Planning procedures

Issue date January 2020


With few exceptions planning permission is needed for any development of land. Development is defined in the Town and County Planning Act as 'the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change of use of any buildings or land'.

This definition also includes such works as footpaths, car parks, roads, hard play areas, adventure playgrounds as well as gates and fences - works which are not often realised as needing planning permission.

The team which deals determines applications for development which the county council intends to carry out itself is known as the Development Management Team. These applications are called Regulation 3 developments and a county council officer must be identified as the applicant. The Development Management Team can be consulted on all developments to give a view whether planning permission is needed, and if so what type of application needs to be submitted.

A list of useful contacts is at the end of this page. It must be noted that the Development Management Team can give an officer view as to whether the development needs planning permission, but only the district council can give a formal legal view on the need for planning permission, even in cases where the county council would be dealing with the application under regulation. The only exception is where the application would be a county matter if it were not a regulation 3 application, but these are likely to be infrequent.

The planning process for county council development

Oxfordshire County Council (OCC) is the planning authority for county matter applications, i.e. minerals applications and waste applications. As a planning authority it can also determine application for development to be carried out by its own authority. As a planning authority it has to consider the applications in the same way as district councils do for other developments. Applications for the county's own development are determined by the council's planning and regulation committee but they have delegated some of its decisions to officers. District councils are consulted as part of the application process and their views along with those of other consultees are taken into account, but they do not make the decision on the application.

The process for determining the application is similar to that used by the district councils. The Development Management team has a target time of 13 weeks from validation of an application. This must not be viewed as a rigid time period from the date that the application is submitted. If the development management team can make a decision on the application earlier they will do so, but if there are issues that come up during the process the application can take longer than the 13 weeks.

Pre-application discussions

The development management team strongly encourages pre-application discussion for all new developments. It may recommend that you discuss the application with organisations and experts before they are formally consulted during its processing. This may enable the resolution of possible concerns and issues at the outset. Please ensure that adequate time is allowed in the development programme for these consultations. A basic list of consultees is shown below.

It is important to agree the content of applications with the development management team before submitting a single copy of the draft application for checking (see below).

Design and access statements

Design and access statements for all major applications should form part of the pre-application discussion and the draft application. Guidance on the content of these statements can be found on the planning pages of our public website.

Internal consultees

External consultees

  • The relevant district council
  • The relevant parish or town council
  • Oxford Diocesan Board of Education
  • Oxford Playing Fields Association
  • Oxford Preservation Trust
  • Environment Agency
  • Sport England
  • Thames Valley Police
  • English Heritage
  • Natural England (Southern Board)
  • English Tourist Board
  • Thames Water Local access/consultation group or National Register of Access Consultants

The role of the county council and district council as planning authority

Regulation 3 applications

Even though they are not the planning authority in the case of regulation 3 development, the relevant district council is a statutory consultee for those applications. It is therefore important that the views of the district planning authority are taken into account, particularly as an objection from them will result in the application having to be taken before the planning and regulation committee. Ultimately it will be the county council and not the district council that determine the planning application

Other applications

In circumstances where the development is not for OCC's own operational purposes, the application will be determined by the relevant district planning authority. As they are both the planning authority and they would have the final say over whether the proposed development would need planning permission or not, they should be consulted for pre-application advice on such application. Applications by school governors should be sent to the district council. School governors are not employees or elected members of the county council. They are in the position of being helpers in achieving the county council’s education aims but can leave at any time.

District as planning authority (Section 106 Agreements)

In the case of applications by developers for housing sites, school sites are often included (in outline) within the developer's application. In these instances the district council will be the determining authority for the planning application.

OCC however will determine the detailed planning application for the school or county building.This cannot be considered as a reserved matter application because it is a different determining authority; nevertheless the outline consent will be a material consideration.

It is important that, upon receiving the commission for the new school, the service provider (SP) makes contact with the district council immediately.

It is helpful to the district if the SP issues a copy of the client's brief for the school to help the district council gain a detailed understanding of the county requirements for the site, and the SP should also then look to the district to provide any planning guidance upon the design arising from the master plan for the whole of the site.

For larger development such as urban extensions or regeneration areas there will also already be a detailed design and access statement that was approved with the outline application, or an even more detailed design code already adopted by the district council for the wider area.

Codes for urban extensions do reveal a tension between the desire to co-ordinate the public realm and the key buildings that frame it and the desire by the Education Authority to minimise constraints on the site therefore it is critical that the district have fulfilled their obligation to engage OCC fully in the process of preparing Design Codes at an early stage.

The SP is required to check with the OCC Planning Officer that this is the case prior to proceeding with firm proposals.

Planning parameters

It is the intention that a drawing will have been produced as part of the master planning exercise to show the planning parameters for the school envisaged at a schematic level. This should have been jointly agreed between the district council planning officers and OCC corporate landlord. It will have been prepared as part of the consultation with the county and district noted above to provide key guidance on the principals of development of the school site.

Clearly the actual layouts will not become defined until the designers have fully assessed the site and produced a design to meet the OCC Brief. Where critical elements are essential to the district planning authority they will have been be defined to be the case but they will be 'overarching principals' rather than that which seeks to act to constrain the layout and design of the school itself.

An example might cover:

  • the approximate width of development across the frontage of the site
  • the approximate location of the main entrance
  • the location of the school hall or landmark part of the building
  • the proximity of school buildings to the boundary
  • the location of drop off point for parents
  • the location of coach lay-by
  • the location of the vehicular entrance
  • the type of boundary treatment.

The contents of the planning application

The county council as a responsible public body will ensure that its planning applications are of a high standard. Drawings should be well produced and all the necessary information should be provided. This will assist the progress of the application through the planning process and help the public and councillors to understand the proposals.

Applications will not be registered if they are incomplete. The development management team's role is the same as that of district council development control services: to receive applications, consult on them, make recommendations to committee, and determine the application. Failure to provide information as set out in the validation checklists below will delay the registration and processing of applications.

Validation checklists

The county council has two adopted validation checklists. These checklists include guidance on what types of information should be prepared and submitted with a planning application. Applicants should consider both of these when preparing a planning application.

The first checklist is a list of statutory requirements that must be provided (see below) and the second is a list of local requirements that may be required depending on the circumstances of the individual application. Both of these lists are available in full on the county council's website under the planning pages.

All draft and full applications must include the following information:

  1. One copy of the completed planning application form signed and dated
  2. One copy of the completed, signed and dated ownership certificate (A, B, C or D). The county council can make applications to itself for its own development on land that it does not own. Therefore the red line application area may include land not owned by the county council. In such a case the development control team must be informed of the name and address of the owner so that they can be notified of the proposal
  3. One copy of the article 7 certificate (agricultural holdings), signed and dated
  4. One copy of the site location plan (preferably A4 on an Ordnance Survey base), at a scale of 1:2500 or 1:1250 showing, if possible, at least 2 named main roads, surrounding buildings and the direction north. The application area should be edged red and the other land in the control of the applicant should be edged blue. Means of access to a public highway must be either within the land edged red or edged blue. Please bear in mind that should any amendments to the permission be required, this will not be possible on land outside the area edged red, so it might in some cases to draw the application area wider. Applicants should ensure that the red lines are accurate and follow the correct boundaries. The red line must be complete, i.e. not open ended. It will normally follow the boundary of the site relevant to the development (such as a building or car park) and not necessarily the perimeter of the site or whole site ownership. All proposed development must be within the red line area. All of the elements necessary to enable the development to be carried out must be in the application area. The actual development must be clearly identified but not in red or blue.
  5. Existing and proposed site plans. These must be up to date site plans at a scale of 1:500 or a specified larger scale showing the site and adjacent roads, any existing and proposed buildings, extensions and hardstandings on the site, the location of existing buildings on adjoining sites, access and parking arrangements, the type and height of the sites natural boundary treatments, the location and spread of all trees on or overhanging the site and the direction North
  6. Existing and proposed elevations. These must be produced to a scale of 1:50 or 1:100 and must show clearly the proposed work in relation to any existing building(s). All sides of the proposal must be shown and indicate, where possible, the proposed building materials and the style, materials and finish of windows and doors. Blank elevations also need to be included if only to show that this is the case. Where a proposed elevation adjoins or is in close proximity to another building, the drawings should show the relationship between the buildings and detail the positioning of the openings in each building. Elevation drawings are not required for change of use applications where no external works are involved.
  7. Existing and proposed floor plans. These must be produced to a scale of 1:50 or 1:100 and must show the existing building(s) and the proposal in detail. Any existing buildings or walls to be demolished should be clearly shown. New buildings must be shown in context with adjacent buildings.
  8. Roof plans. These must be produced to a scale of 1:50 or 1:100 and must show the shape of the roof and details such as the roofing materials and vents.
  9. Site sections and finished floor and site Levels. These must be produced to a scale of 1:50 or 1:100 and must show cross sections through the proposed building(s). In cases where a proposal involves a change in ground levels and on sloping sites, drawings must be included which show existing and finished site levels, finished floor levels of the building(s), details of foundations and eaves and how encroachment onto adjoining land is to be avoided. Level details must relate to a fixed datum point off of the site.
    All plans must be no larger than A3 unless agreed with the planning officer and must have:
    • a title
    • a scale
    • a legend
    • units of measurement noted
    • a unique reference number
  10. One copy of the planning justification statement
  11. One copy of the design and access statement (where applicable).
  12. Details of assistance or advice sought from a planning officer prior to submitting the application. Please indicate dates of any correspondence or discussion and name of officer.
  13. A cheque made payable to Oxfordshire County Council or a county council internal cost code for the relevant planning application fee.

The site survey plan must be based on a survey carried out by the consultant and not based on Ordnance Survey information. Other plans (such as the location plan) may be based on Ordnance Survey information.

Other statements and supporting information may be required depending on the type of application proposed. Please refer to the development control teams validation checklists, this could include the following types of information:

  1. A flood risk assessment;
  2. An ecological survey;
  3. A tree survey;
  4. A transport statement or transport assessment;
  5. A sustainability statement;
  6. A heritage statement;
  7. Environmental impact assessments are needed for major applications but are rarely required for projects prepared for the county council

Submitting applications to the Development Management team

Until further notice, the process for submitting applications is as follows:

  1. Send a draft application for all applications to the development management team by email, including the information as outlined above for draft applications. Please do not submit draft applications through the Planning Portal;
  2. Once the development control team has commented on the draft application and confirmed that they are happy with the draft please submit the full application through the Planning Portal .

If the full application cannot be submitted through the Planning Portal the development management team will accept applications electronically via email or on a CD.

A hard copy should be submitted to the case officer only if requested.


Heritage consents / historic structures

In addition to planning permission it may be necessary to seek separate listed building and / or conservation area consent for the works proposed. Planning Policy Statement (PPS) 5 Planning for the Historic Environment establishes the principles for dealing with development affecting heritage assets. Local planning authorities must take into account:

  • the desirability of sustaining and enhancing the significance of heritage assets, and of utilising their positive role in place-shaping; and
  • the positive contribution that conservation of heritage assets and the historic environment generally can make to the establishment and maintenance of sustainable communities and economic vitality

Local planning authorities should also take into account the desirability of new development making a positive contribution to the character and local distinctiveness of the historic environment.

The SP must notify the district council conservation team of any proposals to carry out repairs and maintenance to listed or other historic structures as part of the annual programme of repairs and maintenance. The district council will consider whether listed building, scheduled monument or conservation area consent is necessary. There may be a need to consult the county archaeologist and/ or English Heritage for advice on the works at the pre-application stage. The county archaeologist and/or English Heritage will normally be consulted on all heritage consent applications.

Listed building consent

Listed building consent is needed for any work to a listed building which would affect its character as a building of special architectural or historical interest. It is a criminal offence to carry out such works without consent. The penalties are up to 12 months' imprisonment and substantial fines. Planning permission may also be required for external works or changes of use.

Applications for listed building consent now go through the district council, and advice on that procedure should be sought from the district’s conservation team. The applications still need to go to the Secretary of State, but there might be some cases where the district can determine the applications.

The development management team are no longer involved in listed building consent, but if the development also needs planning permission they would deal with that application.

Conservation area consent

Any development in a conservation area must conserve or enhance the character or appearance of the conservation area if consent is to be granted. More care and attention and probably finance is needed for schemes in such cases. PPS 5 sets out criteria for dealing with historic buildings and conservation areas and should be consulted by those dealing with conservation areas. Advice from the development management team should always be sought in advance even when the proposal only includes demolition..

Conditional permissions/ consents and clearing conditions

Sometimes, applications do not include all the necessary information for a clear approval to be given. In such cases conditions are applied to the consent requiring information to be provided before works start, and for additional works to be carried out. This information has to be approved by the local planning authority, and in some cases the district councils or other consultees such as the highways authority or county arboricultural officer will be consulted prior to the condition being cleared. The process for clearing conditions has a target period of 5 weeks. Therefore this period and any negotiation time needs to be taken into account in the pre-contract program.

Clearance of conditions should be properly planned and coordinated to ensure that approval is received before work is due to start on site. Ideally they should all be cleared together because often they interrelate and cannot be reasonably dealt with in isolation. A charge will be made for the clearance of planning conditions. This charge will be for each clearance of a condition 'submission' so every effort must be made to clear conditions in one go.

Adequate time should be allowed for the approval of sample panels of wall and roofing materials to ensure that there are no delays to the contract whilst alternative sample panels are provided.

Failure to clear 'conditions precedent' (i.e. conditions which require works to be agreed prior to development commencing) prevents the planning permission from being lawfully started.

The county council as planning authority has taken action against developers who have carried out works unlawfully without first clearing conditions precedent. The county council must therefore require the same of its own development and as applicant must not therefore commence development without the benefit of planning permission. This includes starting development without clearing conditions precedent.

Renewal of consent applications

As part of the ongoing process of renewing applications, it must be cleared with the client that the proposals are still required. Applications which have subsequently been withdrawn because the client did not need the building are wasteful of resources. Temporary consents should be considered as being a maximum period of 5 years, and not be assumed to be constantly renewable. If the period of need is longer than that, a permanent consent should be considered. Advice should be sought from the Development Management Team.

When making applications for renewal of consent it is essential to:

  1. make sure that the client wishes the consent renewed;
  2. ask the client to justify the renewal under current circumstances rather than those that applied originally;
  3. ascertain exactly how long the renewal period should be for;
  4. check if the original application was amended during the planning process or by conditions so that the renewal will apply to the amended not original proposal;
  5. ensure that any new development adjacent to the application is shown on the submitted drawings;
  6. assess relevant changes in the planning circumstances; i.e., changes to policies in local plans, PPG's and PPS's etc;
  7. in the case of prefabricated buildings be certain that the condition of the building will last for the period requested. In such cases a condition survey will be needed before permission can be granted.


Trees are an important consideration in development proposals. You should contact the development management team and the County Arboricultural Officer before undertaking any work to trees. Any application which puts any significant tree at risk is likely to be contentious. As a responsible planning authority the county council will seek to ensure that trees are properly protected during development operations. A protection schedule is available on request. Separate approval is required from the relevant district council to lop, fell or prune trees in conservation areas and those protected by tree preservation orders.

The location of hard surfaces near trees can have implications for providing safe access and the advice of the county council's disability equality advisers should be sought.

Protected species

Before the application is submitted a survey may need to be undertaken for the presence of any protected species such as bats. For all developments, this must be carried out at the earliest possible stage. If evidence of a protected species is found a strategy for management has to be agreed with Natural England before planning permission can be issued. For more details refer to Protected species C1/004.

Temporary works associated with capital projects

Those carrying out capital projects should be aware of the need to move, remove or provide prefabricated classrooms for a temporary period, and capital project appraisals should include any temporary works.

Prefabricated classrooms often have to be moved or removed to allow location of permanent buildings and they are often needed to allow decanting of pupils whilst classrooms are temporarily out of service. Such applications should provide all the information shown on the validation list for full applications and state the period that is being applied for.

Scheduled monument consent

Most but not all scheduled monuments are archaeological and are underground. However, some buildings are scheduled monuments and are also listed. Scheduled monument consent, however, overrides listed building consent and works to such buildings only require scheduled monument consent.

Although the process of obtaining scheduled monument consent is a relatively quick one (2-5 months), the subsequent works required can have disastrous effects on programming if not previously considered.

The county archaeologist and the district council conservation team should be consulted at an early stage to check whether there is any likelihood that archaeology may be involved.

No work to scheduled ancient monuments may be carried out without scheduled monument consent. This means literally no work, no repair and maintenance, nothing.

Further information sources

Contact details

See the Contact Us page.

Development Management Team planning pages on our public website.

District councils


National Register of Access Consultants 020 7735 7845