Understanding the planning system

An overview of national planning policy and guidance and how the planning system works.

The Development Management service

The council’s Development Management service is responsible for all decisions from major sites such as Brighton Marina to householder extensions and changes of use. 

Development Management's decisions are guided by a number of documents.

National planning policy and guidance

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how these are expected to be applied.

The NPPF must be taken into account in the preparation of local and neighbourhood plans, and is a material consideration in planning decisions.

The National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) adds further context to the NPPF. The NPPG replaces over 7,000 pages of planning guidance that was previously published in separate documents. It is now available online.

You can sign up for email alerts on any changes the government makes to it in the future.

The guidance is a ‘material consideration’ when taking decisions on planning applications. This means that if a local policy is deemed out of date, local authorities may be directed by the national guidance’s requirements.

A number of pieces of guidance relate to the planning application process including:

General guidance from Department for Communities and Local Government

Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) have produced a useful Plain English Guide to the planning system (January 2015) [PDF, 331 kb].

Development plans

The city council produces a development plan, based on planning laws, government guidance and local priorities, together with national laws and guidance, and local policies and guidance found in supplementary planning guidance and supplementary planning documents, which is used by Development Management when assessing applications.

  • Brighton & Hove Local Plan (Adopted 2005), some policies are 'saved', these policies will be superceded by the City Plan Part Two when it is adopted
  • City Plan Part One provides the overall strategic vision for the future of Brighton & Hove and identifies the broad locations, scale and types of development needed together with the supporting infrastructure
  • City Plan Part Two, work commenced on drafting policies in 2016. This will provide site allocations and development management policies once adopted
  • Waste and Minerals Local Plan, provides planning policies in relation to waste and minerals development
  • Neighbourhood Plans, there are a number of neighbourhood plans in preparation in the city, when a neighbourhood plan has passed examination, achieved successful local support through referendum and is then formally ‘made’ by the local planning authority, it will form part of the statutory ‘development plan’  and used by the council in deciding planning applications

Types of development proposals

The following types of development may require a planning application submission to the city council:

  • building a garage or extension
  • constructing new buildings such as offices or homes
  • changing the use of existing land or buildings, or altering buildings, for example adding new shop fronts or replacing windows
  • changing landscaping, such as making a new children’s play area
  • displaying advertisements
  • working on protected trees
  • putting up temporary structures

You can get more information on the government's Planning Portal website. If there is any question whether you need planning permission or not, you can apply online for a ‘Lawful Development Certificate’ to prove to anyone, such as a prospective purchaser, that your development is within the law.

An application for planning permission will either be approved or refused, based on planning laws, guidance, and policies:

Written confirmation should always be obtained from the development control team where certainty is needed regarding the necessity of a planning application.

The Investigation and Enforcement service

The Investigation and Enforcement service is the part of Development Control that takes action against unlawful development.