Planning FAQs

These are the most commonly asked questions about our planning and building control services.


Q: Are planning and building control the same thing?
A: No. Planning aims to ensure that the right development happens in the right place at the right time, benefitting communities, the economy and the environment. Planning mainly concerns the development, use appearance and impact of buildings and the use of land. Building control ensures that building work complies with building regulations, to protect people's safety, health and welfare. Not all developments require both and each needs to be applied for separately. 

Q: Where can I find a glossary of planning terms?
A: Read our glossary of planning terms

Q: What are 'use classes'?
A: Buildings can be used for various purposes, and these purposes are grouped into use classes. See the Planning Portal guidance on use classes.

Q: What is permitted development?
A: Some works do not require planning permission. These 'permitted development' works are described in the General Permitted Development Order and the government's permitted development rights guidance for householders. See the Planning Portal guidance on permitted development.

Q: Do I need to tell the council about permitted development works?
A: Normally no. But in some cases a 'prior approval' is needed before permtted development works can begin. We recommend applying for a Certificate of Lawfulness before you carry out works which you consider to be permitted development. Permitted development criteria are very strict and if your completed development does not comply then you could risk facing enforcement action. 

Q: Do I need to submit a planning application if I'm not making any physical changes to a building?
A: Maybe. You may need planning permission for changes of use of a building or site even if no physical works are taking place. See use classes for more information.

Q: How do I know if I need planning permission?
A: Planning permission is required for most developments that involve the construction, demolition, or other alteration to the appearance of use of a building. Permission is usually not required for internal works, or for external works which do not cause any noticeable impact to the appearance of a building (for example, repair works that use similar materials). You can use the 'Find out if you need planning permission' service or see [apply for planning permission] for more details on when you need planning permission.

Q: Where can I see planning applications in Southwark?
A: You can view all applications on the Planning Register and Southwark Maps

Q: Are all planning documents shown on the Planning Register?
A: No. Some documents are not published due to privacy laws. 

Q: What does the abbreviated code (for example PER, REF, WDN, PEOBL) mean on planning applications?
A: These are abbreviations of decision codes. You can see the full list of decision codes in the planning glossary

Page last updated: 20 September 2022

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