Tag Archives: Planning in North East

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

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

The Hidden Costs of Planning

Planning House have prepared an article for the Northern Insight Magazine on the Hidden Costs of Planning.

Long gone are the days when securing planning permission involved no more than completing a form, providing plans, and paying an application fee. Applicants need to budget for potential additional charges such as pre-application charges, developer contributions, legal fees as well as the costs associated with the raft of supporting information some applications attract and discharging planning conditions.

Pre-application advice
Fees are charged by some Councils in return for informal advice prior to the submission of an application. The costs vary and are set generally on a sliding scale by the individual Council. Benefits of the pre-application process is confirming what supporting information is expected with the application, speeding up the application process and if contributions may be required.

Planning application fees
Application fees are set nationally on a sliding scale basis depending on your proposal and type of planning application.

Planning Conditions
Discharging planning conditions do need to be included in budgeting, these costs are often forgotten by developers. Not only is there a fee to pay the Council to consider information relating to conditions but there are generally costs associated with providing the information such as further studies/ information which may be required or costs associated with additional works which must be carried out, such as offsite highway works.

Developer contributions/obligations
Council contributions vary and are covered in policies in the Local Plan or supplementary planning documents. The aim of developer contributions is to balance any extra pressure created by new development with improvements to ensure that the new development makes a positive contribution to the local area and community. Contributions can be amount to large payments so check what is required and what they will contribute towards. Be aware that these can be negotiable if your development would be unviable if you are required to pay them, so do your sums.

Routes to secure developer contributions/obligations is via a legal agreement (known as s106 agreement or unilateral undertaking). Not only will you have to pay your solicitor, but you’ll be expected to pay the council’s solicitor as well. These agreements can take a few weeks or months to complete. Once the agreement is signed, your planning permission is issued, the payment or other obligation may be trigged upon signing the agreement, by the commencement of the works or some other point in the development.

Reducing costs
Is there a way to minimise the payment? This depends as contributions must be necessary, directly, fairly and reasonably related to the proposed development. Methods of calculating contributions are based on the type of development, number of units or floorspace created. Don’t be afraid to ask for the reasoning and policy basis for any potential contribution.

If you think the requested payments/obligations are too much or unreasonable, there is a right of appeal either when the application is refused or against non-determination. A Planning Inspector then decides if you should be allowed to build without making any payment. However, there are time and cost implications of going to appeal, not to mention the risk that the appeal is dismissed.

Community Infrastructure Levy
Councils can secure payments via the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), this levy once adopted by a Council is non-negotiable and is published on a Council’s website. CIL is based on local infrastructure needs of an area. Some developments may be eligible for relief or exemption from CIL, so check if your development could fall into the criteria.

More money needed to secure planning permission
The additional burden falls on the applicant

How to Maximise Land Value

The May edition of Northern Insight contains an article written by Chris Pipe, Planning House

Unless you’re au fait with the planning system and land markets you should seek professional help in maximising land value. I wouldn’t re-wire my house, or carry out medical procedures that’s what experts are for! However, I am fortunate to have worked in both planning and land and appreciate the expertise required for the creation and maximising of value through the planning and land process.

In the first instance, I would recommend a development appraisal for the site which is a good way to ascertain development potential, these appraisals generally consider the planning policy position, local circumstances, planning history and recommend a clear planning strategy to achieve the sites planning potential.

Whilst Planning House can advise on a site’s planning potential through a development appraisal engaging with the relevant local planning authority is a good way of gauging the informal views on your proposal, you do not need to have detailed plans drawn up at this stage. There are many benefits of seeking pre-application advice as well as potentially saving you money in abortive professional fees if development is not feasible. These discussions can flush out any site specific issues and potentially speed up the decision making process. However, be aware local authorities sometimes charge for these discussions.

I would recommend that anyone who wants to maximise land value to speak to a land agent, who are different to estate agents as they specialise in sourcing and disposing of land taking into account build costs and constraints of the site, they can advise initially on existing values and offer guidance in terms of potential values should planning permission be secured. However, a site with development potential will only realise its value once planning permission has been secured. A site marketed as ‘development potential’ will not achieve its true value as this is speculatively based on ‘hope value’.

Some people assume that if a site has development potential its existing value can be inflated without securing planning permission, which is why one of the issues faced by land agents is vendor expectation. Whilst land is an asset the value of it must be offset by the costs of the development itself this will ultimately affect land value, for a development to be realistic it must be viable.

The cost, timescale and resources needed for a planning application depend on the site and proposal. In some cases, it may not be prudent to secure planning consent yourself when weighed against the cost of the planning process, timescales and particulars of your site, however this is very much dependant on the existing and potential difference in value, scale of the site and personal circumstance. Land agents can explore options with you such as land assembly, overage clauses, promotional and option agreements. They will also take into account any covenants, existing tenant or access issues the site may have.

In a nutshell planning permission generally increases land value when there is potential for a viable development, however realising the value must be weighed against the investment needed and timescale to achieve it. If you have a potential development site and are looking to maximise land value contact Planning House to discuss how we can help.

Planing permisson increases land value
Top Tips for maximising Land Value