Planning Permission For Modular Buildings – Do You Need it?

Must You Obtain Planning Permission for Modular Buildings?

Many understandably wonder if it is necessary to secure planning permission for modular buildings. This is especially the case when the unit is not planned for long term use.

You may also be wondering the same, that’s why we prepared this page to guide you. In this article, you’ll learn all about planning permission in the UK and when it will be necessary for modular buildings. You’ll also learn what considerations you will need to keep in mind, should you require an application for planning permission.

But first off, you need to understand why planning permission is a factor in this discussion.

Planning permission in the UK

In order for communities, towns and the country as a whole to develop in organised fashion, development must be planned. In the UK, development planning is made in line with the guidance contained in the National Planning Policy. This policy reflects what kind of development is desired for the country and how best to achieve it.

This is why property developers are usually required to obtain planning permission before they commence construction. It is all in a bid to ensure that construction is carried out in accordance with best practices, and importantly, in a fashion that reflects well on the host community. After all, you’re unlikely to appreciate the construction of a waste recycling plant right down the street from your picture perfect home.

In the UK, planning permission is administered by Local Planning Authorities (LPA). They make decisions on whether to grant planning permission in accordance with local planning policies and the National Policy.

So, if you need to make an application, you will ordinarily make it to the local authority in the community where your site is located. Applications are usually made via a harmonised application form available online.

Do you need to secure planning permission for modular buildings?

With modular buildings, a bit of a dilemma occurs. Ordinarily, construction is permanent. This means that you will most likely change the face of the community forever, if you’re putting something up.

But if what you are installing is a temporary relocatable unit, then you’re not making any permanent changes to the site. Would you still need to apply for building permission in this instance?

The straight answer to this is: it depends. What you can be sure it does not depend on though, is the fact that you are installing a modular building. Although many do not know this, modular buildings are not treated differently from traditional buildings when it concerns planning permission.

What would determine if you need to apply for permission, are entirely different considerations. In general, you will not need planning permission for modular buildings when:

  • The building has a floor space less than 100m2 and will not be in place for more than 28 days
  • It is an extension to an existing building and it is:
    • Shorter in height than the original building;
    • Directly relevant to the purpose of the original structure; and
    • Less than 25% of the size of the original by volume.

If the building is an extension, you may be able to avoid a planning permit if it fulfils the considerations above, even if it stays for longer than 28 days.

When would you need planning permission?

Apart from the instances listed above, you will generally need permission in any other instance where:

  • The building exceeds 25% of the total area available on your site. If it is an extension, you will need permission if it exceeds 25% of the total size of the original building.
  • The building is closer than 5m to the boundary of your site, even if it is temporary.
  • The building significantly reduces the amount of parking space on the site.
  • You intend to change the use of your building.

In truth, if you’re doing anything new on your property or site, it is usually best to speak to an LPA official. You can arrange an informal discussion to discuss your intended project with them. The discussion will help you get a good indication as to whether you will need planning permission and your chances of securing it.

Many LPAs will even allow you to make a pre-application for planning permission. This pre-application will help you understand if your application is likely to be approved. You will usually have an answer to your pre-application within 2-3 weeks.

The answer will also highlight any potential problems the LPA might have with the project. This will give you an opportunity to address them before proceeding with your formal application.

Considerations to keep in mind when making your application

If you find that you will require planning permission for your modular building project, here are some considerations you need to keep in mind.

Cost of a planning application

Currently, the cost of a full application for a new single dwelling in England is £462. This cost varies in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland though. If you’re only making an extension, the planning application will cost you £206 in England. In Wales, the same application will cost you £190.

Keep in mind that there will be further small sums payable for discharge of planning conditions that you must meet before development begins. This is apart from the application fees. You will also need to factor in fees for pre-application advice, if you require it.

Because your application may need to be accompanied by architects’ plans, and specialist reports in some cases, you will need to factor in their fees. On the whole, you may need to budget around £2,000 for the whole process.

What should be in your application?

Generally, when making your application, you want to include the following documents:

  • 5 copies of your application forms
  • Location plan including the site plan, block plan, elevations of both existing and proposed sites. It should also show several details about the site and how it fits into the surrounding area.
  • Signed ownership certificate
  • Agricultural holdings certificate
  • Design and access statement. This is a short report that must accompany and support your application. It provides a framework in which you explain how the proposed development will fit into the site and its setting.
  • The correct application fee

How long does approval take?

Application processing usually takes between 8-12 weeks after your submission. If your application is straightforward, you can expect to receive a response within this time. But for more complex or detailed applications, you could wait for longer.

Can you go ahead without permission?

It may be possible for you to proceed with your project without first securing planning permission. Although this is not illegal, it is not advisable either.

If you fail to secure consent for the project and obtain planning permission, you will be required to remove the development. Even though this is not impossible with modular buildings, this outcome will obviously result in significant cost and losses to you.

And if your building is listed, any alteration you make without permission may be a criminal offence. Extreme cases may lead to prosecution and the imposition of heavy fines, or even jail time.

The sum of it is you need to cover all your bases before proceeding with any site improvement or development. When you have a knowledgeable building partner, this should not be a problem.

At Wintech Modular Projects Limited we are dedicated to providing you bespoke services that take everything into consideration. Our processes and site services are second to none. If you would like to begin a conversation with us about your project, click here to get a quote. You can also send us a mail at or call us on 01302 759447.