Planning Advice

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)


This section is intended to help anyone who is unfamiliar with the planning system. This guidance deals only with the planning system, you should be aware that other statutory requirements may also apply to the work proposed, such as a building warrant. The summary includes the most commonly questions asked and does not cover every question, so we would encourage you to use the links contained in the text for more detailed information.

What’s the difference between planning permission and building warrant?

Planning permission is required for most development involving a change in use of land, creation of a new building and/or alterations to the appearance of a building. It considers the effect this has on neighbouring properties and the surrounding environment. It assesses whether the development complies with local and national policies.

A building warrant gives permission for the design and construction of works. The building regulations make sure that those works meet the minimum building standards. If they do meet the standards, a completion certificate will be issued. This process can cover external works to a property, such as building an extension. However, it also covers internal alterations or repairs, such as building a new internal wall.

Do I need planning permission?

Most developments fall within planning control. You will need planning permission if:

  • You want to build something new;
  • You want to make a major change to your building, such as building an extension;
  • You want to change the use of your building or land,

unless the proposal is exempt from the need to first obtain planning permission by the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 (as amended) (GPDO).

A description of the different types of planning permission can be found on our Guide to types of planning permission page.

How do I know if I need planning permission?

Planning permission is required for most development involving a change in use of land, creation of a new building and/or alterations to the appearance of a building.

Permission is usually not required for internal works, or for external works which do not cause any noticeable impact to the appearance of a building (for example, repair works that use the same materials).

If you are thinking of carrying out work and you are unsure whether or not you require planning permission for your proposal, then please use our Development Enquiry service to find out.

If you know you require planning permission for your works, you can choose to use our Pre-application Advice Service. There is a fee for both of these services.

What is Permitted Development?

There is some development that is exempt from the need to obtain planning permission. This is development that is often referred to as ‘Permitted Development’.

Permitted development rights allow certain building works and changes of use to be carried out without the need for a planning application.

These rights exist under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (Scotland) Order 1992 (as amended) (GPDO).

How much does it cost to submit an application?

A fee is required for most applications.

The fee will depend on the type and scale of your proposed development. The scale of fees for applications is set by the Scottish Government through The Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications and Deemed Applications) (Scotland) Regulations 2022.

Further information on fees payable is also available from the Planning Circular 2/2022 The Town and Country Planning (Fees for Applications) (Scotland) Regulations 2022.

Some applications require to be advertised in the local paper. If there is a requirement to advertise your application, you will have to pay an additional fee.

Applications are not considered ‘valid’ until the fee has been received in full. The fee for an application is not refundable once the planning application has been validated and is under consideration.

How do I make an application?

You can apply online for planning applications, notice of reviews, appeals, and other approvals via the Scottish Government’s eDevelopment portal.

The eDevelopment portal also allows you to complete and submit building warrant applications, completion certificates and other related forms associated with the building standards system.

Before you can use the site to manage your applications, you must first create a user account from the home page of A user guide is available on the home page to assist you through the process.

What happens after my application is submitted?

When your application is received via the eDevelopment portal, we will contact you if we need more information.

Once we are happy your application is valid, we will send you an acknowledgement letter and your application will be allocated to a planning officer for assessment.

More detailed information on the next steps can be found on our webpage What happens after you submit an application.

How long does the planning process usually take?

This depends on the type of application.

We aim to reach a decision within 2 months for a valid application for a local development and 4 months of receiving a valid application for a major development.

If this period expires you may decide to submit an appeal on the non-determination of the application.

We receive a high percentage of applications that we are not able to validate on receipt, due to missing or incorrect information which can delay their consideration. Please use our application checklists to check that you’ve included all relevant information before submitting your application.

What is a local development plan and why do we have it?

It is a document that sets out the Council’s detailed policies and proposals for the development and use of land. They set out the preferred locations for new homes, businesses and other land uses.

All planning decisions are made using the context of the development plan. These are the documents which policy must be referenced when planners make decisions on planning applications, applicants submit their development proposals and community groups or members of the public comment on applications.

More detailed information can be found on our Development Plans main webpage.

What is a Material Consideration?

Material considerations are matters the Council will take into account when determining a planning application.

We have some examples of material considerations on our webpages.

More information can be found on the Planning Aid Scotland website.

Where can I see planning applications in the Highland Council area?

You can view current and historical planning applications, appeals and enforcement notices on-line using the Highland Council public access portal.

I am a neighbour - but I haven’t been notified.

The Council has the responsibility of notifying neighbours about proposed development.

Neighbour notification will apply to applications for planning permission, planning permission in principle, and approval of matters specified in conditions. It does not apply to applications for listed building consent, conservation area consent or consent to display an advertisement.

The Council is required to notify those with an interest in "neighbouring land" of a planning application. ‘Neighbouring land’ is defined as: “An area or plot or land which, or part of which, has a common boundary, or within 20 metres of the boundary of the land for which the development is proposed”.

Neighbours have 21 days to make representations before the application can be decided.

Where there is land with no premises within the area of neighbouring land, a notice will be published in a local newspaper. There are other reasons for the Council placing an advert in the local paper.

Any comments made to the applicant during the pre-application stage of the process for a major development are not regarded as a representation on the planning application. A new representation will be required when the application is submitted.

I am a neighbour - how can I submit a comment on an application?

You can make a comment on an application, whether to support, object, or make general comment, within 21 days of the date that the application was either, registered with the Council, you were notified as a neighbour, or the date advertised by us, whichever is the later.

To submit an online comment, you will need to Register your details on the Highland Council Public Access site. Once you have registered, you can sign into your account, retrieve the application, and then make a comment. Comments are often referred to as representations.

What is a retrospective application?

If you have made a change to your property that requires planning permission and you have not first obtained permission, the Council can request that you submit a retrospective planning application for the work that you have already carried out (or if work is in progress).

If the retrospective application is refused, the Council may decide to proceed with formal enforcement action including the serving of an enforcement notice requiring you to put things back as they were.

Retrospective applications attract a surcharge of 25% increase in the applicable planning application fee.

What are Developer Contributions?

Applicants can be required to make a financial payment towards service and infrastructure provision where there is insufficient capacity to support future development. These payments are known as Developer Contributions and are required for facilities including schools, roads and the provision of affordable housing.

When will my decision be made?

When a decision is made on your application a legal document called a decision notice will be issued. The decision notice outlines to the applicant whether an application has been granted or refused and any conditions needed to comply in carrying out the development.

What are Conditions on a planning permission?

Planning permission may be granted subject to conditions which make the proposal acceptable. These are set out in the decision notice.

Conditions can apply before works begin, during the works, or after the works are completed. Sometimes you will need to send evidence to the Council to prove you have followed the conditions. This is known as 'discharging' a condition.

There is no limit on the number of conditions that can be applied to any one application.

How long does planning permission last?

Planning permission is valid for three years from the date on your decision notice.

However, planning permission in principle does not allow you to start your development until you have received approval of matters specified in conditions. An approval of matters specified in conditions must be submitted before the expiry of the permission in principle application. This will typically provide a further two years in which to commence a planning permission in principle.

My application has been refused, what can I do?

You have the right to appeal, or to a review, if your application has been:

  • Refused;
  • Approved but has conditions placed on it that you feel are unsuitable;
  • Not determined within the target period.

You have the right to appeal to Scottish Ministers or to seek a review by the Local Review Body. Your planning decision notice will tell you which of these two options is applicable. You have a period of 3 months from the date of the decision notice in which to lodge a review or appeal.

Will I need any other permission?

You may require other permissions from the Council before you start any works, including Listed Building Consent, Conservation Area Consent, Consent for the Display of an Advertisement, Road Construction Consent, Road Opening Permit, and Building Warrant.

Do I need to use an agent?

The planning process can be complex, and although you can make an application yourself, we would advise you to see professional advice from a qualified Architect, or suitably qualified drawing agent. Paying for professional advice allows you to benefit from their professional training, expertise, and advice.