10 Things About PlanningMost people are not familiar with the planning process, so it can seem quite daunting.
10 Things About Planning
Most people are not familiar with the planning process, so it can seem quite daunting. But with just a little knowledge it’s much easier to understand.
So here are 10 things you need to know about Planning:
- At the outset, ensure you have a good quality scheme – inside and out. It can be too easy to concentrate on your internal requirements (e.g. room layout, room sizes, widow positions) at the expense of other things. The Council will concentrate on the external impacts of your proposal – particularly its design and impact on neighbours. So it’s worth investing in a good designer – ideally an architect, but it can be anybody with good design skills.
- The process is democratic, which makes it political. Decisions are often influenced by the views of other people, especially the local District Councillor(s), the town or parish council, and neighbours. So there’s no harm in talking to these people and trying to persuade them to support your scheme. And it’s always best to talk to the neighbours before you submit your application – it then won’t come as a surprise when the Council notifies them that your application has been submitted. If they raise any concerns, address them if you can by modifying your scheme. If you can get all of these people on your side, that’s half the battle won.
- Deal with the Council electronically – it’s much quicker and uses no paper or postage, so it’s cheaper.
- Get pre-application advice – either from the Council or a planning consultant. This will steer you in the right direction. Unfortunately, councils now tend to charge for this service.
- Find out early if you’re going to need to prepare any technical reports or surveys. The Council’s website should advise you what reports or surveys will need to be submitted with your application. For example, you might need to prepare a transport statement, land contamination report, ecological survey, tree survey, or flood risk assessment. If you’re at all unsure, use the Council’s pre-application service to confirm what you need to do.
- Be careful in sensitive locations. In the Green Belt there will probably be a restriction on the size of property you can build on your plot, and in a Conservation Area or close to a listed building the design and external materials will need to be very high quality, which will add to costs.
- Remember there are two levels at which the Council will consider your proposal – the principle of building on your plot and the details. Whether the principle is acceptable is a matter of planning policy and, to find out, it’s best to get professional advice. This can be part of the pre-application advice service provided by the Council. If the principle is acceptable, the decision on whether you’ll get planning permission depends on such detailed issues as design, impact on the street scene, impact on neighbours, impact on any trees, safety of the access, and adequacy of the drainage system. There might be other detailed issues relevant to your particular proposal.
- Be reasonable and flexible. Make changes if necessary to overcome legitimate objections or concerns – nothing should be set in stone. But equally, don’t give in to unreasonable requests or demands. Knowing when to concede and when to stand your ground is a matter of careful judgement. If you’re unsure, get some independent professional advice. Remember, you always have a right of appeal if you cannot agree with the Council and you end up with a refusal.
- When you get your planning permission, look carefully at the conditionswhich have been imposed. You need to ensure you comply with all of the conditions or you might find yourself with planning enforcement problems which will lead to delays, uncertainty, a possible appeal, and a whole lot of extra costs. Some conditions may need to be discharged before you start work on site. Make sure you comply with these conditions or, again, you might find yourself dealing with the Council’s Enforcement Officer.
- Make sure you build in accordance with the approved plans. If you don’t, you might find yourself with planning enforcement problems. You can change your scheme after planning permission has been granted and even after you’ve started to build. But make sure you inform the Council of your proposed changes, preferably well in advance. If the Council thinks your changes are significant, you will be asked to submit another planning application.
Many Thanks to our planning expert, Mike Gilbert, for this article.