Steel Building Planning Permission Q&A

Steel Building Planning PermissionIf you’re considering erecting a steel building, you simply can’t ignore the question of planning permission. Not sure what it is or whether you need it? We asked one of our technical experts for a brief guide.

Q1: What is planning permission?

A: Basically, by law, you need authority to build in most circumstances. There are a few exceptions; the key one being permitted development. There’s more about this in Q4.

Q2: Do I need it?

A: Basically, you probably need to get planning permission if you:

  • Build something new
  • Change the use of your building
  • Make a major change to it, such as adding an extension.

So if you’re thinking about any kind of industrial or commercial building, our opinion is that, as a starting point, it’s best to presume that you do need planning permission. Otherwise, you run the risk of putting up/extending/changing the use of a building that you may have to alter later or maybe even tear down – with all the additional stress, time and cost that involves.

Q3: Where do I get it?

A: You have to apply to the relevant local authority using the correct form. (There is a charge for seeking planning permission.) You can apply directly online on the Planning Portal.

For assistance in applying for planning permission, you can engage a planning consultant, work with your architect, or speak to our experts.

Q4: I’ve heard that some buildings are classed as ‘permitted developments’ and therefore don’t need planning permission?

A: It is the case that ‘permitted development’ may be allowed on industrial building and warehouse extensions up to a certain size – usually up to 200 sq m, but other height and boundary conditions can apply.

Furthermore, most agricultural buildings do go through on permitted development (see Q10 for more about this).

However, even if your extension falls under this category, you can still seek planning permission to make sure your interpretation is correct and that there are no hiccoughs later on. In fact, we would always recommend this as good practice.

Tip: If you want to work with us at DPL, we suggest you get in touch at an early stage in your project so we can help you formulate the design, as that needs to be considered before you can seek planning permission. We can then instigate and oversee the planning permission process. We can do elevation drawings, required for planning permission, very cost effectively.

Q5: What happens if I don’t seek planning permission when I should have done?

A: If you erect, extend or change the use of a building without getting planning permission first – and you’re then told you should have had it, there are several possibilities, including:

  • The local authority may suggest changes that would make it a permitted development
  • In the worst-case scenario, you may be served an enforcement notice, ordering you to undo all the changes you’ve done. (You can appeal against this.)

Just to reiterate that we always recommend you seek planning permission for your steel building. It’s far better to have peace of mind than to run the risk of a lot of time and potential stress, not to mention the expense of possibly having to take the building down.

Q6: What are some of the key points to consider?

A: There’s quite a lot to consider – it isn’t just a case of submitting drawings.

For example, you have to cover what you’re going to do with storm water, how the foul drainage will work, plus other issues. You should make sure you’ve got the right scale of plans too.

You’ll also require a design and access statement. This is quite an in-depth document. Some of the areas it covers include showing why you’ve come up with the design, and that it’s proportional and appropriate to the need. It also has to include colours and materials, and more.

Q7: How do you know you’ve got planning permission?

Once planning permission’s been granted, you’ll receive a letter confirming it. There’ll usually be some conditions. Some of the common ones we see range from the local authority wanting to approve colours or materials, requesting that you carry out a newt survey, advising that building regulations will be required, or that you need to carry out some planting. Usually, there’ll be a timescale within which you must start any of this.

If there are some conditions that you can’t meet or want to do differently (for example colours or materials), you can apply to have certain conditions removed – although there’s no guarantee that will happen.

Q8: I’ve heard that smaller buildings can be classed as temporary structures?

A: We’ve heard people say that too – but it isn’t usually the case! People do say to us that they’ve been told they don’t need planning permission for a smaller building, such as a field shelters or domestic workshops, because it can be classed as a temporary structure but, in our experience, the local authorities don’t tend to see it that way. You usually still need planning permission.

Q9: So are there any ‘temporary structures’?

A: Yes – there’s one temporary structure rule that applies on a farm. However, the structure has to be towable and shouldn’t be kept in one place for longer than two weeks. This doesn’t suit our buildings, which are designed to last and require permanent footings.

Q10: I run a farm. Are the rules different for agricultural buildings?

A: A whole raft of different criteria apply here and most agricultural buildings will go through on permitted development. However, you still can’t erect, extend or change the structure or use of a building without telling the local authority. The process you go through is like a ‘slimline’ version of planning permission. They’ll come back to you within 28 days to tell you if your building is a permitted development. There are limits on size (currently 450 sq m) and some criteria that would mean ‘permitted development’ didn’t apply, including livestock buildings in certain circumstances. Our advice would always be to check with the local authority.

Q11: So, how would you sum up your advice on planning permission?

A: Don’t be nervous about applying for it. We understand that people are sometimes worried about the prospect of their new building being refused but that possibility isn’t going to go away by not applying.

You’ll probably spend a lot of money on your new/extended/upgraded building. Surely it’s better to have the peace of mind – and save yourself potentially an awful lot of hassle, time and money – of having it done properly from the start?

How can DPL help us to seek planning permission?

We’ll have an initial consultation with you to get all the information and develop the design plans at the location of your site. We’ll fill in the application form for you and complete the design and access statement in consultation with you. Our planning consultant understands what planners are looking for and how to present that clearly. It’s all part of our total service.

We’ll then send it to the relevant local authority. When it goes into their system, you’ll be able to check its progress online. It can take up to 13 weeks.

Not sure where to start, feel daunted by it or simply haven’t got the time?

Just get in touch and leave it in the capable hands of our experts.

Please note: this information relates to planning permission in England. For information about Wales or Scotland, please get in touch with our experts or visit
This information is for guidance only and you should seek more in-depth advice before proceeding.