Planning guidance for businesses

Please read our information on how we are supporting residents and businesses, as well as information on affected services.

Business Support Services

We offer paid for and free Planning and Building Control services that can help in:

  • starting up your business
  • growing your business
  • having the right premises for your business. 

Our planners and building control officers offer:

  • expertise and
  • professional advice

in all aspects of the built environment in Cornwall.

Whether you are looking to:

  • build new premises or
  • convert or
  • extend existing buildings

we can help you get it right first time, saving you money and time. These services include:

  • helping you to understand and apply the relevant legislation
  • our knowledge of the nature and challenges in Cornwall
  • convenient points of contact
  • proven and up to date expertise in Planning and Building Control
  • free signposting service
  • chargeable support and advice packages on a cost only basis (we do not make a profit from these services).

Premises Advice

We can guide you through the:

  • planning and
  • building regulations

requirements to help your business grow and improve your premises.

Most works to the outside of a place of business need planning consent. You can check using this link: Do I need planning consent and building regulations? If you do need permission, you can seek pre-application advice

Farmers can carry out certain works without the need for planning permission. More information can be found in the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015.

Building Control Consultancy

Esconsult offers a range of professional consultancy services including:

  • a complete range of structural and new home warranties for both residential and commercial projects
  • training events for local planning and building control agents.

Our Pledge to You

We have made a commitment to help businesses succeed.  We will provide you with:

  • specialist and
  • tailored advice according to your business needs.

Working with the Better Business for All Partnership (BBFA), we will:

  • help you get it right first time
  • work with you to help your business comply with regulations
  • help reduce unnecessary regulatory burdens.

When we work with your business this means that we will:

  • gain an understanding of your business and agree a solution that:
    • is best for you and
    • also protects what is special about Cornwall
  • help you achieve Planning and Building Control compliance in the most cost-effective way
  • agree timescales, expectations and preferred methods of communication at the outset with you
  • explain our reasoning.

We are one of the biggest planning and building control services in England.  We have been recognised as a national leader in our field.  Our policy supports the delivery of:

  • over 38,000 jobs and
  • over 422,000sq m of employment floor space before 2030 and to improve our infrastructure.

Our fees and charges guide gives you the opportunity to purchase the services you need with complete clarity.

Advice and guides to Planning in your area

Applying for planning permission

New guidance for businesses

You may be considering different options or ways of operating.  Since July we have offered free initial planning advice direct to businesses in a 30-minute virtual meeting. Sessions are available every other month at present.  Please visit What’s new in Planning for details of the next available sessions.  You will need to pre-book a session in advance and slots will be available to book shortly.

You may need more space to work from home.  If you are considering:

  • an annexe, the Council’s Annexe Guidance Note contains information on residential annexes.
  • a home office, you may not need planning permission to use:
    • a room in your house or
    • an outbuilding in your garden as a home office. 

This is as long as the primary purpose of the dwelling and its garden area remains residential.  For example, you may not need planning permission if you:

  • work on a computer or
  • use hairdressing equipment in a dining room or a garden shed and
  • clients attend one at a time and by appointment only.

Please have a look at Do I need planning consent or building regulations? for more information and a link to the Government’s Planning Portal.  You can also check if a planning condition has removed your Permitted Development Rights.

You can access the latest technical guidance such as Annexe guidance using this link: Planning Technical Updates

Planning permission is usually required for businesses to put:

  • tables
  • chairs and
  • other temporary furniture outside their boundary.

But if a pavement licence is granted, it will automatically grant planning permission as well.  The Business and Planning Act 2020 made it easier to get a pavement licence. Licences can remain in place until September 2021. The Government intends to extend this to 30 September 2022. We will not ask for a planning application for these works or enforce as long as:

  • there are no public safety implications
  • the works are temporary
  • the works are adjoining the business. 

We trust that businesses will work together and consider impacts on neighbours.  More information is on our website: Social distancing: a guide for towns, parishes and businesses

It is easier to extend the hours that you can work on sites.  The Government produced guidance for construction working hours.  You need to provide details of:

  • the relevant planning permission
  • existing agreed construction working hours
  • the condition or approved document which details the working hours (this could be a construction management plan)
  • proposed revised construction working hours
  • the date the revised construction working hours would start
  • the date when the application is sent
  • the date on which the revised construction working hours will stop (no later than 1 April 2021)

To help us make a quick decision, please also provide:

  • a short justification why extended hours would enable safe working practices on site
  • details of your mitigation plan

Applications are only online.  Please:

  • send your request to extend site working hours to
  • mark as ‘Extension of working hours request at (site location) urgent’ in subject line.

Under the current lockdown, caravan sites have to close except for where:

  • this is someone’s main residence
  • the person cannot return home
  • it provides accommodation or support to the homeless
  • it is essential to stay there for work purposes.

The planning permission for the site must permit these or it must be agreed with the Local Planning Authority.

Cornwall is expecting a busy holiday season.  You may be able to use land temporarily for camping pitches.  The Government gives permitted development rights for persons to use land for temporary uses such as camp sites:

  • for up to 28 days in any calendar year
  • without the need to submit a planning application. 

These rights will not apply in areas where there is an Article 4 Direction.  An Article 4 Direction removes these permitted development rights. Please note that the 28 days has been extended to 56 days at present.  This will be:

  • until 31 December 2021 and
  • to help support businesses. 

Some small scale camping sites may benefit from permitted development rights.  They must be affiliated to an exempted organisation such as the caravan and camping club.  A site licence is also not always required for these.  Other exceptions include:

  • ‘pop up’ sites unless they become more regular or permanent
  • sites used for agricultural work activities
  • other groups or activities such as travelling showmen.

Where planning permission is required a number of factors will apply.  These affect whether planning permission or a site licence is granted and include:

  • the location of the development
  • is it sustainable
  • impact on the landscape including the impact of any designated areas such as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty
  • highway safety
  • impact on the amenity of neighbouring sites
  • how the site is laid out and
  • whether the number of pitches is appropriate.

Please seek advice before starting any works.  Please email:

Planning for agricultural needs is important. You can download planning application forms for this type of development from: planning application forms.

Are you a member of the National Farmer's Union?

You can find further information about planning and farming on the NFU website. The NFU Guide to the Planning System is available for members to download. It explains the basics of the English town planning system.

You can access the latest technical guidance such as Class Q prior notifications using this link: Planning Technical Updates

New planning changes give greater flexibility in town centre uses: changes to the Use Class Order. It introduces:

  • a new use class ‘E’ (for commercial, business and service).   This includes previous use classes for:
    • shops
    • financial and professional services
    • restaurants and cafes and
    • some businesses. 
    • new use classes F1 and F2 for community uses. 

This means:

  • Businesses can offer a takeaway service without applying for planning permission until 23 March 2022
  • Land can be used temporarily for a market for longer without needing a planning application, from 14 to 28 days.  This will be allowed until March 2022.

As well as the changes to the Use Class Order for flexible town centres uses, the Government have introduced Regulations that permit:

  • further temporary changes of use
  • demolition of vacant and redundant residential and commercial buildings if they are rebuilt as homes
  • building of new storeys on houses and flats,
  • building of new storeys on buildings to provide new self-contained homes. 

The regulations are complicated and detailed:

They set out how the prior approval application process will work.

Minimum space standards will apply from 6 April 2021.  These will apply to all homes delivered through Permitted Development Rights.  This means that these new homes will have to meet the Nationally Described Space Standard.  This is to ensure they provide proper living space.

Prior approval of permitted development rights to extend buildings upwards came into force on 30 December 2020. The Building Safety Programme letter contains more guidance.

New rules allowing commercial premises to be converted into home came into force on 31 March 2021.

These include:

  • The Business and Planning Act (July 2020).  More information can be accessed using these links: July Chief Planner’s letter.
  • ‘Planning for the Future’ consultation set out proposals for future changes to the planning system including
    • streamline and modernise the planning process
    • bring a new focus to design and sustainability
    • improving the system of developer contributions for infrastructure
    • ensuring that more land is available for development where it is needed.
  • Short term measures consultation - resulted in amended proposals: Plan to regenerate England's cities with new homes
  • ‘Supporting housing delivery and public service infrastructure’ consultation.  The content is potentially wide-reaching.  It contains a new permitted development right.  It will allow a change to residential use from any uses within new use class E:
    • shops
    • offices
    • light industrial
    • restaurants
    • gyms
    • medical facilities
    • nurseries.
  • They would require prior approval for certain aspects such as:
    • flooding
    • transport
    • noise and
    • adequate light

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