Permits & Licensing

The City of New Bedford issues permits and licenses across a wide array of categories, all of which are intended to promote the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of New Bedford by enforcing local and state health, fire, zoning and building codes (among others). The charts below reflect the city’s goal to encourage community revitalization and promote economic opportunity across the city by processing permits and licenses for residential and commercial projects in a timely and efficient manner.

Inspectional Services

The City of New Bedford’s Department of Inspectional Services is responsible for ensuring the structural integrity and maintenance of existing buildings and the permitting and oversight of the construction all new structures. In FY 2018, the department issued over 6,000 permits in five major categories: building, plumbing, gas, electrical and mechanical sheet metal permits, which represents a 6% increases since FY 2015.


The Planning Department administers local and state regulations regarding land use planning and land reuse, transportation planning, and historic preservation. In addition, the department oversees the site plan review process for construction projects and reviews proposed signage for compliance with the city's sign ordinance. Among its goals is to reduce the average number of days from the application’s submission to a board decision. The department has been successful reducing the average number of days by 9% between FY 2015 and FY 2018.


The mission of the Licensing Board is to ensure that all businesses operating within the City of New Bedford are properly licensed and compliant with the rights and responsibilities of the licenses they hold. In FY 2018 the department issued 1,100 licenses, half of which are restaurant, liquor and, one-day special liquor licenses.


The Health Department is responsible for leading a broad public health mandate that includes Environmental Health (e.g., housing sanitation, childhood lead poisoning prevention, food safety, trash/nuisance, sewer/septic, swimming pools, and environmental remediation/clean-up), Public Health Nursing, Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention, Municipal Marine Lab Testing, and Health and Wellness Promotion. Every year, the department issues hundreds of permits, licenses and variances across a variety of categories including food and retail establishments, housing/motel/hotel and lodging, septic, tobacco and tanning establishments. Below is breakdown of the types of food establishment licenses issued in the City of New Bedford in the last four fiscal years.