Planning Permission

Planning Applications and Planning Permission

The need for planning permission comes from government legislation which became the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, and has since been subject to a number of amendments as particular areas of the ‘Act’ are reviewed and updated to keep pace with changing governments as well as changing government policy.

It is an offence to build, extend or alter some properties without first applying for, and being granted planning permission. If you do not, you risk the local planning authority serving an enforcement notice to you. This is an instruction that may require that at least you apply for planning permission retrospectively, but at worst may require you to return the property to its original condition – e.g. demolish an extension you have just built.

Such a notice is enforceable by the courts, and if you do not return the property back to it’s condition prior to its alteration / extension, the local planning authority will arrange for the work to be carried out for you, and then send you the bill.

Yes, they can legally do this; so you may be unwise to risk such consequences.

Planning applications

The process of obtaining planning permission can be very straight forward, but it can also be long and complex, and often not for the faint hearted. No architect, or building design professional can guarantee to obtain planning permission; so be vary wary of anyone who says they can.

All planning applications are assessed by trained town planners employed by the local planning authority (a department within your local town council). The application is considered on design, size, impact, suitability and compliance with ever changing local, regional and national planning policy guidelines and directives. Decisions are usually based upon planning officers’ opinions and interpretation of policies. Therefore to guarantee an outcome is not realistic.

The Town and Country planning act provides a fixed period of eight weeks in which the local planning authority will try and make a decision on your application. There is a further fixed period of thirteen weeks for larger projects. Planners are under pressure from government to make their decisions within the designated eight weeks, but on occasions this period may be exceeded, but it is not usual.

Anyone can apply for planning permission to build anything, anywhere. That is our democratic right. For example you could apply to build a ten storey block of flats in your neighbours’ back garden. You would be foolish to do so, as it is highly unlikely you would be granted permission, and it will have cost a significant sum of money to get the project that far. Even if you were given consent, you would need the land owners agreement to build. So best left alone really.

The above serves to illustrate why you should seek the services of an architect, or building design professional. They are best placed to give you the greatest chance of success with your planning application. If what you wish to build is unlikely to be accepted by the planners they will tell you, and advise how your requirements can be modified to give you the new, or extended building you require, and still retain a ‘fighting chance’ with the planners. But your building designer is not a planner, neither is the planner a building designer. Each has a working knowledge of the others role, but the professions are quite separate, and this is where sometimes the two fail to meet in the middle, and as the applicant you may be forced to compromise, even mid way through an application.

Yes, a building design can be amended during the course of a planning application in order to meet planning requirements. This may mean you, as applicant, are asked to make further concessions, but it is often the only way planning permission will be granted. If you have the time, you do not need to be brow beaten into accepting a compromise; you are free to withdraw a planning application at any time during the assessment period. You will not be entitled to have your application fee refunded, but you can then re-submit the application (must be within twelve months, and a similar development proposal), having calmly considered all the consequences with your building designer. Very often though compromises are not that great, and the ‘dangled carrot’ of planning permission is usually to tempting to pass up. – You are very stuck without it.

Making a Planning Application

Most private individuals will find the prospect of making a planning application daunting, and understandably so when one looks at the level of information required to do so. In October 2009 the government promoted the idea that more development would be free of the need to obtain planning permission. This was largely true. However, when planning permission is required the introduction of application validation criteria and fines for not getting it right, alone, made the whole process so much more onerous.

To submit a planning application you will be required to produce accurate scale drawings for your building as it exists now and how you want to look after permission is granted. For example a ‘Householder’ application for works to alter or extend an existing dwelling will require the following drawings and documentation:

Validation criteria

  • Correct application fee – without this the rest of the application content may not even be checked.
  • Completed and signed application forms, ownership certificates and agricultural holding certificate.
  • Building plans as existing and as proposed – scale 1: 100 or 1: 50
  • Building elevations as existing and as proposed – scale 1: 100 or 1: 50
  • Building and external site sections – scale 1: 100 or 1: 50
  • Roof plans existing and proposed – scale 1: 100 or 1: 50
  • lock Plan – scale 1: 100 or 1: 200
  • Site Location Plan – based upon an up to date area map (usually from the Ordnance Survey) scale 1:1250 0r 1:2500

Additional information

Additional requirements for Conservation Areas and Listed Buildings –

  • Design and Access Statement
  • Demolition of a building will require a separate ‘Conservation Area application’
  • Listed Buildings – Any work to alter, renovate or extend a listed building will require a separate application to obtain ‘ Listed Building Consent’.
  • Retrospective applications – good quality photographs of all elevations.
  • Satellite dishes – good quality photographs showing where the dish is intended to be fixed.
  • Proposals for installation of Plant / Machinery – e.g. wind turbines / swimming pools etc. – a noise impact assessment, and manufacturers specification literature.

The above provides an overview of the very specific requirements in order to make a valid planning application. As a non building design professional you will need to contact your own local planning authority to clarify their exact requirements. Although application requirements should be the same across the country, some local planning authorities may include minor detail variations.

Most building design professionals will make their applications, on behalf of their clients, via the Planning Portal website. This facility is available for use by the public, but a little research may be necessary to successfully complete the process.

Planning decisions

As previously stated the local planning authority is under some pressure from the government to ensure that as few applications exceed the allotted 8 or 13 week time scale as possible.

A decision will be made on your application in either of two ways. The most common is by an experienced senior planning officer under ‘Delegated Powers’ provided under the Town and Country Planning Act. This senior planning officer will not be the planning case officer (the one who dealt with your application). He or she will consider all aspects of the application, during the eight week assessment period, finally writing a report of the findings, with a recommendation to either ‘approve’ or ‘refuse’. The senior officer will not receive the report cold, as he or she has usually liaised with the case officer throughout and the recommendation to approve or refuse has been arrived at jointly.

The second and less common decision process is when an application is determined by a planning committee. Such committees are composed of elected council members. These are not qualified planners in any respect, but they have gained insight and experience into the planning process, and have considerable working knowledge of planning policies. The committee often will meet in a public forum, where a collection of applications will be individually considered and discussed. There will still be a recommendation from the planners to approve or refuse, but the committee will only use this as advice, it is not necessarily the outcome. The applicant will usually be allowed a fixed time to present the case for approval, and any objectors will be similarly allowed to present their case. Having heard all sides the committee members will vote. If the majority is in favour the application is approved.

A decision by committee is obviously a time consuming process but the rules require that if there are a significant number of objectors to any application, it must be referred to committee for a decision. There are other reasons for committee referral, but too complex to go into here.

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