Planning permission explained

Let's Talk Planning v2

The planning process can be complicated and unclear at times. To help understand the process, we sat down with Scott Hunter, our Planning & Building Regulations Manager. Scott outlined some key considerations, approaches and practical points to help you prepare for the planning process.

Designing your home

Research is one of the most important steps; has the site had planning before, has planning been refused before, and if so, why? This could impact your application. It might be more difficult to get planning the second time round. If planning has been approved before and you’re going for a change of design, look at the conditions attached to the original approval and address these in your new application.

A good approach that could improve the likelihood of your application being approved is to consider the properties surrounding your site. Chances are if they all have the same features, such as brick walls with a slate roof, the expectation will be the same for your home.

Planners will also take a view on whether the design of your property will create an asset to the area or be considered an eyesore. Having a design statement can help should there be a challenge to your architectural proposals; this document is intended to outline the reasoning and evidence behind the type of building you want.

Practical considerations

There are also some practical considerations before entering the planning process. Firstly, establish whether the plot of land you are considering is fully serviced. If you’re buying a plot that is not serviced, this could result in significant additional costs. For instance, is there a water/drainage connection nearby, otherwise is a septic tank or treatment plant required? These considerations all need to be factored into your potential project budget. The gradient of your plot could also have an impact. You may need to get a topographical survey done, and there might be significant excavation work which again could increase the cost of your build. Just being aware of these factors is helpful from the outset.

It is worth having confirmation of the boundaries of your plot; a good understanding of where your land finishes and another plot begins is important. Whilst considering your title deeds, you should also be clear on whether your plot is located within a conservation area as this could have an impact. There are strict regulations on what can be done within conservation areas, areas of natural beauty, and areas with significant historical and cultural significance. You can find out more about this on your local authority website.

To make a planning application, self-builders need vital information including a location plan, site plan, elevations, and floor plans. Architects and architectural technicians can assist you in the technical development of these plans. You can access these services either by appointing an architect or by working with a package provider’s in-house design service, like Fleming Homes’ one.

Building in a rural location may bring additional challenges, such as a right of access through the plot, ponds, or rivers, and consideration of the local wildlife. If so, you might be asked for an ecology report as part of the application process. If there are already houses built nearby, a review of their reports and planning applications might be useful, which you can find on your local authority planning portal.

What happens when you submit a planning application?

Once your application is ready to submit and your planning fee has been paid the application goes through a validation process with your local council to ensure all the required documents have been submitted. After a query process, your application then becomes valid and a reference number is issued enabling you to track your application online. During the application process, your Council will consult various stakeholders, such as neighbours and other interested parties so that they can comment on the application. Following the consultation process, a decision will be made.

Planning objections

If your application receives some objections try not to take this personally. More often than not, neighbours’ objections are not a material consideration for planning and are usually based on pre-conceived judgements or a lack of understanding surrounding the planning process. Should an objection be raised which is relevant, it is important to be seen to address this in a timely manner. This may also aid neighbour relations moving forwards.

Timescales, conditions, and costs

The planning process can be lengthy depending on the complexity of your project and how well your local planning team is resourced. Factoring in additional time and being prepared for delays will enable you to develop a realistic timescale for your project.

Often a planning application will be approved with conditions. You will need to take these conditions into account before deciding to go ahead to ensure you are happy to satisfy them. Planning conditions are essential to consider, as you could be breaking the law by beginning a project without having fulfilled any pre-commencement requirements associated with the planning application.

Sometimes there are additional costs associated with the planning process. These costs can mount up, especially if you are not expecting them. While you may have factored in architectural fees and planning application fees, your plot could also require site surveys and ecological reports. It’s worth having a planning phase contingency in place at the outset. A ballpark of £2k-£5k is recommended. If this budget isn’t required, it can always be channeled back into the rest of your build later. You should also be clear on whether there is a CIL (community infrastructure levy) payment associated with your plot. This is a charge levied by local authorities on new developments to help cover infrastructure costs. You will find this detailed in the conditions of planning.

In summary, Scott’s top 5 things to consider when entering the planning process:-

• Time – Planning can be a longer process than you anticipate, and deadlines may need to be extended
• Flexibility – Planners may ask for design or material changes, e.g., move windows, or enhance property characteristics. Being prepared to be flexible with the plans can be beneficial
• Research the area – Use your Council’s online portal to view previous drawings and applications. This will give you an idea of what has or hasn’t been approved in the area previously and will highlight the most common types of surveys that your local authority ask for.
• Neighbours – Neighbours are entitled to their opinion on the impact of a planning application. Don’t take objections to heart and try to work with any neighbours to gain their support.
• Budget – Over and above your land purchase price and estimated build costs ensure that you have a contingency to cover the unexpected. That way, if you are asked to obtain surveys and reports at the planning stage there isn’t stress on your project budget from the outset.

If you need help overcoming some of the hurdles associated with planning or have any specific project-related planning questions don’t hesitate to get in touch with our experienced planning and building regulations team on 01361 883785 or by email

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