Planning Glossary

This page is designed to help you understand the words and terms used on this website. The information below should not be seen as a source for legal definitions, or as a statement or interpretation of planning law.

Access – How you would get in and out of a site from the highway.

Adopted / Adopted development plan – The development plan is complete, it has been agreed, and has full status. It is the local planning authority’s confirmed adopted development plan.

Advocacy – Give support for a cause or an argument. In planning, advocacy is usually provided by a planning barrister or solicitor.

Agenda – A list of items of business to be considered at a meeting. A programme or schedule.

Agent – The person who prepares and submits a planning application. Often a planning consultant or architect.

Agricultural permitted development – Things which can be done on agricultural land without needing formal planning permission.

Agriculture / Agricultural land – Land used for agriculture, and for farming trade or business purposes. It does not include houses or gardens, or land used for fish farming.

Allocated – Land which is identified for a certain use (housing, retail, open space, etc), usually in a development plan.

Amend / amendment – To change or alter a something. A development plan or planning application can be amended.

Annual Monitoring Report – A report each year to the Welsh Assembly setting out progress against targets for preparing and revising development plans.

Appeal / appellant – An applicant for planning permission can appeal against a decision (usually a refusal of permission). Appeals can also be made if a planning authority does not decide an application in a given time, and for other reasons. The person who makes an appeal is the appellant. Appeals are decided by the Planning Inspectorate.

Appearance – How something looks, or its form. In planning, it is usually the appearance of the outside of buildings which matters.

Applicant -The person who signs and submits the planning application forms. An agent can submit applications for other people.

Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – An area identified in law as nationally important because of its outstanding landscape value.

Article 4 Direction – An order made by the Secretary of State which means that works not normally needing planning permission now need it in the area of the Direction.

Building regulations – Building regulations set standards for the design and construction of buildings. They are designed to keep people in and around buildings safe and healthy. They also deal with energy saving measures and provide disabled access in buildings.

Call in / called in applications – The Welsh Assembly Government has powers to ‘call in’ planning applications. This means it takes the decision, not the local planning authority. Call in is not common, happening only a few times each year.

Certificate of Lawfulness of a Proposed Use or Development – People can apply to find out whether a proposed development is lawful in planning terms. If it is, the Certificate is issued by a local planning authority, meaning that the proposed development will not need planning permission.

Change of use – Changing the use of a building, or plot of land, from one use class to another use class is seen as development. It therefore needs planning permission.

Chartered – Qualified in their profession. For instance, chartered planner, engineer or surveyor.

Circulars – Written by Government to explain areas of planning law and practice in more detail. They are like Technical Advice Notes.

Codes of conduct – Rules which make sure that planning and other decisions are made in a fair and open way. Members of planning committees are usually governed by them.

Committee – A group of people who make decisions on planning matters. The committee is part the local planning authority, and made up of elected councillors (or members).

Committee report / report to committee – Before an application goes to planning committee, the officer dealing with the application writes a report to explain the issues. It usually describes any public response to the application, provides an analysis of the issues, and makes a recommendation to approve or refuse. Conditions, or reasons for refusal, are also usually suggested.

Community / communities – A general term used to describe the people who live together in a neighbourhood, village, commune, hamlet or centre of population. Communities can also be based around a religion, a set of interests, a profession, etc.

Community and town councils – The local administrative body in a ward, town or community area. Usually consulted about planning issues. Known as parishes in England.

Community Involvement Scheme – Sets out the local planning authority’s approach and a timetable for involving local communities in preparing Local Development Plans. It is part of the Delivery Agreement which is submitted to the Assembly Government at the beginning of plan preparation. Certain bodies and groups must be given a chance to comment on a draft Community Involvement Scheme.

Community Strategy – A high level strategy which the unitary authorities in Wales are responsible for drawing up for their areas. It tries to link together all the different programmes and activities in an area, to improve public services and facilities. In National Parks, the National Park Management Plan does a similar sort of thing.

Conditions – Attached to a planning permission, conditions control how different parts of a development should be carried out. Conditions can be used to control many things – building materials, landscaping and access are just a few examples.

Confidential – Private. Can not be seen by the public, usually because people or business interests might be harmed.

Consent – Permission

Conservation – Protecting something from harm or damage, and improving it if possible. In planning, conservation is usually about a special landscape or environment, or it might be a building or part of town.

Conservation areas – Conservation areas are parts of villages or towns which are special because of their architecture or history. Local planning authorities designate conservation areas to protect or improve their special qualities. A higher standard of design is expected in the area, and any pulling down of buildings or cutting of mature trees is controlled.

Consultant – A planning consultant is a trained planner who works for people and companies who can afford to pay for expert help and advice. Consultants have experience of the planning system and use it in many ways, for example, to help get a planning permission or to appeal against a refusal.

Consult / consultation – Asking people or organisations what they think about something. Comments are usually asked for on a particular matter (such as a planning application), or a set of issues, or a draft document (such as public participation in preparing a plan). Consultation can be formal or informal. It can involve everybody in an area, or a small selection of people or groups.

Consultation bodies – Organisations or departments which need to be consulted about planning applications or development plan matters.

Contamination / contaminated land – Land that has been polluted or harmed in some way, making it unfit for safe development. Development can only happen after it has been cleaned up, or decontaminated.

Core strategy – Part of a development plan. The core strategy sets out in very general terms how an area will develop in the future. It gives the plan a central framework, which allows more detailed planning policies to be prepared for specific areas and topics.

County councillors – A locally elected politician. Often known as a Member of the authority.

Court of Human Rights – The European Court of Human Rights hears complaints from European countries about possible infringements of human rights.

Cross-examine – The opportunity to question a witness who has already given evidence for the other side of the argument. A planning barrister or solicitor is invited to do this by an Inspector during a public inquiry into a major appeal, for instance.

Curtilage – The area of land attached to a house, and forming one enclosure with it. It usually includes all the land and buildings that make up a property, as outlined by the boundary. The curtilage of a house is usually shown in the title deeds.

Decision letter – The formal letter that gives the decision on a planning application. The letter also contains conditions or reasons for refusal.

Deemed consent – Does not need a formal planning application, and consent is not needed.

Defer – To put off taking a decision or considering an issue until a later date.

Delegated powers – A power given to specific planning officers by locally elected councillors. Delegated powers mean officers can take decisions for the council on some planning matters.

Delivery Agreement – A document which sets out the local planning authority’s timetable for preparing its Local Development Plan. It also contains a Community Involvement Scheme, setting out how the authority will involve people, groups and organisations at different stage of plan-making. The Delivery Agreement needs to be agreed with the Assembly Government.

Density – Usually used to describe a housing development, density describes the number of houses in a given area (usually an acre or hectare). The number of habitable rooms is another way of measuring area density.

Departure / departures – A proposed development which is not in line with the policies contained in an adopted development plan.

Deposit – The period of public consultation once a local planning authority has prepared its intended development plan. The Deposit Plan is the document which is looked at by the Inspector at Inquiry, as well as comments on the plan from other people, groups and organisations.

Design – Indicates the look and ‘feel’ of the building, both inside and outside. It includes the materials used, how energy efficient something is, and landscaping.

Determine – A local planning authority determines a planning application when it reaches a decision on whether to grant planning permission. It also determines whether a proposed development will need planning permission.

Development – Defined as ‘the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations, in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any building or other land.’

Development control – The process by which a local planning authority receives, considers the merits of, and determines planning applications. Development control decisions are usually based on the development plan and other material considerations. Often, an authority will have a separate development control section or department.

Development plan – The document which uses words and maps to set out the local planning authority’s policies and proposals for future development in its planning area. Usually looking fifteen years forward, it contains policies for specific sites and for different types of development. Development plans include Unitary Development Plans, Structure Plans and Local Plans. All planning authorities in Wales will be moving to the new Local Development Plan system over the next few years.

Development plan polices – Policies are usually contained in the development plan. They set out how different types of development and land uses should be controlled. Policies can be for a small area, for a type of development, or apply over the whole plan area.

Draft – A document which has been started, but is not yet complete. The public can be asked their opinion of a draft plan (known as public consultation). A planning report to committee might be in draft form.

Drainage – The way water (waste and surface) moves around and off a site. Often a separate network of underground pipes carry waste and surface water away from the site. Surface water is usually directed into streams, rivers or lakes. Waste water will usually be treated before being released.

Dwelling house – A self-contained building, or part of a building, which is used for living purposes. A dwelling usually provides a home for a single household. Dwellings can be houses, bungalows, flats, maisonettes or converted farm buildings.

Elected Member – People elected by the public at local authority level who serve on committees.

Enforcement / enforcement notice – A local planning authority uses its enforcement powers to make sure all the terms and conditions of a planning decision are carried out. Enforcement is also used to control development which has not got a planning permission, but which needs it. An enforcement notice sets out what needs to be done to put something right, or to control an activity which has not got planning permission.

Engage / engagement – To take part in an active and involved way, usually in plan-making. Under the new planning system, local planning authorities should engage with their communities from an early stage of preparing Local Development Plans. Engagement means more than consultation – it means people getting involved early in the plan-making process, and not just commenting once a draft plan has been prepared.

Environment Agency – The government body responsible for protecting the environment from pollution. It controls activities that handle or produce waste, and provides information on waste management issues. It also deals with flood protection.

Environmental Impact Assessment – Some types of development, usually bigger schemes, need an Environmental Impact Assessment. Applicants will need to prepare an Environmental Statement and include it with the planning application. The statement considers the likely impacts of the development on the environment. It also looks at how the impacts can be reduced. It is used to help decide the planning application.

Environmental Statement – Looks at the likely environmental impact of a proposed development. It contains the findings of the Environmental Impact Assessment, and often a lot of supporting background information. The statement should contain a description of the development, measures to be taken to avoid harming the environment, and the main likely effects on the environment. The statement should also describe alternatives looked at, and reasons for choosing the final proposal. A layperson’s summary is also provided.

Examine / Examination – A Local Development Plan is examined by an independent Inspector to see if it is ‘sound’. The plan Examination includes the Inspector considering written representations on the Deposit plan, as well as sessions where people can speak (give evidence) either for (support) or against (object) proposed policies.

Expedient – Action which should be taken for practical, not moral reasons.

Foul drainage – Foul drainage is sewage, or waste water from toilets and other sources of dirty water. Drains underground carry waste water from buildings for treatment at a sewage plant.

Freedom of Information Act – Gives any person the legal right to ask for, and be given, most of the information which is held by public authorities.

Full application – A planning application with all the details of a development proposal. Sometimes referred to as a detailed application, it can be given a full planning permission. There are no matters which are reserved for discussion and approval at a later date. (see ‘outline permission’).

Government agencies – Organisations which can make decisions for the government, and advise government on their area of responsibility.

Hearing – A planning appeal hearing which is carried out in a structured way, but which is not as formal as a local inquiry.

Highway – A publicly maintained road, together with any footways and verges.

Highway authority – The department which is responsible for maintaining public roads and access onto them, pavements and verges.

Human Rights Act – The Human Rights Act is law which protects people’s human rights. Human rights are the basic freedoms and values which all people have a right to. It also limits some individual rights, to protect the rights of others and the wider community.

Inspector – An independent, experienced planner who works for the Planning Inspectorate. Looks carefully at detailed planning issues which are debated during examination of a development plan, or at a public inquiry into a specific proposal. Inspectors also decide appeals.

Judicial Review – Where the High Court looks at whether a decision made by a planning authority is reasonable. Some planning decisions are tested by a Judicial Review.

Landscaping / landscaping proposals – Includes plants, trees, paths and structures. A landscaping proposal should be prepared for areas of land which will not be built on. Often forming part of a planning application, it might include garden layouts, walls and fencing, trees and planting areas, and ‘hard’ road and pavement surfaces.

Late representation – A letter of objection or support which is received after the close of a set legal period for consultation. Can sometimes still be considered.

Legal Aid – Free or affordable legal information and advice from qualified solicitors.

Listed building consent – Needed for the demolition or part-demolition of a listed building. Also needed to alter or extend a listed building, where the work would affect the building’s character or special interest. Also needed for any work to other buildings in the grounds of a listed building.

Listed building – A building which is protected from development because of its special historic interest or architecture. Local planning authorities should hold a list of the listed buildings in its area, which the public can see.

Local Development Plan – A new type of plan which is steadily replacing Unitary Development Plans. All planning authorities in Wales either are, or will start preparing one. Often called a ‘LDP’, it will be the statutory development plan for a local planning authority area. It should include a vision and a broad strategy, as well as policies for different areas and types of development. It will identify land suitable for new development, and set out proposals for key areas of change and protection. Policies and development land will be shown on a map base, called the Proposals Map.

Local planning authority – The local authority or council that is responsible for preparing plans and for making planning decisions. In Wales, there are twenty five planning authorities, including the three National Parks. The planning authorities also deal with waste and minerals matters.

Local Plan – An old-style development plan which sets out detailed policies and proposals for the development and use of land. In some authorities, local plans are still used to guide decisions on planning applications.

Local strategic partnership – Responsible for developing Community Strategies. Usually made up of people from key organisations and areas of interest.

Maladministration – Something which has happened which is not in line with the proper procedures.

Material / material consideration – If something is material, it is relevant and needs to be taken into account before a decision is made. Whether or not something is material often depends on the individual case. In other words, there is no hard or fast rule. Each case has to be considered on its own particular merit.

Mediation – Bring different people together to reach a common agreement which will benefit all.

Members – People elected as local politicians to help councils make decisions. Members attend council meetings, and often ‘sit’ on committees.

Minerals Planning Policy Wales / Mineral Technical Advice Notes – Set out government policy and advice on minerals planning issues. Minerals issues include quarries, availability of stone and sand, etc. Produced by the Assembly Government.

Minutes – A written note of what was said and agreed in a meeting.

Monitoring officer – The person who deals with complaints against a local authority.

National Park – National Parks are designated because of their special landscapes and environments. National Park authorities are the planning authority for their areas. They aim to protect natural beauty, wildlife and traditional ways of working and living. They are also responsible for providing opportunities for the public to understand and enjoy the parks.

National Park Management Plan – A broad-brush, high level plan. It sets out a vision for each Park, and contains action plans to guide management activity and spending in future years. Similar to a Community Strategy.

Nature conservation – Protecting wildlife areas and species by careful management. Creating opportunities for nature to thrive, often by including the communities that enjoy natural areas and wildlife.

Notified – Told, or informed about something.

Objection – Words, usually written, which give reasons for objecting to a development proposal or policy. People can make an objection to a planning application, or to something which is contained in a draft development plan or policy, or at appeal.

Outline application – Planning applications can be submitted in outline to find out if the principle of a development on a site is acceptable. If a proposal gets outline planning permission, details of the development will need to be approved at a later date. Usually only used for larger applications.

Participate – To take part in something. In planning, ‘public participation’ is used to describe the process of asking the public to share in the process of planning. It might be to do with preparing a local development plan, or about thinking how an area should develop in future.

‘People, Places, Futures – The Wales Spatial Plan’ – A very high level plan, prepared by the Assembly Government and covering the whole of Wales. It sets out a ‘broad-brush’ framework to guide future development and public spending. It is not just a land use plan – it includes other areas such as transport, education and welfare. Local planning authorities need to take account of the Spatial Plan when preparing their Local Development Plans.

Permitted development / permitted development rights – There are certain types of development which do not need planning permission. These include small works, and things which will not have much of an effect on other people. The General Permitted Development Order sets out those things which can be done without needing to apply for planning permission.

Planning committee – The committee of the local planning authority which makes decisions on planning applications and development plan policies.

Planning Aid Wales – Planning Aid Wales is a charity which provides free, independent advice and support to people and groups who can not afford to pay a planning consultant. It encourages people to get involved in the planning system to improve their local environment.

Planning Inspector – An experienced planner appointed by the Planning Inspectorate. The Inspector makes independent planning decisions on behalf of the Assembly Government. Inspectors consider appeal cases, and test the ‘soundness’ of development plans at examination. They also make decisions at public inquiries into larger proposals. Inspectors write reports considering all the planning evidence, and decide cases.

Planning Inspectorate – An independent agency which acts for the Assembly Government. It is responsible for processing planning and enforcement appeals, and holds inquiries into local development plans. It also deals with listed building and advertisement appeals, as well as reporting on applications which are ‘called in’ by the Assembly.

Planning permission – Formal approval from a local planning authority that a proposed development can go ahead. It is often granted with conditions. Usually, the development needs to be started within a given time of permission being granted. Planning Permission can be full, or outline.

‘Planning Policy Wales’ – Sets out the national policy framework for land use planning in Wales, and includes many different areas of planning. Prepared by the Assembly Government to give local planning authorities and others a clear understanding of how the system should work.

Policy / policies – Planning policies are usually contained in development plans. They are a set of words which describe what is acceptable in planning terms, and what is not. There can be policies for different types of development, and also policies which apply only in certain places. Planning applications can be decided after taking account of several different policies.

Pre-application discussions – Discussions which happen before a planning application is submitted. Usually between local authority planning officers and the person thinking of developing a proposal. They can improve the quality of an application and are usually seen as good practice. The planning officer might advise on something that the applicant does not know about, or make suggestions to help improve the proposal.

Precedent – Something which sets a pattern, and can start a run of similar things. For instance, planning permission is given in a conservation area to replace traditional wood windows with plastic, double glazed frames. The decision would set a bad precedent, and make it difficult to refuse similar applications.

Prior approval – An application submitted to the local planning authority to find out if planning permission is needed, usually for a minor form of development.

Proposal / proposed development – A development or an activity which somebody intends to happen in the future. Development proposals can come from a private developer, a local authority, other types of agencies, or a private individual.

Public consultation – Informing members of the public about a planning application, or about future plans for an area. Usually involves asking people to make comments within a set time. Comments received are taken into account before a decision is made.

Public Inquiry – A formal hearing held by a planning inspector into a planning matter. It might be into a local development plan, or an appeal. Members of the public can attend public inquiries as observers, and can also be invited to comment on an issue.

Recommendation – A planning officer makes a recommendation to the planning committee. It is usually set out towards the end of the commitee report on the planning application. The recommendation is the professional opinion of the planning officer, but the committee do not have to take the recommended decision. Recommendations are usually to refuse, to approve, or to defer.

Registered – Once a planning application is received by a local planning authority, it is checked to make sure it includes all the information needed. It is then registered.

Representation – Comments which are submitted to a local planning authority. They can either be in support of something, or they can object to something. Representations are usually made in connection with a planning application, or a proposed policy in a development plan for the area.

Representative – Somebody who can speak for an organisation, a group, or an individual.

Reserved matters – Things to do with a proposed development which will need to be decided at a later date. For instance, an outline application for housing on a site is approved – however, more detail is needed on the design of each house, the materials to be used, and landscaping. These are reserved matters, because they still need to be approved.

Revoked – Cancelled. Withdrawn.

Schedule of reports – Often called the planning committee agenda. All the officers’ case reports to be considered at a planning committee meeting are collected together into one document. Most planning authorities make the agenda available for the public to look at a few days before the meeting.

Sewer / sewage – Waste water which is carried by sewer pipes to a sewage treatment plant.

Sound – Local Development Plans are tested by an Inspector at the Examination to see if they are sound. More information about what it means for a plan to be sound can be found on the websites of the Planning Inspectorate and the Planning Portal.

Stop Notice – A legal notice served by the local planning authority which aims to make somebody stop a development or an activity. Used as part of enforcement powers.

Strategic Environmental Assessment – Development plans and certain other types of plan need to be assessed to see how they will affect the environment. The assessment is a process which happens as part of plan-making. It has a number of key stages – preparing an environmental report, looking at alternatives, carrying out consultations, and showing that the assessment has had an effect on the final plan. It is usually combined with Sustainability Appraisal, which considers social and economic effects, as well as environmental effects.

Structure Plans – An old-style development plan. Sets out strategic planning policies for county areas. The basis for more detailed policies in old-style district and local plans. Structure plans still continue to operate in some areas, but will be replaced by a Unitary Development Plan or a new-style Local development Plan.

Submit / submission – To present something in a formal way. Planning applications are submitted to a local planning authority, and so are representations on a development plan.

Sui generis – A latin word which describes a land use, or building which is not in a Use Class. Examples of land uses which are sui generis include theatres, launderettes, car showrooms and petrol filling stations.

Supplementary planning guidance – Detailed guidance prepared by the local planning authority. Usually to do with a particular set of planning issues. It might cover a theme such as design and landscaping, or be to do with a particular area. Often gives further detail of policies and proposals in a development plan. Does not need to be examined like a development plan, but must be in line with development plan and national policies.

Sustainability Appraisal – A process which checks to see if policies in a development plan are sustainable. This means thinking about the effects of the plan on the environment, on society and on the economy. Often carried out as a joint process with Strategic Environmental Assessment. The public can comment on the Sustainability Appraisal process, which happens as a part of preparing the development plan.

Sustainable development – Looking after the world by using its resources in a sensible way. Or, ‘development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs’. The planning system is important for sustainable development – it can bring about more sustainable ways of living and working. It can also encourage new types of development which use less energy.

Technical Advice Notes – Technical Advice Notes are prepared by the Assembly Government, and give more detail about national planning policies. They deal with a specific area of planning, such as housing, flood risk, or protecting wildlife. The information in the Notes is used by the public, by planners and by developers to get a better understanding of one particular area of planning.

Third party – A party with an interest in the application but not the applicant. Usually somebody supporting or objecting to a planning application.

Unitary Development Plan – Often called a ‘UDP’, a plan covering the whole local planning authority area. It replaces old-style structure and local plans. Contains policies for the whole plan area, and identifies land for different kinds of development. Around half of the planning authorities in Wales have prepared one. Once formally adopted, it becomes the development plan for their areas. New-style Local Development Plans will slowly replace Unitary Development Plans over the next few years.

Use Class – Planning law puts the different ways of using land and buildings into different Use Classes. To change the use of a piece of land, or a building from one use to another use within the same Use Class does not need planning permission. However, a change of use from one Use Class to another will usually need planning permission.

Utility company – A company which provides a product or a service which is used by the public. Examples include water, electricity, gas and telephone utility companies.

Visual amenity – The contribution made by the look of a place to how the public enjoy it. An area with high visual amenity is pleasing and attractive to the eye.

Welsh Assembly Government – The Welsh Assembly Government is the national government in Wales. It is responsible for the planning system in Wales, and prepares national planning policy.

Written representations – A written statement setting out comments, or an argument for or against something. The most simple way of submitting an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

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