If someone says "You don’t need planning permission for that", that is probably because "that" falls within permitted development rights (PDR).

Scottish Government circulars 

There is commentary on PDR in the new Scottish Government circulars on householder and non-domestic PDR. 


The underlying purpose of PDR is to exempt specified forms of development from the need to apply for planning permission.

In effect, this involves deciding in advance that those forms of development are acceptable. This frees up time for planning officers to deal with more significant developments, and saves the developer from the delay and cost of submitting a planning application.

The law

For Scotland, PDR are contained in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992. The Order has been amended many times, so it is important to check you are referring to an up-to-date text. Unfortunately, the amending orders only mention the amendments, and do not contain a copy of the Order as amended.

Recent amendments are the result of the Scottish Government's review of PDR.

There are separate orders for England and Wales, with differences in PDR. For example, in Scotland PDR for flats are set out separately from other forms of dwellinghouses.


The scope of PDR is wide-ranging, from development within curtilage of a dwellinghouse (householder PDR), to development by statutory undertakers, eg. Network Rail. PDR for harbours could be useful for the green freeports. There are significant PDR for agriculture (although not for all of Jeremy Clarkson's activities).  PDR has accelerated the provision of cycle paths.

PDR are not necessarily about small scale developments, although projects which require environmental impact assessment are excluded from PDR.

There are big variations between PDRs. It is essential to take into account any limitations which apply.

Key points

  • If there is PDR, there is no need to obtain any confirmation before starting work (unless prior notification is required, see below). An application for a certificate of lawfulness can be submitted, but that's really only worthwhile if there is some doubt.
  • Lack of PDR does not necessarily mean the development is unacceptable, just that a planning application needs to be submitted, to give the planning authority the opportunity to scrutinise the proposals.
  • The scope of PDR is a process of legal interpretation – the merits of the development are not relevant.
  • There are uncertainties and inconsistencies – it is difficult to legislate for every eventuality.
  • Lack of definitions can cause uncertainty - eg. curtilage
  • Some definitions can be difficult to apply to individual circumstances – eg. principal elevation
  • PDR is Scotland-wide, with no regional or local variations, although some PDR do not apply to every part of Scotland, eg. many PDR do not apply in conservation areas
  • Individual authorities can use the article 4 direction procedure to dis-apply PDR

Prior notification and approval

The prior notification and approval procedure is a halfway-house between PDR and planning applications. It enables work to proceed under PDR, unless the planning authority intervene to require some details to be scrutinised.

This procedure applies to certain categories of permitted development, including agricultural and forestry buildings and operations, demolition, and some public utility developments.

For these developments, work cannot start until notification is given to the planning authority, who then have a specified period (eg. 28 days) to decide whether their prior approval is required.

The Order restricts the scope of prior approval to specified matters, eg. the siting, design and external appearance of the building.


Neil Collar