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You have to put the private reg on retention using a DVLA retention form (get from PO). Depending on age (+/-3yrs) they will send out an amended registration document/MOT/tax disk on the new number (equivalent for area/age). Old car will then get plates with replacement no. You will then get a retention certificate from DVLA for your private reg which you can use to register your new vehicle.
If you are trading in a vehicle, most dealers will do this for you and charge you the £80 transfer fee (£105 if you have to retain the number for a period before putting on a new vehicle). Ive done this twice in the past without problems.