Do Industrial Buildings Need Planning Permission?

Planning permission is often viewed as an expensive, protracted and elongated rigmarole.

The Planning Portal states that 8 weeks is the average completion time for most planning applications. This may be extended to 13 weeks in the case of larger or more complex projects.

A planning application for the erection or alteration of industrial or commercial buildings likely exceeds £1000 or higher for complex, large-scale developments.

You can use the Planning Portal’s fee calculator for a rough estimate of planning fees.

When Don’t You Need Planning Permission for Industrial Buildings?

You don’t need planning permission for certain commercial and industrial property modifications, alterations and new erections if it falls under permitted development.

Permitted development is a legislative tool used to grant development rights without planning permission.

If your plans fall under the terms of permitted development, you will not need to go through the planning permission process. However, alterations must remain fully compliant with building regulations and you must report your development to building control prior to use.

Note that building regulations are separate to both planning permission and permitted development – we’ll cover them shortly.

We have a full guide on permitted development for industrial buildings here, but let’s summarise the key points:

Industrial Buildings and Use Class Order

The government changed the Use Class Order in 2020 and overall, there is generally greater flexibility for changing the use class of a building completely under PDRs without planning permission.

You can find the latest Use Class Order here.

As of 2020, the term ‘warehouse’ now falls under use Class B8 (storage or distribution).

Light industrial buildings are labelled as use Class B2 (general industrial).

With permitted development, B8 and B2 are effectively interchangeable – they can be converted between each other without planning permission (up to 500m2).

Modifications, Alterations and New Buildings

Using PDRs, under certain conditions, it is possible to:

  • Modify and extend a building
  • Change use class
  • Build entirely new buildings on the same plot

PDRs won’t automatically apply to industrial buildings and warehouses built in the following areas or have specific limits and conditions.

  • Conservation areas
  • National Parks
  • Norfolk and Suffolk Broads
  • Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • World Heritage Sights
  • Listed buildings (without consent)
  • Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (in some circumstances)
  • Where an Article 4 Direction has been placed by the local planning authority

It is possible to erect entirely new B2 or B8 buildings under the following conditions:

  • The building does not exceed 5m if positioned within 5m of the curtilage boundary
  • If further than 15m, no new building can be taller than the tallest on the plot
  • No new building can exceed 100m2 in Specific Areas of Scientific Interest
  • Otherwise, the new building must not exceed 200m2

In terms of extensions:

  • No extension can increase the height of the building beyond 5m within 10m of the curtilage boundary
  • Otherwise, the extension cannot be taller than the building being modified
  • On designated land (e.g in some of the above national parks, etc), extensions must not exceed 110% of the original building or 500m2 floor space. They must also be built in keeping with the existing building.
  • On sites of Specific Scientific Interest, extensions must not exceed 1000m2 floor space or 125% volume of the original building
  • Otherwise, the limit is 150% of the existing floor space of 1000m2
  • The terminology ‘original building’ relates to the building as built prior to 1 July 1948
  • The use class of new buildings or extensions cannot change

Prior to committing to any project that seems to adhere to the above rules, an informal discussion with the planning authority is essential.

It’s wise to obtain a Lawful Development Certificate prior to undertaking construction.

Building without planning permission is not usually a criminal offence and a retrospective planning application can be made. This is still extremely risky.

Development under PDRs must also pay rigorous attention to building regulations, which we will describe shortly. PDRs do not exempt buildings from building regulations.

Most of these nuances will be uncovered by a surveyor who will also be able to help you contact your local planning authority.

What is Required for Industrial Building Planning Permission?

If PDRs do not apply, then you will need planning permission.

The planning application itself is not the most expensive part of a planning application, creating the necessary supporting documentation is much more costly.

The requirements for a planning application vary considerably with the size and scope of the development. An Outline planning application is typically applied for prior to full planning permission and will help quickly ascertain whether the development will be considered by the local planning authority.

For an industrial or warehouse planning application, at a minimum, you will need:

Plans and Drawings

Submission of architectural plans and drawings is essential for commercial and industrial planning permission. A ‘location’ plan includes drawing of the site in its nearby context, describing the development, its size and position.

planning drawing

More advanced architectural drawings are typically essential for larger developments. The more detail you submit, the more likely you are to gain planning permission quickly and easily.

See article 7(1)(c)(ii) of the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure (England) (Order) 2015 for more details on the ‘location plan’ specifications. These will also vary between local planning authorities, so be sure to check the local list of information requirements.

Ownership Certificate and Agricultural Land Declaration

Provides details about the site ownership. Provides evidence that any and all parties that have legal ownership of the land are informed of the plans.

Design and Access Statement

Sometimes necessary to prove that the building is suitable for its site and setting. Also outlines how it will be accessed by new and existing users.

Environmental Impact Statement

Required for sites that undergo an Environmental Impact Assessment.

What Happens After The Planning Application is Submitted?

Typically, decisions are made within 8 weeks, extendable to 13.

In reality, they can take much longer than this, especially for complex developments in busy areas.

The application may be pushed back on certain details/missing documents. This is why approaching the planning authority with a robust, transparent and detailed plan is wise.

The following ‘material considerations will be taken into account:

  • Loss of light or overshadowing of nearby buildings
  • Loss of privacy
  • Parking and access
  • Traffic and highway safety
  • Layout and design
  • Any previous local planning permissions
  • Current government policy
  • Local policy
  • Noise and pollution
  • Rubbish disposal
  • Various safety considerations

The authority may either grant permission or grant permission subject to certain conditions.

Namely, the local authority may grant permission subject to:

  • ‘Pre-commencement conditions’ that usually relate to confirmation of what materials are being used (e.g. whether the bricks are in keeping with local style, etc).
  • Terms pertaining to construction access and the hours permitted for building.
  • Restrictions on how the building(s) might be used post-development, e.g. whether they will be subject to a change of use that requires additional consultation.

Obligations may be placed on the development relating to section 106 of The 1990 Town & Country Planning Act. These act as private agreements that restrict certain aspects of the development, such as:

  • Restricting the development or use of the land in any specific way
  • Requiring specified operations or activities to be carried out in, on, under or over the land
  • Future owners will have to take these restrictions into account too

Once planning permission is granted, a date will be included of when the development can begin.

Building Regulations

Building regulations are separate from planning permission and involve a different authority; Building Control (which may still be a part of the local planning authority).

Building Regulations detail the standards for the design and construction of buildings. They ensure health and safety, both of the occupiers of the building itself and any nearby buildings.

They also ensure compliance with access regulations and fuel or power consumption.

Using contractors enrolled in the Competent Persons Scheme allows them to self-certify aspects of the building for building regulation approval.

However, most commercial industrial or warehouse developments will require a building inspector to check the building during and after the construction.

Building Regulation Resources

Building regulations are long and comprehensive in the UK. There is a system of ‘Approved Documents’ which are regularly updated with the latest regulations and specifications.

You can read these Approved Documents at the following:


The Role of Chartered Surveyors In Industrial and Warehouse Planning

Any and all modifications and development to new and existing commercial, industrial or warehouse buildings require the attention of a surveyor.

RICS Chartered Surveyors can assist with the following:

  • Advising on what is/isn’t possible under PDRs
  • Construct a solid planning application based on evidence
  • Work with architects and other surveyors to draw up supporting diagrams and documentation
  • Agricultural Need Assessments
  • Environmental impact assessments
  • Design and Access statements
  • Dealing with appeals
  • Expert witness reports

What is a chartered surveyor

Local Chartered Surveyors will have worked closely alongside existing developments in your local area. They also have experience in working with the planning authority, buildings control and other key individuals.

The independent advice of a Chartered Surveyor will put your development on the right path forward from its outset.


Is the convoluted status of planning permission in the UK well-founded? Probably!

As you can see, there are many considerations here, and there are many other nuances within the law that may apply to certain types of developments in certain areas for certain purposes.

It’s true that governments have tried to reduce some of the friction within UK planning, introducing increasingly generous and liberal PDRs and routes to simpler development.

But, ultimately, the price of neglecting the proper process is extremely high and a careful, considered and professionally guided approach is always advised.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Do commercial buildings get permitted development rights?

Yes, permitted development rights apply to all commercial buildings under specific conditions. These conditions limit the size and scope of the modifications or development. Permitted development rights may also differ with designated land, e.g. National Parks. When permitted development rights do not apply, planning permission must be obtained.

Can you start building without building regulations?

Yes, but if the building works are retrospectively found to not comply with building regulations then the building cannot be legally used until it is modified to comply. If this isn’t possible, the building will have to be removed altogether.

What if I don’t get planning permission?

Failing to obtain planning permission prior to building is not usually a criminal offence unless it involves modifications to a listed building, damage to protected trees or environments or unauthorised display of advertisements.
However, a breach of planning control can result in an enforcement notice requiring works to be halted. It’s usually possible to make a retrospective planning application. Failure to comply with an enforcement notice is a criminal offence

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