Planning Permission

Planning permission refers to permission to carry out development granted by the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) through the Minister of Planning and Development.
Planning permission is necessary to ensure the optimal and efficient use of land and the enhancement of the quality of the environment by providing:
  • An aesthetically pleasing living environment
  • Adequate services to communities
  • Compatibility among various land uses
  • Privacy between buildings
  • Convenience and safety for pedestrians and vehicles
  • Fire protection, natural light and ventilation to all buildings
  • Recreational open space
Planning permission must be sought and obtained PRIOR to commencing any form of development. Planning Permission is needed for all categories of development.  Building operations such as, the erection of a new building, structural addition, alterations /renovations for a stated use.  Engineering operations such as, installation of roads, drains, utilities and the clearing of land.  Mining operations such as, quarrying activity, oil drilling and mining of materials (aggregate sand or gravel).  The making of material change in the use of land/building from an approved /existing use to a proposed use.  The subdivision of land to create smaller parcels for the purpose of sale, lease, gift, deed or transfer.
When development is not being undertaken, an application to the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) is NOT required. This includes: any structure or use in existence prior to 1972 and any renovation that does not affect the façade, square footage/ cubic content or use of the structure.
No. Section 8(2) of the Town and Country Planning Act states that “the carrying out of works for the maintenance, improvement or other alterations of any building” is not deemed to involve development provided that “the works affect only the interior of the building or do not materially affect the external appearance of the building”.
There are two types of applications for planning permission. An application may be made for: Outline Planning Permission OR Final Planning Permission.
An Outline application be submitted prior to the submission of a final application, for building operations and subdivision applications only.
A building permit means a permit required under section 63 (1) for the purpose of construction a building. Planning permission means permission granted to carry out development on a bonafide parcel of land. Planning permission is required before issuing a building permit.

Submitting Your Application

  • The boundaries and dimensions of the site
  • Proposed building(s), septic tanks and percolation areas, oil wells, significant tree stands etc.
  • The levels or contours, where applicable, (for lands 1:4 in steeper)
  • The Cadastral sheet number, if applicable,
  • The north point and scale of the map,
  • The name and address of the person by whom it was prepared
  • Roads adjoining the site
  • Dimensioned driveways
  • Dimensioned vehicle parking and loading areas
  • Buildings to be demolished must be shown using a broken line and stated to be demolished
  • Landscape layout which includes the location and type of vegetation and paved the surfaces to be constructed
Ground levels, elevations of all faces of the building(s) - including colour and materials of all buildings and works – and building and floor heights should be included in your elevation plans.
Your survey plan should include sizes and dimensions of all proposed plots, the dimension and width of all sections of the roadway, building setback distances and drainage flow. Should the land which is the subject of the application be owned by the state you are required to have the stamp of the relevant agency (eg. HDC, EMDB, COSL, etc).
For sub-division applications, you are required to submit a survey plan showing the land to be sub-divided in relation to the bonafide parent parcel, and a survey plan of the proposed land subdivision and road construction details.
Outline Application is used to find out at an early stage whether or not a proposal is likely to be approved by the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD). It will determine whether the proposed land use is consistent with land use and whether the site is considered to be a legal planning unit. An outline application also identifies conditions which must be met for this approval to be granted before any substantial costs are incurred to the applicant.
Several factors are taken into consideration when determining proposals for planning permission. These include: The Division’s Current Land Use Policy designation, local area and national plans and policies, site development standards, design of the proposal, historical precedent based on prior planning permissions in the immediate vicinity of the site in question, relevant Ministerial Appeal decisions that directly affect land use and spatial planning decisions in the community, on-site investigations – (e.g., topography of land, access to existing infrastructure and services) and input from other government agencies.
The Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) has four (4) Regional Offices in Trinidad and Tobago- the East Regional Office, North Regional Office, South Regional Office and Tobago Regional Office. Your application should be submitted based on the geographic location of your site.   N.B. The functions of both Development Planning and Development Control are conducted within specified Planning Administration areas. These are called Planning Regions. The country is divided into 9 Planning Regions, the T1-T8 Planning Regions are located in Trinidad and the T9 Planning Region comprises the whole of Tobago. Each Planning Region is further divided into Settlement Areas which contain Local Settlement Districts. Each regional office administers specified Planning Regions.
Yes, members of the public can verify the property they intend to purchase through a Status of Land submission. A Status of Land letter is a formal correspondence from the Town and Country Planning Division for a specified site, stating: Confirmation of the permitted land use via the mapped policy, confirmation of the bonafide of plot (i.e. the plot was created by a Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) final planning permission or existed prior to 1972 as evidenced by survey plan and deed), a site planning history and possible permitted development based on permitted land use and planning history.
Currently, there are NO fees for obtaining planning permission from the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD). Fees for building permits are available by contacting the Municipal Corporation within which the development falls.
Your approved application is forwarded to the relevant Municipal Corporation. You must get a provisional permit from the Corporation prior to starting any work. Upon completion of all works, the Corporation conducts an inspection to ensure work was completed according to the approved plans. After a successful inspection, the Corporation will issue a Completion Certificate.
If your application is issued a refusal, you may re-submit plans which address the reasons noted in the refusal notice. Otherwise, you may request a review of this decision from the Minister of Planning and Development through the Advisory Town Planning Panel (ATPP). The ATPP conducts site visits and after interviewing all relevant parties, make recommendations to the Minister. If a decision is made in favour of the proposal (i.e. Ministerial clearance is granted), the applicant will then resubmit the proposal to the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) along with the Ministerial letter.
Unauthorized development initiates the enforcement process. Development without planning permission is subject to enforcement action on the owner or occupier within four years of the development being carried out. Enforcement Notice is served stipulating the offence and restorative measures. Notice may require demolition, alteration or discontinuance of use.
This would mean that you have nullified your planning permission and must submit a new application for planning permission. It is vital to exercise due diligence in overseeing the implementation of granted development as per the approved plans and conditions of your planning permission.
An application for retention is required when a structure/building/use exists without planning approvals. The Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) will review the as-built drawings and determine whether use can be approved in the context of the Land Use Policy and conformance to site development standards. There is no guarantee approval will be granted retroactively by the relevant authorities.
A buyer is at their own risk when they negligently purchase property/land without ensuring the vendor has adhered to all the necessary requirements of the law; a grant of final planning permission and final approvals from the Municipal Corporation and Tobago House of Assembly (THA) for Tobago-related matters.

Functions of the Town and Country Planning Division

The purpose of the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) is to ensure the orderly and progressive development of land which seeks to create, improve and preserve the sustainable use and development of land for future generations. This is effected by the execution of two (2) main functions- Development Planning and Development Control.
Under the TCPD Act, ‘development’ is defined as: The carrying out of building, engineering, mining, subdivision or other operations in, on, over, or under any land.
The “Development Planning” function refers to the requirement of the Division to prepare a comprehensive policy framework inclusive of the drafting of national, regional and community plans, land use standards, and spatial planning guidelines. Development Planning is the process by which the national economic, social and environmental policies of the country are translated into these policies.
Development Control Inspectors amend the policy in such layers and make it available in the system. This updating procedure may be triggered due to new trends (policy is out-dated) or if the State or a user requests the change in the policy.
Development Control is essentially the implementation of a development plan, by the management of on the ground development. It is conducted on a site specific basis where an applicant submits an application for planning approval. The application contains a proposed use for a parcel of land, along with a building plan or layout of how the land is to be physically demarcated for that use. Planning permission is granted on the basis that the applications conforms to the existing policy for the area as is identified in the Development Plan, or the proposed development is compatible and complements the existing development in the area.
It is required by law. The Town and Country Planning Act empowers the Minister to regulate all forms of development within Trinidad and Tobago. Therefore, almost anything you do on your property requires Town and Country Planning approval. “The carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under any land, the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land, or the subdivision of any land.” – Chapter 35:01, Section 8
You should go to the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) before you: Purchase a property, sub-divide land, construct new buildings/ structures for any purpose, additions to existing buildings/structures, excavate, mine or extract resources etc.
In carrying out its functions in Development Planning and Development Control, the Town and Country Planning Division (TCPD) achieves some of its goals by developing land use plans and policies, creating and implementing site development standards, facilitating development through the approval process and managing unauthorized development through enforcement proceedings.

General Questions

To find out if your land has planning permission for a specific use you have to first apply for a Status of Land.
Bonafide sites are those that have been granted planning permission for subdivision, and their creation have been in existence (in its current shape, size and dimensions) prior to 1972.
Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is an invaluable tool in planning and environmental management which may be used in the CEC process depending on the proposed activity. EIA is the process for identifying the likely effects on the environment of carrying out particular activities and for conveying this information to members of the public and those responsible for making decisions on the proposed activities. The use of EIA facilitates public participation and seeks to address and minimize potential adverse impacts as well as contributes to environmental management through monitoring. EIA may be required for the following types of development:-
  • Large scale residential development, and commercial projects
  • Mining operations
  • Manufacturing industries
  • Power plants
  • Water supply systems
  • Sewage treatment and disposal systems
  • Solid waste disposal systems
  • Major transportation project
  • Hill side development
  • Development in environmental sensitive areas
  • Major resort development
  • Reclamation project
The Certificate of Environmental Clearance (CEC) is a certificate issued to an applicant which certifies the environmental acceptability of a proposed activity, provided that all the conditions contained in the CEC are fulfilled. The CEC process is a measure adopted primarily for environmental protection and the application process facilitates ongoing interaction between applicants and relevant authorities. One of the concepts behind the CEC application process is the consideration of all possible impacts on human health and the environment in order to prevent or minimise such impacts. The following are a list of activities that require a CEC. These activities are considered to have the potential for significant adverse effect or risk to the environment in the phase of establishment, expansion, operation, decommissioning or abandonment. Designated activities are listed in the broad categories of:-
  • Agriculture
  • Heavy and light manufacturing industries
  • Civil works
  • Natural resources/ mineral extraction and processing
  • Waste disposal
  • Transportation operations and construction of Associated infrastructure
  • Other service oriented industries
 Guidelines are specified for each activity within a category. These limits are intended to provide applicants with a guide with respect to the scale required for a proposed activity to warrant an application for a CEC. The applicant may consult with the Environmental Management Authority (EMA) if unclear on any aspect of the CEC application.
Every Wednesday is public day at the Town and Country Planning Division’s (TCPD) regional offices. These are key avenues for staff and applicants to interact. Services offered on public days include pre-application consultation and technical advice. Where can I get more information? Your relevant regional office should be the starting point for planning enquiries. It can: Tell you whether you need planning permission and how to apply, answer questions about how it deals with individual planning applications, give you advice about enforcement and appeal procedures and give you information about the contents of local area plans, planning policy and standards and other planning matters.