What does STPP mean? Buying Property?

May 10, 2021
Scaffolding on Property


What does STPP mean in property and why you need to understand it

The abbreviation STPP stands for Subject To Planning Permission and is regularly seen on documents related to property purchases and developments.

What is planning permission?

If you plan to change a property by way of expansion, development or even a complete re-build, you are likely to need planning permission.

In other words, you may not be free to decide entirely by yourself, just what you can build or change in terms of an existing property or piece of land.

What is planning legislation?

The law basically lays down a series of rules relating to the construction or development of property in the sense of what types can be constructed, where, and for what purposes.  It also, in some cases, defines what modifications to a property may or may not be acceptable.

The totality of these laws is referred to as planning legislation.

Why do we need planning rules?

Planning legislation exists for many purposes, including to:

  • protect the environment
  • stop developments putting at risk the existing ambience of a locality
  • protect ancient buildings of historical interest
  • ensure that buildings are constructed in accordance with safety standards
  • avoid developments taking place without due regard for their impact on immediate neighbours.

What are planning classes and uses?

Planning classes exist under legislation to describe the nature of a property or location and its existing purpose.

As a very general rule, if you are planning to change an existing planning class of a building or location, then you will probably need planning change-of-use permission to do so. Even if the physical changes are minimal you may still need planning.

To give an illustration:

  • a large town centre Victorian building is currently used as an art gallery. That would probably mean category D1 – non-residential institutions defined it
  • if you purchase the building and plan to use it more or less structurally as-is, but plan to use it as a restaurant, its class would typically change to A3 – restaurants
  • in those situations, you will usually need change of use planning permission.

Why are planning classes important?

By changing the planning class of the building or location, you are by definition, likely to have a related impact on other properties and neighbours around you.  There may also be other important factors, such as public safety and local infrastructure, to take into consideration.

In the above example, an art gallery may have relatively few people in it at any given time and will close by late afternoon.  By contrast, a restaurant might be bustling late into the night, and that would have implications for traffic and noise in the neighbourhood.

There may also be issues in some cases with taxation and insurance, which may be affected by the planning class.

What is permitted development?

In some cases, Parliament has laid down laws permitting certain types of development to take place without the need for planning permission. A good example of this is where a normal dwellinghouse C3 can be changed into a House In Multiple Occupation C4 (small houses in multiple occupation). Local Councils can withdraw some permitted development uses by applying Article 4.

These rights might not apply in certain areas such as national parks, conservation areas, locations designated as being of outstanding natural beauty, and so on.

How do we get planning permission?

Planning permission is controlled and administered by the local authority planning department.

You should contact them for an initial discussion or to start things off, speaking to a local architect should also give you an insight into the feasibility of your ideas.

Note that the planning permission processes and laws may be different in each of the different countries of the United Kingdom.

Next steps

If you see a property and proposition tagged with STPP, it indicates that you cannot be 100% sure at that stage that the local planning authorities will necessarily permit the development of the idea on the table. The agent is normally just trying to showcase the opportunity.

An initial scoping discussion with a qualified person, as mentioned above, would usually be a good idea before going further.


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