Planning permission on a piece of land makes the difference between a building plot and just another parcel of land. Getting planning permission can be a long and sometimes financially painful process filled with hassle, but the usual gain outweighs the downsides. Construction of new buildings and extensive changes to existing buildings will nearly always require consent from your local planning authority in the form of planning permission. It is this planning system that is designed to control inappropriate development and protect the public.
Understanding the planning process
Having an understanding of the planning process will benefit you immensely. Our goal with this post will be to steer you in the right direction and give you a basic understanding of the issues involved.
When thinking about converting a property or building your own home on a plot of land, your local planning office is the best place to start. In fact, early conversations with your local Planning Officer can avert problems likely to rear their head in the future, and it has the added benefit of getting them ‘on-side’ be involving them early on.
Getting a decision requires the interpretation of national and local planning authorities, by the Planning Officers, and committees of elected local Councilors. Inconsistencies between planners can be high though as everyone is human and each person brings their own experience, ego, and views to the process. As such a flexible and pragmatic approach is going to help you a huge amount, as is working with an experienced Builder and Architect.
From submission to a decision the process should take no longer than 8 weeks, and the officers are under immense pressure to turn decisions around quickly. This, of course, doesn’t necessarily make it easy for you to have much contact with the planning department and certainly doesn’t give you much window for negotiation during the application.
Don’t get refused planning permission
In England, around 75 per cent of applications are granted. If your application is refused, you can either amend and resubmit having dealt with the reasons for refusal, or you can make an appeal to the planning inspectorate — around 40 per cent of householder applications that are refused are later granted at appeal.
Being refused isn’t the end of the world, however, it can be a black mark on the planning history of the plot or property and establish very clearly what isn’t acceptable it will also add a time cost to the project that could be avoided by submitting plans more likely to be accepted. Working with experienced builders and architects can alleviate a lot of the planning problems. At Wiggs, we also recommend tracking your application through the system to monitor it’s progress – withdrawing it as necessary and amending any issues flagged by the Planning Officers.
Understanding Your Local Planning Permission Policies
In many ways submitting an application is a bit of a game, and understanding how the game is played will benefit you a great deal. If you know how to bend the rules, give and take on specific items, you can achieve more and effectively use the system to your advantage. In general terms, planning decisions will be made in accordance with the Local Plan Policies.
The development plan for your area is either comprised of a County Structure Plan and District Local Plan or a combination of both called a Unitary Development Plan. At Wiggs, we understand this and can guide you through this. The UDP contains the policies that stipulate where new houses are likely to be allowed and where they won’t. It lists the criteria that should be used to assess and judge planning applications.
The council also issues a supplementary planning guidance that gives more detailed information about what they expect in terms of design and usually spells out what they deem to be acceptable distances between new and existing houses, in terms of privacy and overshadowing.
The Consultation Process
When you submit a planning application with all the appropriate forms, drawings and fees, the local authority will then register the application and consults a list of organisations both internal and external. A decision will not be made until that consultation period has expired.
- They will consult neighbours by letter or by putting up a site notice.
- The local parish or town council will be consulted.
- Highway engineers will be consulted to make sure the access is safe.
- If there is any flood risk the Environment Agency will be consulted.
- The council’s professional archaeologist may become involved if it is a historic site.
- Environmental health officers will be consulted about contaminated land issues
- The conservation officer will be consulted if the site is within a Conservation Area.
- The council’s tree officer will be consulted to think about protecting trees.
At Wiggs, we advise talking to the people who are going to be consulted before they get the letter from the council. Talk to your neighbours, discuss the access with a highway authority, establish that the land is not liable to flooding etc. This usually makes a real difference to the outcome.