WHO SHOULD BE CONSULTED BEFORE A PLANNING APPLICATION IS SUBMITTED?
If you need to apply for planning permission, you should think carefully about how to do it, talk to relevant parties and gather evidence to help develop and advance your case as early as possible.
This will take time to do, but will save time in the long run. If appropriate, seek advice from a planning consultant or other professional familiar with the planning system and the local area.
Think about the type of development being proposed. A large development affecting a wide area will require a significant level of consultation and engagement before a planning application is submitted. Whereas a small addition to a home may only require a discussion with neighbours and the local council.
It is important to prepare and submit along with your application any technical reports or assessments necessary to make your planning application valid and to give your proposals the best possible chance of success.
Tips on what to think about pre-application
1 – Speak to those who will use the new development
Gauge views and tailor your proposals accordingly.
Talk through how spaces will be used, where facilities may go. Where will access be gained, what about window locations?
Think about how the spaces will be used and what the development will ultimately look and feel like when completed.
It’s important to have a good understanding of the site and its surroundings so you’re aware of any relevant restrictions and/or considerations you will need to take into account as you develop your proposals.
Use this information to mould the draft proposals – think about what is needed to support the application and what help you will need to realise the vision.
2 – Speak to relevant professionals
Now is a good time to seek the advice of professionals – an architect and builder is needed for most projects but planning consultants and experts who may advise on matters such as highways, ecology, drainage, trees etc may be of real benefit.
Do you know if your site is within the green belt, an area prone to flood risk or a conservation area? Will trees on site be covered by tree preservation orders or other restrictions? Are there any rights of way, overhead cables, or underground services that need to be considered? What are the neighbouring land uses and how close are any neighbouring properties?
There may also be non-planning issues that will affect proposals. For example – are there any covenants covering the use of the site and if you do not own the freehold are there any relevant restrictive clauses?
Checking your deeds or lease agreement may help with this.
Experts will be able to advise you on what assessments will be needed to answer these questions and support an application.
Their expertise can also be invaluable in avoiding unnecessary costs, but also in developing strategies and methods that will give your application the best possible chance of success.
Professional advice can be sought through the directory of planning consultants held by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) and the list of architects held by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
3 – Speak to your local planning authority
If you’re unsure initially whether a planning application is needed, check with your LPA – usually your local council. Ask them what assessments and related plans you need to be aware of for your type of development.
It can be extremely useful to arrange a meeting with an officer from the Development Management section of your LPA to gain their initial views on the character of the proposal and the likely planning issues associated with it. This may not always be possible. Your professional advisors will help you get the most out of such a meeting and help you with the process.
At this stage a planning officer will let you know which of the LPA’s planning policies are most relevant to your proposals (general policies, along with any site-specific policies) and point you to any relevant guidance. They can give you informal advice on the proposals and what may need to be changed in order to get planning permission. Also, what is not going to be permitted. Much better to know at this stage whether proposals are feasible than to spend lots of time, money and effort pursuing a flawed planning application that never stood a chance of being permitted.
Ask if the officer can suggest other council departments to speak to, such as highways or environmental health, heritage or tree officers etc.
Whilst formal plans and reports may not be required at this stage, officers will be able to give more detailed feedback on more detailed information. Even if you are seeking just the principles of what is proposed, make sure you go prepared. The more information you can provide (including any basic indicative plans and drawings) the more detailed feedback you are likely to receive from the LPA.
Sometimes, an LPA may wish to undertake the above discussion as part of their formal ‘pre-application advice’ service and may even be willing to meet on site. It is increasingly common for LPAs to charge for pre-application advice.
If possible, try to get officer feedback in writing – possibly a letter, email or report with their initial view and any feedback on your proposals. This can be extremely helpful in understanding the next steps and matters that may be important in the determination of any planning application.
The officer should also confirm at this stage the requirements of their local validation list. This will set out the information they require to be submitted with an application to enable them to register it as a valid application.
4 – Speak to neighbours and the local community
Engagement should be proportionate to the scale of the proposals and take into account any pre-application advice from the LPA.
As a minimum, it is polite and in nearly every case advisable to speak to immediate neighbours – particularly if they are directly affected by proposals. Depending on the size of the project, it may be useful to speak to your local Councillors, Town or Parish Councils, neighbourhood planning groups and/or local community groups about the proposals.
For larger projects, engaging and talking through the proposals with the local community at an early stage, perhaps by holding a public meeting or exhibition, will help you to gauge whether they may support or have concerns with your proposals. For major proposals, this is pre-requisite to a planning application being made.
If the local community are made aware of proposals at an early stage with a chance to input, they may be less likely to raise objections when consulted by the LPA at the planning application stage.
Objections at this later stage can often cause delay or sometimes lead to proposals being deemed unacceptable by the LPA. You may find that the local community or neighbours could also assist in developing your proposals to enhance their benefits and/or in modifying them to help overcome any concerns.
PRE-PLANNING APPLICATION TIPS
The following tips will help enable the best presentation of your case to the LPA and interested parties and the best possible outcome of a proposal for development:
Be flexible and realistic!
Make sure that you are realistic and consider alternative options for your scheme and designs which could achieve the same goal depending on the feedback you receive. Your aspirations for a project may not be shared by others, including your neighbours who will remain your neighbours after the application has been determined. Some alternative proposals may be more attractive to your neighbours, the LPA or other consultees whilst also meeting your main objectives.
Be willing to compromise.
Listen to advice from your professional consultants. Sharing and discussing amendments made to proposals can be a massive help in getting proposals through – helping to demonstrate you are being reasonable and flexible in going about what you want to achieve can take a lot of the ‘heat’ out of planning application consultations.
Communicate, rise above criticism and deal with feedback in a positive way
Avoid the temptation to ignore objectors, get angry with negative feedback or to take criticism of proposals personally.
It is better to discuss your proposals and articulate benefits at an early stage rather than moving quickly to prepare plans. Do not submit proposals without adequate consultation.
Try to anticipate who proposals may affect, who may have concerns and object, then look to discuss with them how any adverse effects could be kept to a minimum and perhaps what mitigation measures could be put in place. A small change to acknowledge an objector’s concerns may lead to that objection being removed by the time an application is determined.
It’s good to talk.
There is a direct relationship between the scale and likely impact of what you are proposing and the amount of background work (technical and political) which will need to be done to support it, and the length of time it will take to develop and implement the proposals.
Again – be realistic about costs, timescales and the work needed to support an application.
Don’t underestimate the time and work involved in submitting a good quality planning application.
The planning system in England can be frustrating.
Begin discussions early, find out how long each stage of the process takes and be realistic in terms of timescales and costs.
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