Merton Council

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Planning advice

See also: Pre-application advice service

On this page

Planning handbook

Our 46-page handbook provides an introduction to the planning system, advice about when you might need to apply for planning permission, the different types of application, and your options after a decision has been made.

Handbook: A Guide to Planning in Merton

Planning Portal

The Planning Portal has a great, user-friendly, section dedicated to helping you understand if you need planning permission. The interactive house and interactive terrace are the major sources of information; but there are other, interactive, mini-guides on loft conversions, extensions, conservatories, outbuildings and porches.

The Communities' website has a guide to outdoor advertisements and signs.

Our Planning and Building Control teams are independent of each other, so you may have to obtain permissions from both sections.

Planning Aid Direct

Planning Aid Direct is a web resource operated by Planning Aid England (part of the Royal Town Planning Institute) which provides answers to questions people often ask about planning.  It gives clear, simple explanations of how the planning system works.  It also signposts you to further support and advice.  For more information please see the Planning Aid Direct website.

Where can I find planning application forms?

You can make a planning application online using the Planning Portal service. This government website provides detailed step-by-step help with the online application process and you can make a payment online. Alternatively you can obtain application forms from our planning application forms page.

Can I get help with filling in the forms?

The forms come with guidance notes and a checklist to help you with filling it in. Please see our planning application forms page. Additionally, you can telephone or visit, and the Duty Planner will also be able to help you.

Is there a charge for making a planning application?

For some application, such as Listed Building consent or a re-submission of a planning application within 12 months, there are no fees payable. For other types of applications, fees apply according to the type of application. You can download a current schedule of fees from the planning application forms page.

Can I speak to a duty planning officer?

Yes, you can speak to a Duty Planning Officer, in person, without an appointment at Merton Link on the ground floor of Merton Civic Centre between the hours of 9am and 11am Monday to Friday; and on the telephone between the hours of 1pm and 4pm. However, the Duty Officer will only be able to give basic advice such as how to make an application or where you can find our planning policies.

Do I need planning permission?

Do you need planning permission? (Planning Portal website)

New buildings, major alterations, enlargement of existing buildings, and changes in the use of buildings and land are defined as development. These will normally require planning permission.

Many minor forms of residential development, however, including extensions to houses, the erection of out-buildings that are used in connection with an existing dwelling house, the installation of satellite dishes; as well as the erection of boundary treatments to any property subject to height/location restrictions, often qualify as “Permitted Development” and do not require planning permission.

Changes have been made to permitted development for houses, schools, commercial and industrial sites with effect from 30 May 2013. These changes essentially increase allowances or alter permitted changes of use, sometimes for a temporary period and sometimes for a limited time. See Permitted Development and Prior Approval

Some forms of permitted development rights have been removed through the use of an Article 4 Direction. These directions allow us to ensure that development in sensitive areas is controlled to prevent damage to amenity. For details about the areas affected please check the urban design and conservation page about Article 4 Directions.

Should you require formal confirmation that planning permission is not required you may apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness, although this is not compulsory. However please note that the owner of the property concerned may be liable for enforcement action if the work is found to be unauthorised.

Types of applications and permissions

Full planning permission

Normally required if you wish to make a change in the use of land or buildings and or you wish to carry out works or operations including the erection of buildings/extensions.

It may also be required if development has been carried out without permission and an application is being made to regularise the position (see also: Planning enforcement).

Outline planning permission

An option where you wish to establish whether the principle of a particular development is acceptable before details or “reserved matters” such as design, external appearance and landscaping are submitted.

An application for outline planning permission is normally only appropriate in the case of larger or more complex developments. It is not normally appropriate in the case of householder applications, developments in conservation areas, or changes in the use of premises.

Approval of Reserved Matters

Required where outline permission has previously been granted. Renewal of a time-limited/temporary permission or removal or alteration of a condition on a previous permission will usually require an application for full planning permission.

Conservation area consent

Frequently required when you wish to demolish a building or structure within a conservation area.

Listed building consent

Normally required when you wish to carry out works to a listed building. This would include internal works to the building.

Advertisement consent

Normally required when you wish to display an advertisement, including many types of shop fascias or signage.  For more detailed guidance please check the central government leaflet about outdoor adverts and signs.

Tree work consent

Usually required to prune or fell a tree which is either within a conservation area or protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). For more information on trees or tree applications, please telephone 020 8545 3815.

Certificate of Lawfulness for a Proposed Use or Development

Appropriate where you wish to seek formal confirmation from the council that proposed developments (including householder developments) fall within permitted development allowances or that a proposed use would constitute a lawful use of the premises and would not require planning permission.

Certificate of Lawfulness for an Existing Use or Development

Appropriate where you wish to regularise an existing use or development and can demonstrate that the use has been in operation for ten years, or a development (including householder extensions) in place for four years.

If you are in any doubt about what kind of application you should make, please contact the duty planning officer on 020 8545 3777 (between 1pm - 4pm); or you can talk to a duty planning officer at Merton Link on the ground floor of the civic centre in Morden between the hours of 9am and 11am Monday to Friday.

Please note that the Duty Officer cannot give free advice on the acceptability of your proposal nor give an informal opinion about the likely success of an application.

Decision making process

Once an application has been made a Case Officer is assigned to deal with the application until the point of making a decision. The Case Officer will do a site visit, check plans, and make a recommendation based on national and local policy. The final decision as to whether or not to grant planning permission, advertisement consent or issue a certificate will then be taken.

All applications for certificates of lawfulness and tree work, and most planning and advertisement applications are determined by the planning department.

This is what is known as a 'Delegated' decision - one taken by officers of the council rather than elected councillors. Lists of applications decided at the Delegated level can be found on the Weekly Decision List page.

Some applications are determined by elected councillors at a meeting known as the Planning Applications Committee (PAC). This committee meets almost every month. View details of future and past PAC meetings, including agendas.

The progress of an application can be followed by using our online Planning Explorer.

Can I make a representation about an application received by the planning department?

Merton has a duty to consult on applications for planning permission, advert consent, listed building consent and conservation area consent. This means that any representations that you make about these sorts of applications will be taken into account by the case officer if they are received within the 21-day consultation period. Certificate of lawfulness applications do not have to be published nor do we have to consult and, as such, your representations on these applications will not be taken into account. For more information about how to make a representation, whether it be an objection, support or just a comment, please see our comment on a planning application page.

Appeals and re-submission

If an applicant is not happy with a decision made by us, they may re-submit an amended scheme that overcomes the reason for refusal against the decision. This applies both for planning applications, certificates, advert consent and listed building applications.

If we refuse a tree work application, we must then make an application to make a Tree Protection Order. This subsequent application for a TPO can then be appealed.

For all other applications refused by the council, an applicant or their agent may appeal to the Secretary of State who is represented by the Planning Inspectorate. Appeals cannot be made directly to the council - they must be made to the Planning Inspectorate. Once an appeal has been made, those who object to the appeal may make a representation directly to the Planning Inspectorate; unless the appeal is about a householder application (for example new extension or new garage) - third parties no longer have the right to make representations on this sort of appeal.

A third party cannot appeal against our decision to grant planning permission, advertisement consent, listed building consent or the issuing of a certificate.

For more information see Appeals (Planning Portal website).

What are Planning Obligations?

Sometimes a development can only be approved if something is done to mitigate the impact on amenities in the local area. Sometimes this can be a condition restricting the type of goods for sale in a commercial premises, other times this can be money paid to the local planning department to help improve roads or public parks. The way in which the planning department secures financial contributions is in the process of changing. Currently all monies are secured through a S.106 agreement that is negotiated and signed after a recommended decision has been accepted by the planning applications committee. Sometimes a developer may sign a unilateral undertaking that is submitted with the application form to save time. In the future S.106 will be used to secure money to provide extra school places. Other financial contributions will be collected using the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL). London's Mayor will start collecting CIL to pay for Cross-Rail from April 2012; Merton will most likely start collecting CIL to pay for local improvements in 2013.

My neighbour has done some works to their property and I want to check if they have permission

Some work does not require planning permission and may be covered by the Permitted Development rules. Please see our applications advice page for more information on what does and does not need planning permission. If the work appears to need planning permission your neighbour may have already made an application to the council. Please use our online Planning Explorer to search for applications by address. If you have established that your neighbour is doing works that require planning permission without having made an application please see our pages on planning enforcement for more information.

Party wall issues

The party Wall Act 1996 details your rights, and responsibilities, when building work will affect a party wall either directly or because of proximity. Party wall issues are a civil matter with which we at the council cannot help you.

Party wall guidance (GOV.UK website)

Can I get involved in influencing planning policy?

Merton Council has started preparing its new development plan for the borough, known as the Local Development Framework. We are also making changes to existing conservation areas and proposing new ones. It is very important that businesses, community groups, voluntary organisations, service providers and all other interested parties that operate in Merton let the Council know what they think as early as possible in creating the LDF. To participate in the consultation process please see our planning policy pages.

Contact us

Our telephone line is open Monday to Friday, 1pm to 4pm. If you have a basic query, such as how to make an application or where to find our policies, you can speak to a planning officer without an appointment at Merton Link  between 9am and 11am Monday to Friday.

London Borough of Merton
Merton Civic Centre
London Road

Telephone: 020 8545 3777

This page was last updated on Wednesday 30 March 2016

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