Getting a planning permission is like a game; A game where your local council makes the rules.
While there are set policies by the government, they are open to interpretation and capable of being bent – often quite dramatically. Planning responds to local politics, so what is permitted will differ from one region of the country to the next. It will even differ between consultants – so for a successful application, the best policy is to be as flexible as possible.
If you do need planning permission, you will be submitting full set of drawings, design and access statement and correct planning application forms. The local authority will then base its decision on what are known as ‘planning considerations’, which can include (but are not limited to):
- Impact on listed building and Conservation Area
- Nature Conservation
- Overlooking/loss of privacy
- Loss of light or overshadowing
- Highway safety
- Layout and density of building
- Design, appearance and materials
- Government policy
- Disabled access
- Proposals in the development plan
- Previous planning decisions
Your application can be refused on the grounds of any of these reasons, however it can be well summarised by these four reasons:
Hire Professional Help
You should never take on planning if you are not 100 per cent sure you understand what you are doing. The process is complex and a significant amount of information has to be considered. One way to get help is for paying a fee to seek pre-application advice from your council – they will be able to assist your design and clearly stated what would be allowable and what would not be. They are the people making the decision so it is very beneficial to listen to their recommendations and alter your plans accordingly.
The other route is to hire a good architect. Architects have significant experience dealing with local councils and usually will know exactly how to spin the ball to win the game. They will also help create all the drawings you need, ensure they are to a high standard, and align with what the expectations of council. If you end up drawing your own plans, they might not meet the required standard and be the reason you are rejected. By hiring a professional they will assist you through all the stages making sure you have considered everything before sending the application, and greatly enhance your chances of winning planning permission.
Provide all the Necessary Information
Sometimes the information missing will be obvious, which will mean that your application will not be validated until the council receives it. When councils ask for more information, fear not! This is a better case scenario whereby they ask for clarification which will result in a short delay, but will not refuse it on this basis.
With planning applications more is always better. The more information that is provided, assuming that it is concise and relevant, makes for less questions that the council can ask later. Location plans, block plans, floor plans, roof plans, elevations and sections, and details of external materials being used. Design and Access statement is not always required, but it is a good practise to have it and it gives you a chance to explain your proposal in detail.
Think of the community
Neighbours can have a lot to say about your proposal. It is not the end of the world if you receive objections from your neighbour during the consultation period, however it should be taken seriously as they can have the same concerns as the council have.
- Is your proposed property going to obstruct neighbour’s view?
- Will it make more noise than is wanted within the area?
The best way to avoid the objections is to make friends with the enemy. Talk to the people in your community and try to accommodate in your design any specific concerns they may have. Avoid anything that would result in loss of privacy, view obstruction or anything that would stick out like a sore thumb.
Consider the current design
For a successful planning application, always try to stick to the existing and surrounding building style. If the design is not out of character it is more likely to be granted approval. Make sure when you are applying for planning permission that you engage in conversation with your council regarding the proposed materials that will be used – the last thing you want is to go through an 8-week planning process just to be refused on the basis of brick colour.
Or they require them to be designed so that their appearance blends period architecture and contemporary style to stunning effect. A well-designed building or extension will be much more attractive to you and to your neighbours. It will also add more value, space and comfort to your house! If you are looking for some inspiration for your project, visit Urbanist Architecture’s portfolio.
Have not done your background check?
If your site is in Conservation Area or in a Flood Risk Zone, additional paper work will be required and the council will scrutinise these applications way more than any regular application.
If your site is in a Conservation Area you will need to know what development is allowed. This can be very restricted so ensure to set your expectations accordingly! For a Conservation Area, the planning application will have to be accompanied by a heritage statement. The statement complexity will be proportional to what is being proposed – i.e. a larger development will require significant more detail than a smaller proposal. Such statement will have to include:
- History and development of the property in question via photos, maps, archival and fabric evidence;
- Site context, space and features which might be affected by the proposal;
- Any site survey drawings;
- Assessment of archaeological, architectural and historical significance of the site and;
- Assessment of the impact of the proposed works on the significance of the site which will include statement of justification for the work and details of any mitigation measures proposed.
Normally a service of an appropriately qualified and experienced planning consultant will be required to access the required information and produce the statements.
If your site falls in a Flood Risk Zone you will need to submit a Flood Risk Assessment with your application. To find out you can search your site through the environment agency website. You will need to carry out a Flood Risk Assessment if the site falls within Flood Zone 2 and zone 3 for all works including minor developments and change of use. If the site falls in Zone 1 flood risk if an excess of one hectare is in Flood Zone and anything less than a hectare if the change of use is to a more vulnerable use. For example, changing the use from commercial to residential can be affected by source floods and would therefore require a Flood Risk Assessment. The assessment can be very complex and applicants are advised to seek professional help.
Make sure that you are informed before seeking planning permission – it is a significant task. Hiring help drastically increases your chances of approval, and takes the guesswork out of the labyrinth of councils, documentation, and applying.
If you are ready to take the first steps to achieve your property development ambitions (even if you have tried before and failed) and you would like my help, just give me a quick call on 0203 793 78 78 or send me an email now.
Norma Jean Worden-Rogers is the Assistant Director & Senior Planner of Urbanist Architecture Ltd. As a specialist planning consultant with a master’s degree, Norma Jean provides expert planning advice to her clients in preparing, submitting and negotiating planning applications.