Why Planning Permission is not something to fear

A lot of people I speak to, when in the early stages of planning some work on their house, seem to panic at the idea of needing Planning Permission. Many are keen to try and work within the limits of their permitted development rights. It’s as if people hear the term “Planning Permission” and imagine it as an expensive and drawn-out process that hinders their proposal. Don’t get me wrong, there will be cases now and again that come up against opposition whilst being considered for planning, but in the vast majority of sensible domestic developments, the process can be straightforward and can really benefit the homeowner in the long run.

Planning Permission protects an area’s character and shields it from the risk of overdevelopment, whilst controlling what developments ARE permitted. It can be what prevents your next door neighbour from building a Fort Knox style outbuilding that blocks the sun in your back garden, or the plastic-clad front extension on the row of quaint limestone cottages, which would unanimously be seen as an eye-sore.

A huge part of the Planner’s role is to determine what CAN be developed, and remember, without ongoing development in the area, the need for Planning Officers would soon dwindle away. It’s in the interests of the Planning Department to see that suitable development gets the green-light. Furthermore, their input comes from their experience and knowledge of the area and its history, which can really add benefit to your proposal. Your designer, whether that’s an Architect or a Technologist like myself, will be able to advise on the criteria for both Permitted Development and the types of development that are likely to be given the go-ahead via Planning Permission. There are a few things you can ask yourself which will give you a good head-start on the outcome of your proposed application though:

Is the proposal adding a disproportionate mass to the existing house?

Are the proposed materials a popular choice and common to the area?

Have any neighbours done similar work? (Google maps is your friend here!)

How will this development affect my neighbours?

If you can answer all of these in a positive way, you’re off to a good start, but always speak to a professional and get their take.

Two other tips I’d recommend are to have one or two options in mind for your development, and accept that some compromise may go a long way to getting you your approval.

Many people still want to avoid the process and build within the limits set out by Permitted Development, which is fine, and it’s no secret that it can be quicker, cheaper and avoids any public consultation. However, as and when a property is sold, it is always a good idea to have paperwork in place to say that what you’ve built is legally permitted. Not having this to-hand could affect the offers you receive and Estate Agents will sometimes lower the market value if this is not in place. Even if you’re going down the route of Permitted Development, an application for a Lawful Development Certificate can, (and really should) be submitted. This allows the Local Authority to assess the proposal against the terms of the current legislation and issue a certificate of approval. The process doesn’t require any public consultation. Once the certificate is issued, the project then jumps straight to Building Regulations assessment, then onto the build.

So whether it’s full Planning Permission or Permitted Development, it’s always good to have something on paper that says you’re good-to-go, and both processes are just as much there to tell you what you CAN build as well what you can’t. Whilst it may seem daunting for the homeowner, it’s week-in week-out stuff for the professionals, and if it makes you feel better about your odds of success, in my 15 years of architecture so far encountered a total of ZERO outright refusals.

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