that all works are planned safely. You can get help from the Adviser Panel when you are thinking about this.

You will need permission from the energy and water companies if you are digging where cables and pipes are laid.

More information

General Principles

In almost all cases, planning permission will be needed for your community housing project. Other approvals may also be required depending on the type of scheme, for example if it involves works to a Listed Building, special Listed Building Consent will be required or if the site contains protected trees that are subject to a Tree Preservation Order you will need special permission to do any work that might affect them. There are also special rules and permissions needed if your site is in a Conservation Area. These approvals should be considered at an early stage in the development of your scheme. Work with a Planning Consultant to understand the issues relevant to your plans.

When you have found a possible site or an existing building for conversion, you need to look into its planning status and suitability for housing development. Find the housing officer based in your local Council who will be able to help with this. It is important that you approach the housing officer first as the Council's Planning Department may charge for pre-application advice. You might get around this by asking your housing officer to open the discussion on your behalf.

Your local Council deals with Planning, apart from areas within the Yorkshire Dales or Lake District National Parks, in which case the planning authority is the National Park Authority.

Your local Council or the National Park Authority should have a Local Plan covering their area - or be working to agree one. Local Plans cover a wide range of topics, and usually identify land suitable for new development of all types, including housing, as well as showing areas to be protected from development. Check the status of your site in the Local Plan documents; it may be earmarked for housing, another use such as employment or agriculture, protected from development completely, or it may in some cases not have an allocation. We have links to relevant Local Plans on this page.

Planning policies often restrict development to protect attractive and valued landscapes, the character of historic rural villages, and other heritage assets. This must be balanced with the need to take account of local circumstances and the council must plan housing development taking into account local needs, particularly for affordable housing. This means that in certain circumstances and where a clear need is identified exceptions can be made and planning permission may be granted for affordable housing in locations where planning applications would normally be refused.

Councils can include policies for affordable housing development and Rural Exception sites in their Local Plans or other policy documents. Check the policy for your area with your local Council, or talk to the Hub to get more information.

Some communities in the area are preparing Neighbourhood Plans that deal with local issues and needs. You will probably have heard if there is a Neighbourhood Plan being prepared by a local group for your area and you should check to see if your proposed housing site might be affected by any policies or proposals being considered in the Neighbourhood Plan. Before a plan can be developed a Neighbourhood Area has to be agreed with the Council. One of the benefits of having a Neighbourhood Area agreed is that if you find a suitable site you may be able to build houses under the 'Community Right to Build'. Neighbourhood planning gives communities direct power to develop a shared vision for their neighbourhood and shape the development and growth of their local area.

Information on Neighbourhood Planning is issued by the Government here.

Information and grant funding to develop a Neighbourhood Plan is also available from Locality, a National Charitable body.

Finer Details

Before giving permission, your Local Authority will want to know that you have considered other issues, including:

  • Access: Is there existing safe access to your site for vehicles, cyclists and pedestrians? If not, can access be reasonable provided by new works?
  • Site Features: Are there any features that would impact on your development such as flooding issues, contaminated land or protected trees? Would your scheme unduly affect your neighbours?
  • Heritage: Is your site located in a Conservation Area? If so, particular care must be taken when designing new development so that your scheme will preserve and enhance the character of the area. Would your development impact on the setting of a nearby Listed Building or designated site of other special interest such as archaeological interest? Information will be available from your Council's heritage and environment officers. Historic England is the National Body that provides information on Heritage matters.

Planning Guidance

The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the Government's Policies and how they expect that they will be applied by local Councils.

The Planning Portal is a National 'one-stop shop' for Planning.


National guides

The Government publishes information on design and quality and standards and space standards.

A useful guide to space standards is published by the Royal Institute for British Architects.

The Design Council provides guidance for Councillors on Urban Design.

A comprehensive guide to Urban Design originally published by English Partnerships and Homes England is available in the Government National Archives.

Local Guides

Your local Council has information about what they look for when considering designs for housing. You can also find information in your local Neighbourhood Plan or Village Design Statement if your community has produced one.

Each Local Authority has its own Design Guide:

National Parks

Special Planning rules apply to the National Parks largely to make sure that new buildings 'fit in' with the surroundings. If you put forward good designs there is much more chance that they will be accepted.

If you are in a National Park (Lake District or Yorkshire Dales), you should work with your local planners to comply with their building design guidance.

Energy Efficient Design

Homes should be well insulated and, if possible, have the main windows facing south to benefit from solar heating. Smaller windows such as bathroom windows should be north facing. South facing roofs are also useful so that solar panels can be fitted to lower heating bills. New houses should be laid out with this in mind - although it may not always be possible if houses are being fitted in between other rows of houses and where houses laid out in this way may overlook neighbours.

Guides to green design are provided by many local Councils. Talk to your Local Authority about their interest in Green Design and take advice from Cumbria Action for Sustainability at the design phase to integrate energy saving and carbon reduction ideas at an early stage.

Historic Environment

The historic environment can provide inspiration for new forms of development that complement existing places. If a building is Listed, or within a Conservation Area, this does not mean that a site cannot be developed, or a building cannot be converted to a new use. However, it does mean that buildings are legally protected and in the case of Listed Buildings, any changes either inside or outside will need special permission. It may mean that you would not get permission to demolish a building, but often such buildings provide excellent conversions and still have space for new extensions.