8. How do I get planning permission?
Once a preferred design direction has been selected from the initial sketch options we will develop drawings in sufficient detail for a planning application, if one is required. These will consist of accurate plans, elevations and sections of both the existing property and the proposals so that the planning officer can evaluate the impact of the changes against current planning policy. Additional supporting documentation will also be required, in particular a ‘Design and Access Statement’, but also potentially an Ecological Survey, Tree Surveys, a Heritage Statement or Traffic Survey.
Planning has become very much more complex over recent years and, although anyone can submit an application, using a planning specialist offers by far the best chance to achieve planning permission, which is why we have planning consultants within our practice to lead on all applications.
Once the planning application is submitted and the appropriate fee paid it will be validated and registered by the local authority. This could take up to two weeks. The clock then starts ticking and residential applications are then supposed to be determined with within an 8 week target period (larger applications can take 13 weeks). This does not always happen of course, but is a good general guide. The planning decision should, in theory, be an objective one, however in reality the planning case officer’s personal judgement will come into play to some extent, especially regarding design matters. Rather than sit back and wait for the planning decision notice to arrive, we feel it is important to take a pro-active approach and keep in contact with the case officer throughout the application period; to respond to queries, ‘make the case’ over any concerns or misunderstandings and make amendments if necessary to obtain a positive outcome. We have established relationships with most local authorities in the North West and have an enviable record of success (although of course this can never be guaranteed).
If the decision is an approval, the project can move on towards construction. If however it is refused three courses of action are possible:
1. Appeal the decision, in which case the proposal will be considered by an independent planning inspector appointed by the Secretary of State.
2. Give up and go no further.
3. Modify the scheme and resubmit.
In practice, if it becomes clear that the application is going to be refused, we may advise withdrawing and modifying it rather than allowing it to proceed to a refusal. However, if this happens the local authority will usually allow a ‘free go’ at resubmission within 12 months. Reasons for refusal will have been given by the authority and we will be able to discuss with them modifications required to achieve consent.
The permission, once granted, will apply strictly to the drawings as submitted. If you have received consent but subsequently wish to make amendments to the scheme (which should be avoided, but sometimes happens) we can discuss with the local authority whether they will accept revised drawings as an amendment to the permission, rather than making a whole new application. Minor amendments may be allowed, but major ones probably won’t be.
Planning consent often comes with conditions: those are the fine print but are very important. Some are routine, such as the length of time the permission is valid for, others are very specific and require further agreement from the local authority before building commences on site. Do not on any account attempt to develop without planning permission or to build something differently to what has been approved, even on the assumption that it is in a position where it cannot be seen and ‘nobody will notice’. Planning enforcement officers are able to require you to demolish buildings constructed without valid consent.