Do You Need Planning Permission to Paint a Commercial Building?

Do You Need Planning Permission to Paint a Commercial Building?

It’s natural to want to refresh your business’ image from time to time. Rebranding by switching up the company logo or changing the colours associated with your business is a great way to get noticed.

But what happens if you want to paint the exterior of your commercial building in the UK? Is it allowed in your area, and if so, do you need planning permission?

Before you start the revamp, these questions need answering, but the answers might not be so simple.

It turns out, in the UK, permission is sometimes necessary for painting a commercial building, but not always. These slightly inconsistent rules can make it difficult to determine whether your specific scenario needs planning permission.

After all, the last thing you want to do is invest a lot of money making the changes, only to find out you are in breach of planning. You might have to undo all your hard work and return everything to how it was – which will be a costly waste of time.

What is Planning Permission?

In the UK, the government suggests you will need planning permission if you want to build something new, make a major change to your building (such as building an extension), or change the use of your building. This definition doesn’t make it sound like painting is an issue, but in reality, it can be.

It’s also worth noting UK building regulations don’t cover painting properties either.

Commercial properties are often governed by a special type of planning permission – Permitted Development Rights (PDRs). 

PDRs are a national grant of planning permission, which means if your property is included in one, you don’t need to make an individual planning application. So, in most circumstances, you wouldn’t need express permission to paint your commercial property. Although, as with all rules, there are a few exceptions.

When Do You Need Planning Permission to Paint a Commercial Building in the UK?

Often in the UK, planning permission won’t be required to paint a commercial building, but there are a few restrictions.

For example, councils can remove Permitted Development Rights in some areas and list them as conservation areas. Islington Council has done this for 40 areas in the borough and cites a conservation area as “an area of special architectural or historic interest, the character or appearance of which it is desirable to preserve or enhance.”

It is considered that the quality of the buildings alone is not just what makes them special. Instead, the area as a whole is considered to add to the character of the region. This includes things like historic layout roads, specific building and paving materials, the buildings themselves having a certain variety of uses, and even tree cover. 

Conservation areas are designed to protect special parts of the location, preserving history and the overall character of the area. This means that often new developments must fit in with whatever is there, and what was already in place needs to retain its current features.

By marking a location as a conservation area, owners of buildings within that boundary may need to apply for planning permission to make simple changes such as painting brickwork – unless PDRs have been granted.

It’s important to pay attention to the specific PDRs in your region. These rules differ between England, Scotland, Wales, and are often changing. The best thing to do is contact your local authority or ask advice from a local architect, as they will have the most up-to-date knowledge.

Factors Influencing the Requirement for Planning Permission

Certain factors can influence whether you need planning permission to paint your commercial building. Even if it doesn’t seem to fall into one of the below categories, it’s best to double-check with your local authority before making any changes.

Below are some reasons you might need planning permission to paint a commercial building in the UK:

Buildings in Conservation Areas

A building in a conservation area may not be covered by PDRs, meaning permission to paint it would need to be obtained beforehand. These rules differ in England, Scotland, and Wales, so make sure you’ve checked the details for your specific area.

Listed Buildings

Another building type that can require planning permission is listed buildings. Listed buildings are structures deemed of national importance due to their historic interest or architecture.

Painting a listed building could be considered changing its character (for example, if it has always been an off-white colour and you decide to paint it neon orange). Some listed buildings are in conservation areas, where special controls are in place over what colours you can use.

Wherever your listed building is situated, you’ll need to apply for listed building consent to make any external alterations that could change the character of the building – including painting it.

On the other hand, if you’re planning on just giving the building another lick of paint in a similar colour to what was already there, you might not need permission at all.

Proximity to Landmarks and Historical Sites

Even if your commercial building isn’t listed, it might still be under some restrictions because of its proximity to historic buildings and landmarks. If that’s the case, it is probably situated within a conservation area, meaning you might need planning permission.

Impact on the Local Aesthetics

If your commercial building is in a conservation area, chances are the council has already considered how changing the nearby buildings would alter the local aesthetic. This is likely one of the reasons the council has made it a conservation area and you’re unlikely to have much success when applying for planning permission if the paint job would make big changes.

Steps to Obtain Planning Permission in the UK

If you’re hoping to get planning permission for your UK commercial building, there are a few steps you need to take. 

Below is our guide to applying for planning permission – UK:

Contact your local authority

The best place to start when dealing with planning permission is to contact your local authority first. You need to check whether you need planning permission – if you don’t, you’ll be glad you checked!

Apply online

Planning applications are done online. The website you use to apply differs depending on where you are in the UK. Below are the websites:

The application will require you to have the necessary documentation before you start, including an ownership certificate to prove you own the property.

Most applications require a fee, but the fee differs depending on the type and size of the alteration.

Application assessment

After you have applied online, the application will be assessed by the local planning authority. They will take things like the impact on listed buildings into consideration.


Once the decision has been made, you will receive feedback via the portal. The whole process takes around 8 weeks but can take longer for more complicated applications.

Consequences of Not Obtaining Planning Permission

In the UK, if you make changes without obtaining planning permission, there will likely be legal repercussions.

If you require planning permission but proceed with the project without obtaining it, you will have committed a planning breach.

When you commit a planning breach, you can submit a retrospective planning application. If this is successful, no further action is required.

If the retrospective planning application is unsuccessful, you will likely receive an enforcement notice instructing you to remedy the breach. 

It’s an offence to not comply with an enforcement notice, and if you are found guilty of this offence, you can be liable to an unlimited fine. So, you must apply for planning permission before making any changes.

Another issue that can arise when going ahead with an alteration without getting planning permission is that the property’s resale might be an issue. The property buyer will be liable for the alterations that didn’t have planning permission, and it’s a risk they are unlikely to want to take.


If you are hoping to paint your commercial property, that is something Manor Interior Solutions can help you with. 

Before starting a project, like painting your commercial property, it is sensible to check whether you need planning permission. If so, it is best to get advice from your local authority before starting the application process.

Once you’ve applied for planning permission, expect the process to take around eight weeks. It’s essential to wait for the decision before starting any work on the property as if planning permission is declined, but the work is already done, there are certain legal implications, including the risk of an unlimited fine.

Get in touch today to discuss painting your commercial property.

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