Software for planning application

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12 Dec 2022
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I need planning permission for a lean to shed. It will be a timber frame with PIR roof panels. I need to draw the elevations. Any recommendations for a cheap (or free) software I could use?


Hi Jon. Depends on Mac or PC. You can get 30 day trials on Autocad, or Progecad (called iCad on Mac), which are both great. If you want something slightly simpler, sketchup is well regarded (although not personally a fan), or Turbocad is pretty good (and cheap to purchase too).
Can you still submit hand drawn plans? I know it is some years ago, but on one house I did this for a detached 8x5m timber workshop and attached extensions of rear lounge, utility room, rear garage extension, front garage extension and porch.
These included scale elevations of present and proposed, sectional views, construction details and a full list of materials etc.
Planning along with Building Control were perfectly happy with this.

SketchUp is not too hard to get to a level where you could achieve this. However as Colin has said a hand sketch or something in powerpoint etc may be more than adequate. I did a planning application for my shed build, as I'm in a conservation area, and whilst I used sketchup the actual elevations could have been drawn by hand much easier. See attached for what I submitted.


  • Shed Elevations and Floor Plan (A4).jpg
    Shed Elevations and Floor Plan (A4).jpg
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I asked a builder who does mostly listed building work the same question a few years ago. He said that for something simple it is often quicker to get (or print) some graph paper, and draw it. Providing you use an approved scale and do it accurately it’s not a problem. I thought nah! I then wanted to get permission to build a posh shed in the form of an outdoor public toilet in the village churchyard which is used by the village for social functions. A lot of bureaucracy from bodies I’d never heard of before. I thought it wouldn’t take long to produce using cad. After making a few mistakes and finding it time consuming to rework, I did it quickly by hand. It was accepted no problem.
A pencil ruler and rubber are still a designers best friend. They your ideas down and design outline done fast.
Only after this "roughing out" will designer's turn to software to finalise plans. So accurately scaled elevations and plan easy to do and enough for outline planning permission and even full PP,
Pencil and graph paper. Sellotape to a board and Sellotape tracing paper over that so it can't move. Once it's done in pencil and you've corrected all your mistakes you can go over it with rotoring pen.
Another 👍 for SketchUp!

Back in the day I did plans for extensions, all hand-drawn, until A3 printers appeared. Evolved onto autocad (big learning curve) and remained there for years until someone showed me SketchUp. Very much smaller learning curve, relatively (in my opinion) intuitive and ideal for what you want ad you can get virtually immediate results. It's primarily 3d software but don't let that put you off as that is actually a benefit because you can 'draw' in 3d (believe me that very useful) and on completion simply print the plans and elevations from exact overhead and side-on views (as if you've drawn them as 2d).