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Why planning advice is vital for growing businesses

Almost every aspect of expanding a business’s operational footprint involves a requirement for planning advice. Paul Walton, a director at North West planning consultants PWA Planning, explains why it’s important to build planning advice into your growth strategy.

Most business owners wouldn’t think twice about taking architectural, legal or financial advice about developing their premises, or relocating.

Yet all too often businesses only involve planning specialists when the process is underway and issues have already cropped up.

The importance of building a planning strategy into any business growth plan is essential if you are to maximise your long term bottom line performance, while ensuring your operational activity continues to run smoothly.

Does a change of premises need a change of use?

In a worst case situation, a business owner might spend thousands of pounds consulting an architect, commercial lawyer and corporate finance adviser about acquiring a neighbouring site, only to discover the proposal is not possible from a planning point of view.

For example, an adjacent premises on a business park might seem ideal for a manufacturing business that needs extra space. But what if its planning permission is for office or retail, but not industrial use? If this is the case, would a change-of-use application be likely to succeed? Clearly, until you know the answers to these questions, you cannot take your idea any further.

Taking a long term view of business growth

Expanding businesses in particular should draw up a long term strategy that reflects planning requirements, not only now but also in three, four or five years’ time.

The cost of relocating premises to accommodate expanding capacity can be greater than you might imagine. In addition to professional fees, you need to consider business disruption, the effect on customers and suppliers of changing location, and the impact on staff.

Moreover, these costs and operational disruptions are multiplied if you relocate twice or even three times in the space of a few years.

By speaking to a planning consultant at the outset, you may well discover that you don’t need to relocate at all because on-site development, or the acquisition of nearby premises are viable solutions.

Planning advice when disposing of land

On the flipside, firms that have downsized their operations, for example due to outsourcing production, may free up space that they want to sell off for reinvestment purposes. However, the type of sale you can make hinges on the type of planning consent you have.

A potential disposal to a housing developer may seem like a lucrative option, but how realistic is the change of use that the transaction might entail?

Meanwhile some business may want to diversify, which means adding extra commercial activities to their core business. Again, changes to planning consent may be necessary before you can implement your proposals. Even adding solar panels to a factory or warehouse roof needs planning permission.

Paul Walton is a director of PWA Planning, a team of specialist planning consultants in Preston. He has advised numerous businesses on planning strategies to help them achieve their business growth ambitions. For further advice call Paul on 01772 369669.

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