Want planning success? Then plan for success…

The upfront statement is this. It is impossible to guarantee that a submission will receive planning consent first time around. However, our response to the question ‘can you guarantee a planning permission’ is to say that whilst we cannot provide a guarantee,  we can confirm that we do everything possible to balance the odds in favour of a permission. The points we refer to when we talk to our clients about the planning process are as follows.

Know the location of the proposal.

Is it in a conservation area? Is it inside the ‘Development Boundary’, an imaginary line drawn around a town or village or even a part thereof? Is the building listed or does it sit adjacent to a listed building? Are there any boundary, traffic or services constraints? The location will have a bearing on what form the application needs to take and may require a particular approach by your architect.

Know your neighbours.

In most instances, this is a good thing to accomplish early on as a good relationship with neighbours can help further down the line, after a planning decision has been given. Up to the planning application stage, engaging in positive discussion with your neighbours can potentially minimise objections and petitions being submitted, both of which will hold up the planning consultation process. We have assisted our clients in the process of public consultation in varying degrees of complexity, ranging from a simple introduction to the immediate neighbours to a several street-wide mail shot, inviting attendance at our studio to view proposals and comment.

Allow enough time for the pre-application and planning consultation processes.

If you constrict the programme in these two areas just to meet a deadline, for instance a completion on the purchase of a plot of land or buildings, it is likely that you will not allow enough time for the preparation of robust supporting documents. The planning consultation period is eight weeks from the date an application is validated. If a valid petition or a requisite number of objections is received then an application will have to be heard at a planning committee, a process that adds five weeks to the process. We often advise our clients to allow thirteen weeks for the planning consultation process, just in case. We also provide our clients with an idea of how long the pre-application process will take.

Insist on well prepared and well presented supporting documents.

This sounds like an obvious point to make but we have inherited projects where disgruntled clients have been unable to obtain planning permission and a quick appraisal of the documents prepared by their former designer has shown why this is. The first hurdle is the validation department of the local authority and documents not prepared in line with their requirements will be rejected.

Appoint the right architect.

This may sound like another obvious point but, setting aside for now the design skill required at pre-planning stage, it is important that you appoint someone who can apply the requisite amount of attention and effort to your project. All but the simplest projects require extensive supporting documentation and it is important that your architect is familiar with and able to produce this documentation otherwise your application may not even be validated, let alone get to the stage of obtaining a decision.

Further to this, if your architect suggests a pre-application discussion be held with the planning department, consider if it is absolutely necessary. We only suggest pre-application discussions for listed buildings, potentially tricky buildings or sites or large developments which will attract a lot of interest from the public.

At the time of writing this post, we have a 100% record with our planning applications. However, this is not as a result of always playing things safe. Quite the contrary. Some of our proposals have been prepared following initial advice that our approach may not be acceptable. I will leave you with an example.

Our proposals for the conversion of a former hotel to a student residence were based on an optimum number of units, expressed by our client as being required for the project to be financially viable. To meet the number, we had to convert the roof space of the buildings into study bedrooms and the initial response from the planning authority was that it would not be acceptable as it may have a negative impact on the appearance of the conservation area.

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We used computer modeling and visualisations to produce what is known as a ‘Visual Impact Assessment’, or VIA, to show our proposals in conjunction with the existing buildings and subsequently show they would not adversely affect the appearance of the conservation area. We submitted the VIA with the application and obtained planning success for our client.

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