6 things to consider before making a planning application

Obtaining planning permission is not always an easy process

Obtaining planning permission is not always an easy process - Credit: Getty Images/Hemera

Obtaining planning permission to develop a site, extend your home or expand your commercial portfolio is one of the best ways to add value. However, it’s not always an easy process.

Andrew Boothby, Aitchison Raffety

Andrew Boothby, Aitchison Raffety - Credit: Archant

Andrew Boothby, senior planning consultant at Aitchison Raffety, is ideally qualified to advise, having previously worked in the planning department at St Albans City and District Council for 10 years.

He says: “I know first-hand just how challenging the planning process can sometimes be and I speak to people every day who need help and advice.

“In my experience, taking the right approach at the beginning and doing your homework beforehand is the best way to achieve results, saving a lot of time and expense in the long run.”

These are Andrew’s top tips:

No matter the size of your project you will need a good set of drawings with the correct scale

No matter the size of your project you will need a good set of drawings with the correct scale - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

1. Understand the planning policies and requirements

All planning applications are assessed in relation to their accordance with the local development plan. In St Albans this document currently consists of the District Local Plan Review, 1994. The Local Plan sets out the future for development in the local area ranging from major infrastructure projects right down to single dwellings and extensions. While it is now relatively old, many of its policies are still relevant to the determination of applications. It is therefore vitally important to consider these and the council’s other supplementary guidance when planning your project.

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Any proposals that are contrary to the development plan need to be fully justified and that’s when it can be most important to seek professional advice.

2. Consider professional advice

While some planning issues are fairly straightforward, others involve arguments as to the interpretation of planning policy and local development plans. St Albans as a district has many specially designated areas where new development is more tightly controlled than others; Conservation Areas and the Metropolitan Green Belt for example. These designations can seriously affect the development opportunities at a site or existing property and, in such cases, having a planning consultant on your side can make all the difference.

3. Consider making use of the pre-application process

Early engagement with the Local Planning Authority can sometimes be invaluable to the success of a project. St Albans City and District Council offers a pre-application advice service which can be used to obtain their views on the merits of a proposed scheme, as well as guidance on any specialist reports or information that will need to be submitted with the formal application. It can also be a good time to discuss and agree any financial or affordable housing contributions that may apply to your scheme which could affect its viability.

4. Consult with your neighbours and the local community

While the council will ultimately make the final decision on your application, in my experience, talking to your neighbours, and anyone else who could be affected by the proposal, is very important. Be aware that the council will write to your neighbours and the parish council once the application is submitted anyway, so giving them the heads up beforehand can sometimes ease the process and allow you to discuss any potential issues, making changes if appropriate.

5. Know your permitted development rights

While the construction of a new commercial unit or dwelling will always need permission, when it comes to building an extension or changing the use of a property this could fall within ‘permitted development’ and may not require formal planning permission.

If your property benefits from these rights (please be aware that not all buildings do), they can be invaluable, allowing in some circumstances for the two storey extension of a house or the conversion of an office or agricultural barn into a dwelling, provided you stick to the criteria. In some cases, what you can carry out under permitted development would not necessarily be granted planning permission by the council. It is therefore vital to understand the options they provide.

6. Provide good clear information

No matter the size of your project you will need a good set of drawings with the correct scale. For more complex or larger schemes it is wise to submit a planning statement, to clearly set out and justify your development and, depending on the location or potential impacts, you may also need specialist reports to cover matters like transport, heritage or flooding. St Albans City and District Council has a checklist of what is required for each type of application on their website. Be aware that not submitting all of the information required can lead to delays in the processing of your application, or in some circumstances its refusal.

Before embarking on a planning application, Aitchison Raffety would be keen to provide initial informal advice. Please do not hesitate to contact Andrew Boothby on 01442 874087 or via email at andrew.boothby@argroup.co.uk