Understanding Golf Course Planning Permission

8 minute read

Golf Course Planning Permission can be a long and complicated process if you don’t have the requisite knowledge. However the more of the process you know the easier it can be. There are a number of different factors that need to be considered in the golf course planning permission process. We have tried to highlight the process and key information so you can understand the challenges.


Why do we need planning permission?

It is a legal requirement to obtain permission for any new development, or if you want to make any changes.  This applies to changing the landscape in any way, constructing a new building, or making changes to these.

The main legislation relating to all planning requirements is the Town and County Planning Act 1990

Golf Course planning permission is required in order to ensure that no development has a negative impact on the local area, such as an increase in traffic on the roads, pollution, noise, dust, odour or visual impact.


Who completes a planning application?

All the various elements of a planning application require lots of different specialists such as engineers, ecologists, water specialists etc.


How long does it take to get planning permission?

An application can take around 3-4 months to compile, although this heavily depends on the amount of information required. The determination of the application can take up to a year. This heavily depends on the complexity of the proposal and whether there are any objections from the local authority or the general public.


Obtaining Planning Permission

Planning permission is sought from the Local Authority (council) through an application process.  There are varying levels information required, depending on what is being proposed and the likely impact / effect on the surrounding area.  As golf course development works include the import of materials from other sites, golf course planning permission applications require a lot of information and detail.  It is a good idea to obtain advice and help from a planning expert who understands the process and has a lot of knowledge regarding what is required to obtain planning permission.

A planning application is usually compiled with plans, statements, and risk assessments to ensure that the impact of the new development on the local surroundings and environment is controlled and kept to a minimum.  These are some of things that are looked at and assessed:

  • Site location and surrounding area.
  • Will it impact local traffic.
  • Can it impact air quality.
  • Will their be an impact from noise.
  • What the development will look like visually.
  • Will the development cause any risk of flooding.
  • What habitats and wildlife are currently at the site and how will they be impacted.
  • Can habitats and wildlife be protected.
  • Will the development cause a risk of pollution to the ground or local rivers and streams.


Pre-Application Request

For large complex planning applications, it is always a good idea to submit a request to the Local Authority for pre-application advice.  The advice sought is generally whether an application for the proposed development is likely to be approved and what information requires submitting with the application.

The letter needs to summarise the proposed works and then briefly explain how they intend to address certain elements such as highways, ecology, flood risk etc.

Once submitted to the Local Authority it can take 6-8 weeks before they send a response.  The response comes in the form of a letter.  The letter will detail how each element is to be addressed and what information is required.

The Local Authority usually send the pre-application letter to various experts in the relevant fields.  These are called consultees.  These can include the Local Authorities highways department, the Local Authorities ecologist (or another external consultant), the Environment Agency, Natural England etc.  These consultees then provide their own response based on their area.  Once the Local Authority has all responses back, they will then issue the main pre-app response letter.


Planning Application Documents & Risk Assessment for Golf Courses

Location Plan

This is a drawing showing where the development is taking place.  This should show some kind of mapping in the background (Ordnance Survey or Google), showing roads and nearby towns etc.  The development area must be outlined in red.  This will be the planning application boundary.


Site Layout & Application Boundary Plan

This is a drawing detailing the development area.  It needs to show site access, internal access routes, different working areas etc.  The development area must be outlined in red and labelled “Proposed Planning Application Boundary.”  Everything within the red line boundary will be assess as part of the planning application and be included within the planning permission (if granted).  Anything outside of the boundary will not, so it is very important to get this correct.



This is the most important element of any planning application.  Details drawings and plans are created showing how the development is to be constructed, how it will look and how it will function.  One of the main elements of a golf course design is how much material is needed to achieve the required levels.


Planning Statement

This is a detailed document which puts forward the case for the development.  It should be positive throughout and explain the need for the development and the benefits to the local area.


Visual Impact Assessment

This is a document that assesses how the site looks visually, during and after the works.  The main purpose of this document is to demonstrate that the development will fit into the surrounding area without looking ugly or out of place.  One the main considerations for golf courses is land levels.  The main element for golf course development is raising the levels of the existing land through the import of materials.  The visual impact assessment looks at the levels of the design, ensuring they are not higher than the surrounding land.


Flood Risk Assessment & Detailed Drainage Design

A flood risk assessment looks at whether the site is at risk from flooding and what impact the proposed development may have on the surrounding area, in relation to flooding.  It is important that the proposed development does not cause a flood risk or make the existing risk higher.

A flood risk assessment will usually recommend a detailed drainage design.  This will look at how the development will deal with surface water.  When rain falls onto the development, drains and areas where water can soak away can be designed to ensure flooding does not happen.


Ecology Surveys & Reporting

Ecology is the study of animals and their surrounding environment / habitat.  One of the initial assessments that is carried out for a potential development is a survey of the site to check for wildlife and their habitats.  It is illegal to damage any habitat that contains wildlife, so making sure what is present on site before the works commence is critical.

The main animals / habitats that are checked for are badgers, nesting birds, reptiles and Great Crested Newts.  An initial ecology report will be compiled following the survey, detailing what is likely to be on site.  The report will then recommend measures to ensure the wildlife or habitats are not affected in any way.


Tree Surveys

If the proposed development site contains trees, a survey must be carried out to understand the types of trees present, the health of each tree and weather any trees have Tree Preservation Orders attached to them.  It is illegal to alter or remove a tree with a Tree Preservation Order.

The results of the tree survey will be presented on a drawing which will show the types and health of trees, trees which must be retained and any trees which can be removed (if necessary).


Noise & Dust Assessment & Management Plans

Noise and dust assessments are required to establish the existing levels for the proposed development and then the anticipated levels during construction.  If the construction works are deemed to generate unacceptable levels of noise and dust, measures must be put in place to minimise the levels.  These measures are presented in Noise and Dust Management Plans.


Highways Assessment

A highways assessment is required to understand the impact the proposed development will have on the surrounding roads.  The assessment looks at whether traffic volumes will be generated and whether there are any safety concerns.  This is particularly important for golf course developments as they require the delivery of materials to sites.

The highways assessment may recommend routes for deliveries or a special entrance to be constructed.  It will also look at whether any traffic management is required, such as traffic lights or roundabouts.

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