• Text Colour:
  • C
  • C
  • C
  • C
  • Text Size: A A A

How to Make a Planning Application

If you build a property or develop land without the necessary planning permission, the council may force you to put things right later. Before you start development work, you should ask the council’s local planning office about planning permission.

Information in this Section


 When You Need to Apply

You'll need to apply for planning permission to:

  • add to or extend a flat or maisonette, including those converted from houses
  • divide part of your house for use as a separate home (for example, a self-contained flat or bed-sit)
  • use a building or caravan in your garden as a separate residence for someone else
  • build a separate house in your garden
  • build something which isn't allowed under the original planning permission for your house (for example, a planning condition imposed to stop you building a fence in the front garden because the house is in an ''open plan'' estate)

You can discuss your planning proposals with the council planning office for your area. For more information about planning permission, go to the Planning Portal. 

When You Don't Need to Apply

You can make certain minor changes to your home without planning permission. You have 'permitted development rights' to fit an alarm or build walls and fences below a certain height. 

Under permitted development rights, you don't need planning permission for certain works. But these works must meet certain conditions. For example, there are dimension restrictions when building an extension

To check minor work  is under permitted development rights, contact the council planning office for your area. The Planning Portal identifies improvement work or changes homeowners can do without planning permission.

Areas of Special Interest (Designated Areas)

If you live in a designated area, your permitted development rights are restricted. You'll need to apply for planning permission to make changes or do certain works:

  • to a listed building
  • in a conservation area
  • in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

You can apply for planning permission yourself or employ an agent to do it for you. Your planning application must include a fee and a location map showing the site you want to develop.

Asking the Planning Office for Advice

If you think you need to apply for planning permission, contact your council’s local planning office.  They'll tell you if you need planning permission.

They can:

  • give you an application form
  • tell you material to include with your application such as drawings
  • confirm planning application fee

Ask if they foresee any problems which could be overcome by amending your proposal. 

Preparing a Planning Application

In most cases, you'll need to make a full application for planning permission to develop or build on land or a site.  Your application must include:

  • an accurate, current site map
  • professional drawings
  • a fee

Map Showing the Application Site

When applying for planning permission, you must include four copies of an Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland (OSNI) map showing the boundary of the application site in red.

You must use an accurate, current OSNI map to scale not less than 1:2500.
You can buy suitable maps online from OSNI:

Drawings of the Proposed Development

You need to provide plans and drawings to scale, showing the proposed development. The application form explains what you need to include for the development you want.

The Decision Process

The council should decide on your application within eight weeks. It can take longer to decide large or complex applications.  The planning office can tell you about their timetable for planning applications.

If your application is not determined within eight weeks, you can appeal to the Planning Appeals Commission.

Getting Help from an Agent or Planning Consultant

If you're applying for planning permission, you don't need to employ an agent or planning consultant. If you are unfamiliar with the planning process, an agent or planning consultant can explain how they can help.

To search for local planning consultants in Northern Ireland, go to: 

Outline Permission

You can make an outline application without detailed drawings, to see what the council thinks of proposed building work.

Outline permission only establishes the principle of development. You cannot build or develop the site.

Planning Advice for Communities and Individuals

Community Places provides free, independent advice and information on planning issues for community groups and individuals who cannot afford to employ a consultant.

Typical issues the advice covers include:

  • how to get information about planning proposals
  • understanding planning proposals
  • making objections to proposals
  • how decisions are made
  • the complaints and appeals procedures

Community Places also publishes guides to the planning system and to objecting to planning proposals.