A Guide To The Planning Process

When looking to extend or build a new home, gaining planning permission is a necessary but sometimes tricky requirement.  Having worked as a residential architect for twenty years, here are my recommendations to making the process as smooth and successful as possible.

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Work with a good architect who has designed houses in your area or built the type of building project you have in mind. Check that they have a good understanding of planning policy and are able to take you through the process noted below.

Have a look at what has been granted previously in your area. Councils now have all recent planning application drawings online to download which is a fantastic resource.  Scanning google maps and street view for new builds and large extensions in your area can give you a feel of what may be feasible.

Decide on a strategy. Each council has policies regarding scale and massing of extensions and new builds.  There are often Supplementary Planning Documents which provide a guide on what size of extension would be permitted.  There are also national planning policies to work to.  Generally it is easier to gain planning permission if you work within these guidelines and this may be the best strategy for you due to programme and budget and brief. However, your brief may require something different.  Make sure your architect gives you a clear steer on whether the design does fall within with the guidelines or whether they feel that it complies within the wider policies so you have a clearer idea on the time frame, the risk and the work needed to gain planning.

Relate the design to its context. The design doesn’t have to be traditional; it can be contemporary but takes clues from local materials and form.

Sophie Bates Architects Surrey House

Pre-application planning advice.  For anything slightly unusual from policy it is worth paying the small fee for this advice to ensure your proposal has a good chance of success.  This normally takes the form of a written letter in response to submitted drawings and site photos.

Provide detailed, clear, contextual drawings and a design statement with site photos.  Contextual visualisations of your home can quickly demonstrate the quality of the design.  Alternatively a model to show the massing of the proposal in relation to the surrounding site can be a great tool at the planning officer’ site visit.

Sophie Bates Architects Model

Permitted Development.  It may be by combining two applications, one for planning and a second under permitted development will allow you to achieve more to maximise the size of the house.  There is a guide you can download on the planning portal website explaining the latest legislation.  At present the ‘Notification of a Proposed Larger Home Extension’ enables detached houses to extend to the rear up to 8m and terraces and semi-detached up to 6m, but do check the guide, as there are restrictions on this.

Talk to your neighbours.  Make sure you do so prior to submitting the application. The fewer the number of objections, the less likely the application is to be determined by an unpredictable committee vote rather than the planning officer.  Beware that party wall surveyors tend to scan the planning application lists and will target your neighbours trying to tout for business whether they need a party wall notice or not, so having your architect explain the party wall process prior to planning is important.

Sophie Bates Architects Riffel Road

Budget to work with a planning consultant for very challenging sites. If your proposal doesn’t comply with local guidelines or policy you need to prove that it complies with the reasoning behind the policy set out in national policy.  You should budget for time and fees for this if you want to realise your project.

Appeal if you feel really frustrated by the process and have a clear case.  The Planning Inspector runs the appeal process, independent from the council.  It is always best to talk to the planning officers prior to this as the planning officer will want to avoid the time and paperwork involved.  Householder applications for appeal should take ten weeks from registration and are free to apply.  There is information on the planning inspector’s website.

Be patient. Although the statutory period is eight weeks, allow for three months for a fairly straightforward application with pre application advice.  If you are looking at an ambitious scheme, allow for longer.  Your ideal home may take time to gain planning permission but the time taken in investing in communicating the design and showing an understanding of planning policy is worth it if you can create a beautiful home while adding value to your property.

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SOPHIE BATES ARCHITECTS deliver bespoke, innovative and inspiring residential new builds and large scale extensions and refurbishment, from concept design to completion on site in SW London and the surrounding areas.

Contact: www.sophiebates.com.

Copyright Sophie Bates Architects 2017.  Information included is advice only as each project is individual.

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