Planning terms made easy

Apex Ancient Woodland

Do you know your brownfield from your greenfield and why a building is listed? Follow our simple guide to some of the key planning terms and all will become clear!

Affordable housing

These homes include social rented, affordable rented, intermediate and shared ownership housing that can be available for either sale or rent, and offer the chance for those not able to buy or rent privately on the open market, for their own home. They can be provided by councils, housing associations / registered social landlords and private developers. Social rented homes are rented in accordance with government guidelines and are typically quite low and therefore affordable to most people. Affordable rents are typically set at rents not more than 80% of the local market rent. Intermediate housing can be a range of homes for sale and rent provided at a cost above social rent, but below market levels. Shared ownership is where an occupier will buy / mortgage a share of the property, with remainder retained by the housing association and the occupier pays a rent on this share.

Air quality management areas

Local authorities identify these areas that will not meet the necessary national air quality levels required by the relevant deadlines.

Ancient or veteran tree

A tree that is of exceptional  biodiversity, cultural or heritage value, because of its age, size and condition. Their loss can result in a planning applications being refused permission.

Ancient woodland

An area that has consistently been woodland since 1600 or earlier.

Brownfield Land

Also called previously developed land. Land that is or has been the site of a permanent structure. It does not apply to agricultural land.

Building Regulations

Minimum standards required when designing, constructing or altering a building. Covers issues such as safety of stairs and banisters, electrical safety and security of a property.

Buffer Zone

An area of land that separates a development from neighbouring land – for instance if that land has been used for waste development, or mineral extraction.


A phrase most often used to describe a site for housing that is available, is in a suitable area for development, and which can realistically be used to deliver [completed] housing within five years.

Designated rural areas

Areas designated as rural include National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Development plan

The plans for development of an area; this can include adopted local plans, neighbourhood plans, and published spatial development strategies, along with any regional strategy policies. They identify allocated land [for different uses] and policies that will guide the determination of applications and appeals.

Planning condition

A condition imposed when planning permission is granted – for instance the materials to be used or the time within which the development must be finished. The wording of conditions can sometimes mean an applicant is required to submit further information to a council for its consideration and agreement, and until this happens the development cannot commence.


Developments that meet high sustainability requirements, use low and zero carbon technologies and offer quality public transport systems. These areas will also use brownfield land and surplus public sector land where possible,


The actual face or façade of the building.

Enforcement Notice

Planning authorities can serve these notices if work is carried out without planning permission or does not accord to the planning permission granted. They can demand that any work is corrected or reversed – even if it means demolishing a newly built property.

Green Belt

Land designated around cities and other built-up areas, with an aim of keeping the land open and undeveloped. This stops the coalescence of neighbouring settlements and large cities from sprawling into countryside.

Green Corridor or Wildlife Corridor

They help to make development more sustainable through biodiversity enhancement by creating connected habitats for wildlife.

High demand housing areas

Places where there is high demand for housing, which can push up rent costs and house prices.

Key Worker Living

This Government scheme, implemented in 2004, helps key workers (normally public sector employees e.g. police, nurses and teachers) in high-costs areas such as London and the South East to rent affordable properties, buy a home, or upgrade to a family home.

Listed building

This has special architectural or historic interest. Grade I is the highest listing and usually applies to historically significant buildings such as castles, and cathedrals. Grade II* applies to buildings that have special interest, and Grade II to buildings that are of enough interest to warrant preserving.

You must apply for listed building consent for anything that may change the fabric of a listed building, which can include internal and external works. For repairs, you must use similar materials – for example when repointing. It is always advisable to seek professional advice before commencing works to ascertain whether listed building consent should be obtained. Failure to obtain listed building consent is classified as a criminal offence.

Local plan

The plan that has been made for the future development of the local area, which is drawn up by the local planning authority in consultation with the community – see Development Plan above.

Rural Exception Site

A small area that offers affordable housing in a rural area where housing would not normally be allowed but where the local community requires it due to family or employment connections. Such housing will be retained as affordable in perpetuity. A small number of homes on the open market may also be allowed, if it is necessary to financially enable the development.

Urban regeneration

Using job creation and environmental (built and natural) improvements to renew an urban area, and to stimulate development once more.

Village Envelope

A boundary designated around a village, where development may be allowed in principle. These lines will usually be drawn very closely to existing homes to stop the village sprawling too much, therein protecting the surrounding countryside from development.

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