Material and non-material amendments – what is the difference?

non material amends to housing scheme Sussex

We have been working with a client to bring forward a residential development scheme on previously developed land in Lewes.

It has been a strategic planning process as the site was subject to a number of constraints. We started with outline permission, then reserved matters, followed by a discharge of condition and now the client is getting ready to build out.

It is useful to remember that the process doesn’t stop once planning permission is granted, there are so many factors still at play before a spade goes into the ground.

What to consider if you need to make changes to your planning permission

In this case, detailed design and response to market demand meant that our client wanted to make changes to the siting of the approved houses and garages and associated changes to driveway layouts.

It is important to note that when planning permission is granted it will almost always be subject to a condition that the development is built out in accordance with the approved plans. Therefore, if what is built differs from these plans, you could be at risk of being in breach of condition and invalidating your permission.

However, if the changes are not substantial – it may be possible to agree changes to the approved permission without the need for a whole new planning application.

Defining material or non-material amendments

Given this, we needed to establish whether the changes proposed were substantial or not.

We worked with our client to understand whether the changes the design team were proposing were ‘material’ or ‘non material’.

This is an important consideration because the way in which you seek to agree these amendments differs depending on their nature. Furthermore, there is no statutory definition of ‘material’ or ‘non material’ – only broad guidance as the definition is dependent on the context of the overall scheme.

In this case, we were comfortable that the changes proposed were ‘non material’. Although it is ultimately for the LPA to decide if this is the case, we are well placed to advise given our experience and knowledge. We have access to case law, appeal decisions and legal commentary so that we can work through the issues and advise accordingly.

In this case, the LPA agreed with our considered submission, that sought to substantiate why the changes proposed were non material and confirmation of this was duly given.

Non-material and material amendments and the planning process

In the case of non-material amendments to an existing planning permission, the decision is made under S96A of the Town and Country Planning Act and is read alongside the original planning permission granted. It is a lighter application process as it doesn’t formally seek planning permission, but part of the challenge is justifying how and why the proposed changes are non-material. The local planning authority must be satisfied that the amendment sought is non-material in order to grant an application. The time period for determination is usually 28 days.

If the changes to be made are ‘minor material,’ permission for the changes is sought under S73 of the Act, which allows for variation or removal conditions attached to the original planning permission granted. This is a more thorough application process and subject to the same determination period and processes as a new planning application. If successful – this results in the issue of a new planning permission. This sits alongside the original permission, which remains intact and unamended.

About us

If you need to make changes to your proposal after permission has been granted, then we can advise you on the process and which type of application will be best for your particular project aims. Contact our expert team of planning consultants via or call us on 01242 501003 to see how we can best assist you, providing the site address and a brief overview of your project.  You can also submit your site via our Landmark Page. We value your privacy and any information which you provide will not be shared outside of our company and will only be used in relation to your enquiry.

IMAGE SOURCE: OSP Architecture (2019)