Do I need planning permission for floodlights?

Whether it’s a brand new lighting system or the refurbishment of an existing one, there are few questions that we’re asked more often than whether planning permission is required. And while the high level answer might be a very simple one, it also doesn’t tell the whole story. That’s why, in this post, we’re going to look at the many other issues around planning that need to be taken into account.


Before we do that however, it’s worth remembering that a good lighting provider can actually guide you through the planning process. At Midstream Lighting, for instance, we’ve helped sports clubs and other organisations all across the UK create successful planning applications for their lighting projects – even in cases where there have been significant barriers to overcome.


Now, without further ado, let’s answer some of the most frequently asked planning-related questions.


Will my project need planning permission?

Yes. All floodlighting projects in the UK require planning permission. This is true for both brand new installations, and “retrofit” solutions (where old luminaires are replaced with new ones).


Who do I apply to?

In the UK, planning is handled by your local authority. You can check which council your site falls under here.


How long does it take to secure planning permission?

As with any kind of application to a local authority, timelines can vary. Planning applications made at peak times may take longer than normal to approve, and particularly complex projects may demand additional consultation and slow the process down.


In the majority of cases, 12 weeks is usually a safe estimate to work to.


What information do I need to gather to start the process?

The more information you have before you make a planning application, the more compelling your argument will be. Showing that you’ve done your research is also a great way to demonstrate to your local planning authorities that you’ve taken the wider impact of your proposals into account.


With that in mind, some of the main areas that you should explore include:


  • The impact on users
    How will the installation or refurbishment of a lighting system impact existing users or visitors to your site? Do the proposals you’ve drawn up meet their needs, or are there additional considerations that should be included?


  • The impact on the local community
    How will your plans affect the local community? Is there any risk of light spilling out of your grounds and into the surrounding area? Would any nearby houses be impacted directly? Will the addition of floodlighting at your site make it more appealing to potential users? If so, what would the implications be for things like traffic and the neighbourhood?


  • The impact on the local environment
    As discussed in one of our earlier posts, floodlighting can have an impact on wildlife – bats and birds in particular. Is that the case with your own project? If so, what steps could you take to mitigate those effects?


  • Logistical considerations
    Are there overhead cables present that a new or upgraded lighting system might interfere with? Does your site have any underground pipes or gas mains running across it that would cause complications with mast foundations?


While not all of these issues will apply to your own project, acknowledging them can also help to show a local planning authority that you’re treating your proposal with an appropriate degree of rigour.


Should I meet with the planning authority?

Yes. Having gathered the above information, you’ll be in an excellent position to take an outline proposal to your local planning authority (LPA).


Liaising with that team at this stage can be extremely valuable, because they will be able to advise on the need for any additional documentation to support your proposal. They will also be able to flag any issues that might cause an application to be rejected, which can prevents you wasting time and money when you could be remedying those problems.


How do I prepare a planning application?

Again, the specific process here varies across different local authorities. That said:


  • The LPA should be able to advise which kind of planning application you need to complete.
  • Most councils now provide templated application forms that can be completed and submitted online.


In addition to the key details requested as part of an application, many councils also require you to provide a summary statement on your intended goals. Here, you will have the chance to outline the benefits that your new lighting system will deliver.


Some of the main points that the LPA will expect your application to address include:


  • Proof that your proposed upgrade or installation is needed.
  • Any benefits that you believe the new lighting system will deliver.
  • Evidence that you have considered and accounted for any detrimental impacts.
  • Whether any alternative options exist and have been explored.


What other documentation might I need to provide?

The exact contents of a planning application depend on a wide range of factors, stretching from the extent of the works being proposed through to issues like geographic location. Some of the most common forms of supplementary information include:


  • Site plans, showing the location of your facility.
  • Lighting designs, detailing the positioning and angle of the floodlights.
  • Confirmation that said design meets the requirements outlined by the Institute of Lighting Professionals in relation to obtrusive light.
  • Ecological studies, where necessary.
  • Land ownership certificates.
  • A Design and Access Statement. This is a detailed (and usually mandatory) document that explores issues including use, layout, scale, appearance, and access.


What happens if my application is successful?

If your application is granted, it will be valid for a period of three years from the date of approval. Any work included in your proposal must be carried out in that period, after which the application becomes invalid – meaning that planning would need to be sought again.


What happens if my application is unsuccessful?

If your application is rejected, the LPA will also explain why that decision was reached. This information is valuable if you intend to resubmit your application, as it provides a list of issues to address before doing so.


Can I go ahead anyway if my application is unsuccessful?

No. In fact, there are severe financial penalties for any unauthorised developments.


Is there a fee for making a planning application?

Yes, though it varies depending on the type of application you are making. Fees are set at the national level, and the government has made full guidance available here.


I operate a sports facility. Should I seek support from a relevant governing body?

While organisations like Sport England do provide excellent guidance on the planning process, it isn’t normally necessary to ask them to become involved in an application for lighting. That said, in particularly complex cases, they can assist with planning-related enquiries.


Contact details for Sport England’s own regional planning teams can be found here.


Do you have a lighting project of your own that could benefit from some expert planning guidance? We’re here to help. Get in touch now and find out how we can help you turn your vision into reality.

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