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Planning Permission For Steel Buildings – Is It Required?

One of the most common questions we receive is, “Do I need planning permission for steel buildings?”

Before ordering a steel building, it’s essential to understand the planning and regulatory requirements. It can be hard to find relevant advice online, so we’ve put this guide together to help you navigate the complexities of UK planning and give you our recommended steps.

What is Planning Permission For Steel Buildings?

Planning Permission is the process of asking if you can do a certain piece of building work. It will be granted (possibly subject to certain conditions) or refused.

Your local council’s planning department is the primary authority responsible for planning permission. This department oversees and regulates new constructions and significant changes to existing structures.

Planning permission is required for most new steel framed buildings and significant changes to existing ones. This permission primarily addresses the building’s impact on the surrounding environment, including its appearance, size, and effect on local amenities and infrastructure.

It is worth noting that planning and regulation laws differ between Scotland and the Rest of the UK, and we’ll do our best to distinguish them in this article.

Do You Need Planning Permission for a Steel Building?

When researching planning permission rules online, it can be challenging to get useful and specific answers. This is because so many variables affect what does and doesn’t require planning.

In most cases, you will require planning permission for a steel building in the UK.

This includes constructing a new building, making substantial changes to an existing building, or changing its use. Below are the main factors that determine whether planning is required.

  • Size: In simple terms, the larger or taller a building is, the more likely it will need permission.
  • Location: Where you plan to build will influence the need for permission, with areas such as conservation areas, heritage sites, or land near listed buildings being more controlled.
  • Environmental Impact: Factors such as flood risks, proximity to trees, and local wildlife habitats are considered. Sometimes, you may need to provide an environmental statement alongside your planning application.
  • Purpose: The use of your building will play a role. For example, agricultural buildings on agricultural land are less likely to require planning than domestic or commercial buildings.
  • Usage Changes: Any change in the building’s intended use might also require planning permission, even if the external structure remains unaltered.

To ensure you get the right advice, we recommend all Vanguard Steel Buildings customers have an informal conversation with their local planning department to discuss their projects and ideas. This will likely give you an indication of whether you will need to obtain planning permission.

Most planning departments will also allow you to submit a pre-application, which will give you more formal feedback on your likelihood of getting planning permission. This will also highlight any potential problems that you can then address before your formal application.
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Process of obtaining steel building planning permission

If you determine that your steel building project requires planning permission, here are the steps we suggest you take. We recommend you start this process even if you don’t believe you need planning – so that you can be sure you’re abiding by the laws.

  1. Research: Look online to see whether your project is likely to require planning. A lot of councils have useful self-serve documents you can download.
  2. Contact: Reach out to someone in your local planning department and ask to meet them for an informal conversation about your project.
  3. Preparation: Any planning department will require detailed plans of your proposed steel building, including dimensions, location, and how it relates to surrounding properties. Once you submit a quote request, we can provide you with drawings for this purpose.
  4. Application: Once you’ve got all the required documentation, you can submit your application through the planning portal. There is likely to be a fee for this, which you can calculate here (for Scotland) or here (for the UK).
  5. Decision: After submission, your local planning authority will consult neighbours and local bodies and potentially arrange a site visit before making a decision.

It’s important to follow this process, as it can be costly to get it wrong. If you don’t get appropriate planning when required and you’re found out, you can be heavily fined and may face an order to demolish the building.

Planning timelines

The timelines for planning decisions will vary from council to council.

You can make two types of application:

  • Pre-application: This means they will come back to you in 2-3 weeks to say whether they are likely to approve your planning application. They will also highlight any issues you can address before starting your formal application. There will be a cost to this.
  • Full application: The full application decision can take anywhere from 8-13 weeks, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

Permitted Development Rights

Although most buildings will require planning permission, some steel building projects fall under permitted development rights, which do not require planning permission. Often, this is when the intended use is agricultural, industrial or warehousing.
However, these rights are subject to conditions and limitations such as:

  • Size and height
  • Location restrictions
  • No impact on neighbouring properties
  • Footprint limits

Again, we suggest you speak to someone at your local authority who can give specific advice on whether your steel building project will comply with permitted development.

Do You Need Building Regulations Approval?

Planning permission deals with the building’s location, design, and external appearance, and how it will fit in with its surroundings. Building regulations ensure that constructions meet safety, health, and energy efficiency standards. These regulations cover various aspects, such as structural integrity, fire safety, and accessibility.

Much like planning permission, building regulations approval is usually required for steel buildings. This approval covers the following:

  • Structural Integrity: Ensuring the steel framework is sound and capable of supporting the building.
  • Fire Safety: Implementing measures to maintain structural stability during a fire, allowing safe evacuation.
  • Energy Efficiency: Meeting insulation and energy performance standards.
  • Accessibility: If your building is accessible to the public or used as a workplace, it must comply with accessibility regulations, such as providing wheelchair ramps.

In Scotland, this process is known as obtaining a building warrant, whereas in England and Wales, it is referred to as building control approval. Although the requirements are similar, the administrative processes differ.

Get started with Vanguard Steel Buildings

We hope this guide (not legal advice) helps you better understand the planning permission requirements for steel buildings. It can be a frustrating process, that can slow the process down, but it is better to be safe than sorry.

If you take anything from this guide, it’s that contacting your local planning department before you start any building work is absolutely vital.

We have helped hundreds of happy customers navigate the murky waters of UK planning, and we’d be happy to help you, too.

To get started, simply submit a quote request, and our friendly design team will be in touch. We will be able to guide you on whether you’re likely to need planning permission. We will also be able to create drawings you can use in planning.


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