Category Archives: Publications

Understanding Planning Conditions

If you have received a planning approval it’s essential you know what conditions are attached, what they cover and how they can be complied with. Rather than refusing a planning application, a local planning authority (LPA) may grant permission subject to conditions, most approvals have conditions relating to the time frame to start a development and materials to be used, but often they have more and can vary between LPAs. This article from Northern Insight Magazine details the top 5 things to know about planning conditions.

1. The 6 Tests
Planning conditions should be kept to a minimum and only imposed where they are:

1. necessary; without the condition should the application be refused?

2. relevant to planning; does the condition relate to planning objectives and is it within the scope of the permission to which it is attached?

3. to the development to be permitted; Does the condition fairly and reasonably relates to the development to be permitted?

4. enforceable; would it be practicably possible to enforce the condition?

5. precise; is the condition clear to the applicant and others on what is required?

6. reasonable in all other respect; is the condition reasonable?

2. Removing or modifying conditions
If you don’t think that a condition imposed meets the 6 tests you can apply to the LPA to modify/remove the condition, the application fee for this process is £234. If an application is refused you do have the right to appeal the decision, regardless of the outcome of the appeal the original permission remains valid and it is only the condition which is removed or modified. There is a mechanism to appeal the imposition of a condition on the initial application without going through the process to remove or modify the condition; however, if you appeal at that stage there is a risk as the whole application is reconsidered and could be refused in entirety.

3. Pre-Commencement Conditions
Pre-commencement conditions are those imposed on the grant of planning permission which prevents a start on site until the conditions have been adhered to, this could be by submitting information for agreement or ensuring a specific action is taken. In its emphasis to boost growth and avoid delays the government have imposed that from October 2018 all pre-commencement conditions must be agreed with the applicant prior to approval, this includes during an appeal process. This does not apply to prior approvals as that is not a planning permission. However, be aware if you don’t agree to pre-commencement conditions your application is likely to be refused.

4. Approval of conditions
Conditions which require details to be submitted for approval (or in planning jargon discharged) can take up to 8 weeks from submission to the LPA, this additional time should be planned into your build schedule. The process to discharge conditions does require a fee to be paid to the LPA which is £34 for conditions relating to householder development i.e. extensions or £116 for other proposals. The charge is imposed for each submission; however, you can discharge more than one condition under the same submission.

5. Breach of conditions
If you carry out a development without compliance with a condition, enforcement action could be progressed by the LPA. A Breach of Condition Notice (BCN) could be served which would require compliance to the condition, there is no right of appeal against these notices and you could end up at a Magistrates Court. If you have been in breach of a condition for in excess of 10 years there maybe potential for you to be immune from enforcement action.

Conditions are imposed to avoid refusing an application, therefore don’t ignore them, if in doubt seek assistance from a Town Planning Consultant.

Planning Conditions
Top 5 things to know about Planning Conditions

Introducing Helen Heward

In the first 2019 edition of Northern Insight Helen Heward, Associate at Planning House is introduced, with her substantial public sector experience and passion for people and places we’re excited to have her onboard.  In the article Helen introduces herself.

As a chartered town planner with over 12 years experience in the public sector across planning policy, development management and enforcement, I’m leaving my comfort zone in the Local Authority to start a new adventure in the private sector.

It’s a really exciting opportunity to use my unique practical skills to effectively navigate the planning process from a Local Authority perspective to provide clients with an insightful and reliable service in the private sector.

As a Senior Planning Officer, I have dealt with a wide variety of planning applications, predominantly major applications for residential, commercial, industrial and renewable energy developments. In previous articles Planning House, has described the move from Local Authority to the private sector as “gamekeeper turned poacher” and honestly I can’t think of a better analogy.

For me, planning is all about relationships. I initially decided on a career in town planning as I was interested in the relationship between human activity and the natural environment. I soon learned that effective town planning is underpinned by collaboration and importantly communication between stakeholders in the whole of the planning process. In my experience the better the relationship between stakeholders the smoother the planning process runs!

The ethos behind Planning House is to provide a personal, flexible service that meets the needs of its clients; this suits my approach down to the ground. I am definitely a ‘people person’, I love a challenge and have always thrived under pressure. I am an advocate for talking about a problem to resolve it and definitely believe that communication is key.

In my experience I have found that meaningful engagement can resolve the seemingly unresolvable. As planners we are often mediators between stakeholders, when something is talked about face to face or explained properly a solution can usually be found.

I am of the opinion ‘why have countless emails back and forth when a discussion would be better?’, this has always worked for me and is definitely an approach I intend to maintain. So when, following my return to work from maternity leave, I was offered an opportunity to work for Planning House, a company which has been built on service to clients I jumped at the chance.

Planning House is also supportive of another of my passions which is promoting gender equality. My time away from the office, during maternity leave, highlighted to me that whilst women may be represented in the industry there is a wealth of women who take time away from their career for family. This inevitably has an impact upon career progression.Fortunately, the flexible approach of employment with Planning House accommodates my personal circumstances whilst supporting my career progression. Nationally the network that champions for gender equality in the planning industry is ‘Women in Planning’. The network is women-led however is not exclusively for women. There are branches across the UK and I am currently in the process of launching the North East network. Excitingly the upcoming launch event, in early 2019 will be supported by Planning House!

Having children has made me realise that being a working mother is tough and the pressure is immense. Trying to fit that into office hours is practically impossible. However, my new role at Planning House has offered ‘a new way of working’ giving me the flexibility to spend time with my young family whilst continuing to work in a profession I am passionate about – why do you have to choose! I am sure that this flexibility will benefit my family and future clients too.

I’m really excited to get started. If you have any planning matters you would like to discuss, from January 2019 I will be joining the Planning House team and I look forward to hearing from you.

Helen’s contact details are helen@planninghouse.co.uk or 07834 775732

Oh No I Don’t have Planning Permission!

Northern Insight Magazine have published our latest article on the perils of selling a house without planning permission in place for works carried out and what options are available.

The removal van was booked and champagne on ice ready to celebrate the start of a new chapter. It therefore came as a bit of a surprise to a client that planning permission was required for historic works carried out at their property and that this could potentially scupper their house sale.

As background, I was contacted recently by someone in the final stages of selling their home, after they were requested to provide proof that they had (or didn’t need) planning permission for works they carried out. They approached their Local Planning Authority (LPA) who convinced them to submit a pre-application enquiry, then after several weeks were told planning permission was required and that they MUST apply for retrospective planning permission or a Certificate of Lawfulness of Existing Use or Development (CLEUD). Naturally they were anxious and confused.

In this case the works had been carried out 14 years ago and whilst having the relevant paperwork in place is preferred, there are a few things to keep in mind. The salient point is the length of time the works had been completed.

In most cases an authorised development becomes immune from enforcement action if no action is taken:
• Within 4 years of substantial completion for a breach of control consisting of operational development, i.e. building works;
• Within 4 years for an authorised change of use to a single dwelling;
• Within 10 years for any other breach of planning control (essentially other change of use).

If a development has been carried out in excess of the above timeframes anyone can apply for a CLEUD which seeks to prove that the development or use has existed for the required period of time. The onus lies with the applicant to provide precise and unambiguous proof, if the LPA have no evidence to the contrary and the balance of probabilities lies with the applicant the LPA will grant a certificate.

The Council cannot however require someone to apply for a CLEUD and if you have evidence to support the length of time a development has existed enforcement action will not be taken by the LPA just because you haven’t applied for a CLEUD. A CLEUD is the formal legal document to confirm the development needed permission, but it’s over the timescale for enforcement and therefore now considered lawful. The process can take as long as a planning application to determine and requires the same planning fee as a new proposal.

There is another option if you’ve carried out works but have not exceeded the ‘immunity’ timescales above, retrospective planning permission can be applied for, however just because your extension maybe build doesn’t mean it will automatically be granted. The LPA will consider the merits of the scheme and if it doesn’t comply with National or Local guidelines/policy then it can be refused.

In terms of a house sale there maybe other ways to progress without going through the CLEUD or retrospective planning application routes, for instance, I know of cases where an Indemnity Insurance to cover the works has been sufficient to allow a sale to complete. This is generally in cases where the works exceed the ‘immunity’ timescales and therefore enforcement action will not be progressed by the LPA.

I’m in no way advocating development without the relevant consents as it can become a lot more complicated than the example I’ve used. It’s not illegal to carried out development without the relevant consents (unless it’s a Listed Building) and scenarios such as this happen regularly so if you find yourself in a situation like this consider your options.

Our Enforcement eBook has further information on potential consequences of unauthorised development and our series of eBooks have more information on Town Planning…The Basics topics

Options for selling a house without planning permission
Oh No I Don’t Have Planning Permission!

Town Planning…The Basics

There’s a lot of advice out there regarding Town Planning, thousands of pages dedicated to what can be perceived as red tape but with a lot of jargon and confusing details in general they don’t tend to cover what you need to know in simple basic terms.

Planning House strive to provide valuable information in order for people to be better informed about the planning process without being bogged down by unnecessary waffle.

Town Planning is not rocket science, to help you know the basics of town planning, Planning House have prepared 8 eBooklets covering just that, the basics. If you want to look further into a particular topic more information can be found online very easily. These resources have been prepared as an easy read starting point, free of charge, no email collection before you can download and no sign up to a newsletter – no strings attached!  All you need to do is click the eBooklet and read it, the current series is:

1 WHAT IS TOWN PLANNING?
Covering the need for town planning, the system, what town planners do and the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI), this eBooklet is a very light touch overview of planning.

2 APPLICATION PROCESS
Designed to give you the basics of pre-application engagement, planning fees, types of application, how to apply for planning permission, who makes the decision, the process, validation requirements, and material planning considerations. This eBooklet provides you with enough knowledge to assist you through the planning process if your proposal is not complex.

3 PERMITTED DEVELOPMENT & USE CLASS
If you’re looking to extend or improve your home or change the use of a building it pays to understand the scope of permitted development rights. Covering potential permitted development rights you may have, including those for converting buildings i.e. barns into homes without the need for planning permission. However, as with all things about town planning it can be a complex topic, these rights can be removed, or there may be another process (prior approval) which you may need to go through in order to benefit from these rights.

4 SELF BUILDERS
This eBooklet is aimed at those who are proposing to embark on a self-build journey, covering the application process but also planning myths, the hidden costs of planning and steps to choosing a town planner, it’s a useful starting point.

5 APPEALS
There’s a right of appeal not just against the refusal of a planning application but also against non-determination of an application or against conditions attached to an approval. Covering who makes the decision, what to submit, appeal types and process, award of costs and disagreement with a decision this eBooklet helps you be more aware of the time and resources needed for an appeal.

6 ENFORCEMENT
Covering what is a breach of planning control, enforcement time limits, non-compliance, the range of methods used to tackle a breach and types of enforcement notice this eBooklet stresses the importance of early intervention.

7 CIL & s106
There are some hidden costs of planning which you may not be aware of, if you’re liable to pay CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) or propose a development which may trigger the need for additional works or financial contribution (via s106 Agreement) it’s better to be informed about what the implications of both are.

8 DEVELOPMENT PLANS
Planning law requires that applications for planning permission be determined in accordance with the development plan, knowing what plans are in place and how they are developed will assist in progressing any planning proposal.

More topics are proposed to be added to the series in order to assist you in any potential development project, however if you need support or advice Planning House are here to help.

The basics of Town Planning
A series of Free eBooklets covering the basics of Town Planning

What is Town Planning?

Edward Vaudin took over writing the Northern Insight magazine article this month, his piece on What Town Planning is informative and thought provoking.   A range of FREE EBOOKS are also available, one of which covers What is Town Planning.

Think about where you live, where is your local shop? Where is the nearest park? Where can you get something nice to eat? Are these places easy to get to? You would probably like to improve things where you live, maybe there needs to be more shops or things to do. Once you start thinking about these improvements, where would you put them? Where can they go? Apply this to other aspects of your local area like new homes for the growing population and you will start to realise how many important questions need to be answered about the places we live; these places have communities that have and will exist for years to come.

People are in general passionate about where they live. However, are they fully aware that the decisions made on ‘what goes where’ could impact the community for generations?

Over time, different people have voiced their ideas, some have succeeded, and some have failed, but throughout we have come together to work on a system that supports everyone, everywhere. As much as I find people passionate about the places they live, they see planning as somewhat of a mystery or a barrier. So, what is the system? What is town planning?

Town planning is what controls how we build our neighbourhoods, our towns, our cities, how we build our surroundings. Importantly how we shape our communities. Town planning sets guidelines to make sure developments do not have adverse effects on their surroundings. It also protects listed buildings – buildings that we have deemed important to heritage, culture and history. It is also important to protect our green spaces and countryside. Imagine if there were no rules on where you could build! Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty could be disrupted with inappropriate development and habitats could be destroyed, driving away nature.

National planning policy is laid out in the National Planning Policy Framework; it provides guidance for how local plans should be made and how to approach supporting local needs by promoting sustainable development in terms of economic, social and environmental needs.

Of course, planning is a complicated machine with many cogs turning away at different speeds, meaning planning is controlled by different bodies at varying levels dependant on where you are. Town planning is mostly handled at a local level of government. Typically, local government has three tiers:
• County Councils;
• District, Borough and City Councils;
• Parish and Town Councils.

Most planning matters are handled by the second tier of councils; this can vary from place to place. Areas that have parish or town councils can provide more location specified plans called neighbourhood plans which form part of policy that are used to make decisions in planning.

Communities generally have Councillors to represent people and their aspirations in terms of how a place develops. Councillors may sit on planning committees to make decisions on planning applications and local plans, but all of us are responsible for shaping the area we live.

In my opinion engagement is the key to shaping communities without it the Town Planning system fails to be effective. If you’re asked for your views on a proposal or an emerging local plan take time to think of your vision for the area and needs of the community and have your voice heard by participating.

Town Planning Basics
What is Town Planning?

What is a Planning Breach?

If you’ve found yourself in the situation where you have had a visit from a Planning Enforcement Officer you should know the potential consequences.  This month’s Northern Insight magazine article considers planning breaches.

A planning breach in itself is not illegal (apart from specific cases such as unauthorised works to listed buildings or to protected trees), however failure to act on an enforcement notice can be a criminal offence.

A planning breach can be carrying out a development without the required planning permission; or failing to comply with any condition attached to a planning approval.

There are a number of possible outcomes in relation to a breach of planning control, the main outcomes are:

No further action (not expedient)
In accordance with government guidance if the development is acceptable in planning terms the Council cannot take formal action against it.

The officer will consider the development against local and national planning policies and will assess whether the development causes harm; if it doesn‘t the case will be closed and no further action will be taken.

Retrospective planning application
Councils are required to act proportionally for instance if you have built something without planning permission but it would be acceptable the Council will not require you to knock it down, but they may invite a planning application to regularise the development.

It is important to note that a Council cannot make someone submit an application, therefore, if an application is invited but not submitted, the Council must decide whether the development causes planning harm and if it doesn‘t, no action should be taken.

Certificate of Lawfulness
A development can become lawful if it has been in situ for a period of time – 4 years or 10 years depending on what type of development has occurred.

The developer may decide to submit an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness to prove that the development has existed for the required period of time, but again, the Council cannot make them do so.

Negotiate remedial works
If it is considered that the development could be made acceptable with some alterations these could be negotiated with the Council in order to remedy any harm that is being caused.

Formal action
If the development is unacceptable the Council should seek to remedy the matter amicably first by requesting its removal. If that is not successful, the Council will consider what type of formal action is appropriate. There are a number of types of notices, the development circumstances will dictate the type of notice served.

Formal action can be a lengthy process as legal and procedural steps have to be followed, in some instances there is a right of appeal.

There are some notices which could be served without waiting for the outcome of the enforcement process, such as Stop Notices which would normally only be served in a small number of cases where the unauthorised development is considered extremely harmful.

Planning enforcement is a complex and sometimes confusing area of planning if you have been threatened with enforcement action it is essential that you do not ignore it. Enforcement action is discretionary and early intervention and negotiation can resolve a situation quickly and efficiently.

If you need advice and guidance contact Planning House.

Unauthorised development
What is Enforcement Action?

Know your options if your planning application is refused

This months Northern Insight Magazine article deals with knowing your options should you find yourself in a situation where your planning application has been refused, or there are conditions attached to your planning approval which you don’t think are reasonable.

If in doubt, kick it out’ you may not have heard the saying but some Councils do adopt this approach in terms of dealing with planning applications. If your application is refused know your options. This short article will look at how to approach appealing your planning refusal.  If you are refused planning permission, you are entitled to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, an impartial government body independent of your local Council.

ALTERNATIVE DEVELOPMENT

Whilst planning appeals are free to submit, they cause delays, are time consuming and could incur additional costs. Engage with your local planning authority regarding alternative development to potentially avoid a planning appeal. Could your plans be amended to something which the Council (and you) would be happy with, if so this could save a lot of time and uncertainty.

BE PREPARED

If you do embark on a planning appeal, be aware of what evidence you and the Council have to support both sides of the argument. Planning policies relevant to your site will be critical when forming your planning case for an appeal, so make sure you know how they relate to your site.

Every planning refusal should have an officer’s report (Committee or delegated) which outlines the proposal, planning policies and material planning considerations associated with your proposal. These are generally part of the Council’s online planning application. Reading the officer’s report will help you focus on the reason you’re appealing.

Look for similar developments or appeals which could support your case (via the Appeal Casework Portal or via an internet search), referring to similar cases could assist the Planning Inspector in weighing up your proposal.

ADDTIONAL COSTS

Applications for award of costs can be made by either party in the appeal process, so be aware the Council could apply for their costs associated with the appeal to be paid by you (although rare this can happen). However, you can also make an application for award of costs if you believe the Council have acted unreasonably. Be realistic in any application for costs, just because you disagree with the planning outcome doesn’t mean the Council have been unreasonable, refer to the Planning Inspectorate website for more information.

Be aware of any additional costs such as technical report costs, legal agreements (s106), Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) etc. For instance, if a scheme was refused due to traffic impact, you may wish to commission a transport study to support your appeal.

If a legal agreement (s106) is required to secure planning obligations you must submit this (or Unilateral Undertaking) along with your appeal. If you omit an agreement the Planning Inspectorate will not allow your appeal even if they were inclined to do so.

GROUNDS OF APPEAL

When finalising your appeal submission collate any supporting documents and have plans, form etc, they can be submitted online via the Planning Inspectorates Portal. Your grounds of appeal must fully disclose your case through full representations and any supporting evidence. The grounds of appeal must be concise, clear and comprehensive.

TIMESCALES

It is of paramount importance that you are aware of the deadlines which are set by the Planning Inspectorate, there is generally no scope to alter these – a deadline missed could put a nail in the coffin of your planning appeal.

On a final note, don’t despair if your appeal fails, take stock and read the Inspectors report to determine if there is an alternative development you can progress. If in doubt seek assistance.

Options for a planning appeal
How do I appeal a planning decision

Fast Track Conversions

Have you ever looked at a barn or building in the countryside and thought that would make an amazing home, then thought about the hoops you would have to jump through to actually secure permission to convert it? Well think again, in some instances you don’t need planning permission to convert a building to residential use.  Chris Pipe explores this in this months Northern Insight Magazine.

Under Part 3 of the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development Order) England, GPDO for short, there are a multitude of uses (retail, launderette, betting shop, offices, amusement arcade, casino, storage or distribution centres, premises in light industry, agricultural buildings, etc) which can be converted to residential as ‘Permitted Development’ without planning permission.

Naturally there is a range of exclusions and limitations which apply to these permitted development rights, and each use proposed to be changed has a different set of conditions which must be adhered to.

The ‘green light’ given to convert specific uses to residential has seen an increase in growth of conversions, particularly agricultural buildings in the countryside. However, with the Government encouraging the creation of more housing, permitted development rights have recently been increased.

Permitted development rights now allows a maximum of 5 new houses to be created from existing agricultural buildings on a farm. Previously this was restricted to 3 properties. The amendments which came into force in April 2018 permit the development of:

– up to three larger homes within a maximum of 465 square metres; or

– up to five smaller homes each no larger than 100 square metres; or

– a mix of both, within a total of no more than five homes, of which no more than three may be larger homes.

Notwithstanding if you believe your agricultural conversion may be permitted development you will still need to contact your local planning authority and embark on a prior approval process. Prior approval means that a developer has to seek approval from the local planning authority that specified elements of the development are acceptable before work can proceed – in effect a ‘light-touch’ planning application.

Also, be aware that development carried out using permitted development rights can still be liable to pay a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), if there is a community levy in place and if the development does not qualify for an exemption.

As well as the potential to create you dream home in the countryside (or maximise land and development value), there are many ways to circumvent the need for planning permission for extensions, alterations, change of use, temporary buildings and uses etc.  However, interpreting the regulations which set out what can and can’t be done via permitted development rights can be daunting so if in doubt ask an expert.

Permitted Development Rights
Permitted Development Rights Interpretation

Staying Power

Northern Insight interviewed Chris Pipe, Director of Planning House in this months issue:

Longevity in business is something to be admired. In this series of features, we are celebrating some of the most accomplished professionals from across the North East business community. Aimed at major players with extensive experience in their respective sectors, we provide a fascinating insight into what makes them tick and what we can learn from them.

This month we chat to… CHRIS PIPE Director of Planning House

Did you always envisage a career in the industry? Initially I thought my calling was as a Geography Teacher, however I realised through studying A-levels (Sociology, Geography and Classical Studies) and analysing the changes the area I lived had gone through in the 90’s (an ex-mining settlement) that my passion was to try and make a difference to people/places and that began a passion for town planning.

What is your favourite aspect of the job? One of the perks about town planning is each project is different, residential, commercial, change of use and listed building projects all have their own set of planning issues which need to be factored into how you deal with a proposal. I thrive on knowing each day can be different.

What has been your career defining moment? Whilst I’ve been fortunate to have some great achievements in my career I believe that starting my own business is by far my career defining moment, I do however believe my greatest business achievement is yet to come.

How do you measure success? I love a challenge and strive for success however client satisfaction is my key measure as I want to ensure that I add value to a development. This is why I agreed to be a Grand Design Live Ask the Expert at the London ExCel in May, I provided advice and guidance to people embarking on their development journey.

What have been the biggest changes in the industry since you started? Town planning constantly evolves however the biggest change in town planning during my career came in 2012 with the introduction of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) which turned the thousands of pages of national policy into a 59 page document. Whilst the interpretation of the NPPF is still being challenged and is currently being reviewed I do believe that this document has helped professions remember planning is about people and places not red tape.

How has your skillset developed accordingly? I realised town planning is bigger than just looking at policies and regulations, at the end of the day as already said, it’s about people and places, once I embraced that I became a better town planner. I was working as Head of Planning for a Local Planning Authority when the NPPF was launched and whilst my experience was invaluable until you work in private practice I don’t think you can truly appreciate the challenges developers face.

Are you a risk taker by nature or more conservative? I think if you set up your own business there is a part of you which is a risk taker, however I like to weigh up risks before I act.

To what would you attribute your success? I have a strong work ethic and whilst I have maintained my focus I’m open to criticism and advice on ways to improve. However ultimately you have to love what you do – and I do.

What’s your biggest weakness and how have you managed this? I have so many ideas for taking my business forward sometimes it’s challenging to find time to work on and in the business at the same time. My growth plans for the next few years will however help with this.

How do you remain motivated? Ultimately success, I have a strong desire to achieve my goals and feel empowered knowing my business direction, this drives me and keeps me motivated.

Would you prefer to be liked or respected? Whilst not mutually exclusive I’d prefer to be respected, its nice to be liked however if you’re respected it means you’re appreciated and valued in your profession.

I’ll retire when…. The business is at a stage where it no longer needs me. I have a passion for town planning, however my plan is to build the business so my role becomes increasingly more limited to enable me to spend more quality time with my family.

Town Planning Staying Power
Northern Insight June 2018

Make an Ally of your Planning Officer

As Planning Departments struggle with under resourcing and heavy case loads how do you make the Planning Officer your ally? Chris Pipe, Director of Planning House discussed this in this month’s Northern Insight Magazine .

Once you submit an application a planning professional (known as your case officer) is allocated, they seek comment from consultees and neighbours, carry out a site visit and ultimately make the recommendation on your proposal.

There can be numerous people commenting on your application, however it’s up to the case officer to decide whether any issues raised are so significant as to influence their decision.

Planners inevitably have to make subjective judgements about your proposal therefore working with your case officer can improve your chances of having it approved. I have said previously that some planners are worth their weight in gold and if they have an issue with the proposal but are in your corner hopefully they’ll work with you to find a solution.

Under Pressure
Your Local Planning Authority is likely to be under resources which can often mean that your case officer will deal with a heavy work load, which along with the pressure of hitting an eight-week deadline for most applications means their time is limited. Don’t presume you’ll be able to get hold of your case officer quickly if you ring or email or that they will be up to speed with your scheme until well into the application process. Your application will be uploaded onto the Councils website so in the first few weeks defer to this for any responses. If anything needs addressing, contact your case officer to discuss their view of the comments.

After three weeks I advise contacting your case officer to ensure they have all the information they need, or to see if they’d like to arrange a site visit. However, be mindful that site visits are often done without arrangement, therefore don’t be surprised if the officer declines to meet you.

Be aware some officers are helpful and informative, others evasive. Ultimately your case officer is there to process your application and is under no obligation to discuss your proposal with you, meet you on site or to keep you informed of every step in your application.

Communication is key to establishing rapport but this is not done by harassing your case officer, think and act strategically.

Planning Politics
Local councillors can be helpful if things aren’t going well with the planning officer. Some are willing to give a ‘push’ to officers to speed up decisions or communicate with applicants, others will not. However, be aware that this could destroy any rapport you have established with the planner and is therefore a risky strategy.

When your case officer is opposed to your proposal, on occasion councillors can call an application to committee for decision, however this procedure varies from council to council.

The Decision
Recommendations are made by the planning officer through a report which brings together any comments received, assesses the proposal against the development plan policies for the area and any other material planning consideration. These reports are generally signed off via a scheme of delegation. Some applications go to planning committee, where Councillors make the decision, whilst informed by the officer’s report they don’t necessarily have to follow the recommendation.

Ideally you should aim for a positive recommendation from your case officer, however if they don’t agree with your proposal don’t be agitated or as I’ve heard many times remind the officer that you pay their wages. If relationships do break down or there is an impasse consider instructing a planning consultant to help you. Planning Officers are professionals; however, this doesn’t mean their recommendations are always correct.

My ultimate advice make an ally of your planner don’t treat them like a barrier as if their response to your scheme is marginal, developing a rapport with the case officer can potentially increase your chances of securing approval.

Planning Officer communication is key
Don’t pester the planning officer – adapt your strategy for securing planning permission