Top Tips Series: 7 things to consider about Planning

Welcome to our first in a series of property development top tips where we share our anecdotal advice on planning. Unless your project meets permitted development criteria, chances are you are going to need full planning consent if you’re looking to build new properties, replace existing properties or make large extensions.
The process is broadly the same, but between each authority, policies and frameworks can change drastically in what they will or won’t grant permission.
To make this work in your favour as much as possible, we’ve created some tops tips to help you through the obstacle-course that is planning.

1. Search policies

It’s important you know your stuff when it comes to what’s going on in your area. If you go onto your local planning department’s website, you’ll have access to the County Structure Plan, the District Local plan, or the Unitary District Plan. You should study these as they spell out and emphasise where and what it is they’re looking to grant permission for in its current cycle.
Do they have any demographic they have a housing shortage for? Is there a geographic area they require more housing? Is your development in an area which has met its housing quota? You need to take all of this into consideration if you’re to be realistic about your project. Begin pulling parts out which support your development, then consider anything that goes against it and use this to make your judgement. You can always use the services of a planning consultant to advise you on this.

 2. Search planning portals

You’ll also have access to the planning portal. You should search for applications near where your development is located, as well as other developments which are similar to yours, and read through all of the comments and decision notices. Are there any recurring themes? If so, make a note and pre-empt any issues in design, size and so forth in the design of your project before you submit your planning application.

 3. Check the news

Here’s an easy one: keep up to date with your local news. Local papers are usually good at reporting on larger or controversial developments, and with that comes a variety of councillors, planning officers or members of the public making comments. You should keep a mental note of this so that you’re aware of who or what you may be up against if your development falls into this type of category.

 4. Consult with relevant officers

When you submit your planning application, it’ll be put in front of a list of officers to consult upon it – everyone from highways, parish councillors, Environment Agency officers, archaeologists, conservation, environmental health and arboriculturalists will have their chance to comment on it.
Any of these stakeholders could delay your application so you don’t need it coming to them as a shock or out of the blue. So, if your development is in a conservation area, you should speak to a conservation officer. If your development is on a bend of a busy highway, you should speak to a highways officer – and so forth.
Approach these officers as advisors helping you to get your development through, rather than opponents putting a halt to your plans. It’s a great way to build rapport with them for your current and future developments.
You can also pay a fee to have pre-application advice. Although it isn’t guaranteed what the planning officers say will be what happens in practice.

5. Talk to your neighbours

If your development is close to other dwellings, you should speak with your neighbours and discuss any concerns they may have. Not only is it courteous, but should your development get the go ahead, you don’t want a scorned neighbour calling HSE every week or making the job more difficult because they didn’t like the way the project was handled from the start. So consult them from the outset and try to address any reasonable concerns they have and be fair – it’ll make your life a lot easier in the long run.

6. Be detailed

It sounds obvious but you should be detailed in your planning application and use language from your authority’s local plan(s) to demonstrate how your development can contribute to their targets.
For example, rather than ‘construction of 8 apartments on London Road’, you could state ‘a scheme of eight carefully-appointed apartments, with four ground floor flats ideal for older residents, designed sympathetically to match the street-scene’. This shows that you’ve considered the other properties on the street and that you have a demographic in mind that your properties could provide housing for – which, in this case, is ideal if the local plan specifies a lack of housing for older residents to downsize to.

7. Avoid getting a refusal

Once your application has been accepted and validated, the consultation period will begin which will last 8 weeks. During this time, you should keep a close eye on how its going. Various consultants will be coming back with any comments, conditions or objections that they would like to make against the application.
If it gets to the stage that a lot of objections are coming in on reasonable grounds and it looks like it will be refused, you should consider withdrawing your application. Review your project and resubmit your application taking into consideration the points that have been made would be a lot smoother, and arguably quicker, than going to an appeal.
If you allow it to get a refusal, it will also leave a mark against the property which any future applications will be reviewed against, and this makes it easy for officers to be dismissive of future applications.
So that’s our 7 things to consider about planning for development projects. Next week we’ll share our tips on architecture. In the meantime, get in touch if you have any questions or if you have any suggestions, too!
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