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Planning Permission for a Film/TV Show

Securing the appropriate planning permission is a legal requirement for any film project that takes place on public land, or requires changes to be made to the area. In the following guide, we explain what project managers and production companies require, and the obligations they must meet before they can begin any work on a site, and how to obtain planning permission.

Understanding Planning Permission in the UK

In the UK, planning permission is the formal permission from a local authority. For film and TV productions, this means any construction or change of use of land or buildings that could impact the local area will require approval. It's a legal requirement designed to regulate the environmental and aesthetic impact of any development.

The need for planning permission depends on several factors, and there are various types, including:

Full planning permission: this is the most comprehensive form of application and is necessary when you intend to carry out a building project that includes the construction of new buildings, major alterations to existing buildings, or significant changes to the use of land or buildings. For film or TV productions, full planning permission would be necessary for the permanent construction of sets or buildings or significant changes to a location that will be long-term or permanent.

When applying for full planning permission, detailed plans must be submitted, including specific designs and the precise nature of the work. Local planning authorities will review these plans against local development policies, the potential impact on neighbours, environmental considerations, and infrastructure capacity.

Outline planning permission: this is sought to find out whether a proposed development is acceptable to the local planning authority, without having to go into the full details of the proposed development. This type of permission will consider the general principles of development, such as the scale and nature of the proposed project. It's often used to understand whether the development is likely to be approved before the applicant commits to the cost of developing detailed plans.

For film or TV production, outline permission might be used to secure initial approval for development on a site, with the specifics of the project to be agreed at a later date. Once outline permission is granted, you will need to submit a 'reserved matters' application within a certain time frame, which will cover the specific details of the development.

Temporary planning permission: this may be granted for developments that are not intended to last. This can be particularly relevant for film and TV production, where sets are built for the duration of the filming and are removed afterwards. Temporary permission allows for the use of land or the erection of structures for a limited period, typically a few months up to a few years.

This type of permission is useful for productions that do not want to leave a lasting impact on the landscape or when using locations that are sensitive to permanent changes. It allows local planning authorities to approve developments that are suitable for a short period without the commitment to a permanent alteration of the site.

The Application Process for Securing Planning Permission

Making a planning application is not a simple process, but with the right guidance, you can take the steps required. Here is a general overview of what you will likely need to do:

Pre-Application Advice and Consultation

Before submitting a formal application, discuss your needs with the local planning authority (LPA), which may be the council or another local body. This step can provide valuable guidance and highlight potential issues that could be addressed early on. Some LPAs charge for this service, but the investment can lead to a smoother application process.

The Necessary Documents and Details

When ready to apply, you'll need to submit an application to the local planning authority. This typically includes:

  • The application forms
  • A location plan and a site plan
  • Ownership certificates and agricultural land declaration
  • An access and design statement
  • A planning statement that includes how the proposal aligns with local and national planning policies
  • A fee, which is calculated based on the scale and type of development

The Role of Local Planning Authorities

The LPA will validate the application and ensure all necessary information has been provided before it is considered. They will then consult with the public any other people or organisations it might affect, such as environmental agencies and local parish councils. They will also assess the application against their local development plan, considering factors like environmental impact, community benefits and sustainability.

Timescales and Deadlines for Decision

For most minor applications, the LPA should make a decision within two months, while larger or more complex applications can take longer. If the decision is delayed, you may be able to submit an appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. Be mindful of these timescales when planning your production schedules.

Publicity and Consultation

Once the application is submitted, the LPA may publicise it to allow neighbours and the local community to see the plans and comment on them. This process typically includes site notices, press advertisements and neighbour notifications. The period for consultation is usually three to eight weeks.

Determination by the Local Planning Authority

The LPA will assess your application against local planning policies and any comments received during the consultation period. They may negotiate on certain aspects of the proposal to address any concerns or suggest conditions.


The decision will be made either by the planning officers or by the planning committee, which is made up of local councillors. If permission is granted, it will usually come with conditions that must be met. If it is refused, the LPA must provide clear reasons, and you have the right to appeal.

If granted permission, you may need to submit 'discharge of conditions' applications before starting the development, which proves that you have met the pre-commencement conditions outlined in your permission.

Planners' Requirements and Considerations

As well as your application, your project and the film location will need to meet a number of considerations:

  • Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA): for large-scale developments or those in sensitive locations, an EIA may be required. This assessment will look at the potential effects of the proposed project on the environment and will cover aspects such as biodiversity, water and air quality, and land use.
  • Noise control and working hours: film and TV productions can be noisy, and project managers and production companies will be expected to impose conditions to minimise disturbance. This could include restrictions on the times when filming can take place, particularly if shooting near residential areas. The use of generators, construction work for sets, and noise on set are all considered under this aspect.
  • Public access and safety: the safety of both the public and the crew is paramount. The planning application should outline measures to maintain public rights of way and ensure that any temporary structures are safe and secure. Additionally, planning authorities will want to see that emergency services have access to the site at all times.
  • Visual impact and aesthetics: how the project fits visually within its surroundings is a key consideration. Planners assess the size and design of any temporary structures to ensure they are in keeping with the local environment. For historical or picturesque settings, the visual impact will be a particularly sensitive issue.
  • Infrastructure and traffic management: a Traffic Impact Assessment may be necessary to demonstrate that local roads can handle the additional traffic from large vehicles and crew and that measures are in place to manage any potential congestion.
  • Community and economic benefits local authorities may look favourably on developments that bring economic benefits to the area, such as employment opportunities or increased business for local services. Demonstrating how the production will positively impact the local community can support the application.
  • Heritage and archaeology: if the proposed site includes or is near historical sites or listed buildings, a thorough assessment will be needed. This might include archaeological surveys and a strategy for preserving historical features.
  • Sustainability and waste management: the authority will expect to see a strategy for managing waste and promoting sustainability throughout the production. This includes the disposal of set materials post-production and ensuring that the site is returned to its original state.

How Portable Accommodation Can Help

The logistics of providing suitable accommodation and facilities for cast and crew can be a challenge, especially when filming on location. Portable accommodation offers a strategic and flexible solution to this challenge, aligning well with the temporary nature of production work and the need for minimal impact on the filming location.

Portable units, such as the Site Sleepers provided by Bunkabin, come with a range of benefits for production crews. They are quick to install and remove, reducing the time and disruption associated with constructing traditional facilities. These units provide comfortable living and working spaces, which can be placed close to the set, thereby reducing travel time and costs. They can also be relocated easily as the filming schedule progresses from one location to another.

Given their temporary nature, portable accommodation units often face fewer obstacles in the planning permission process. They generally do not require the same level of scrutiny as permanent structures and are more likely to be viewed favourably by planning authorities, provided that they meet the necessary safety and environmental standards.

One of the most significant advantages of portable accommodation is the ability to customise the units to meet the specific needs of a production. Whether you need dressing rooms, makeup studios, production offices, or simply comfortable sleeping quarters, these units can be outfitted to suit. They can also be equipped with amenities such as heating, lighting, internet connectivity, and appropriate insulation, ensuring comfort and functionality in all seasons and settings.

Economically, portable accommodation can be cost-effective, reducing the need for costly hotel bookings and long-term rentals. This can be particularly beneficial for productions working with tight budgets or those that require flexibility due to changing schedules.

Bunkabin Can Help

To learn more about how temporary accommodation can benefit your film or TV project, call Bunkabin today on 0345 456 7899. Alternatively, fill out an online contact form and we will be in touch at a time suitable for you.


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