There are many ways to give your development project its best possible chance of success in the complex world of planning applications. Paul Walton, a director at North West planning consultants PWA Planning, discusses some of the options.
Get to grips with the culture of planning regulations
Unlike building regulations, which are set in stone, planning application decisions involve professional planning officers and elected councillors interpreting national and local planning policies in the context of their own area.
As a result, planning application priorities can differ from one local authority area to the next. So it pays to take an open-minded, flexible and practical approach to your application.
Seek specialist planning advice
Those who own land, or who are looking to buy land for its development potential, sometimes fall into the trap of having detailed plans drawn up by an architect before they have even established the probability of gaining a planning consent.
A specialist planning consultant holds the knowledge of the national and local planning system, knows how best to engage with the local planning authority officers, as well as offering advice in a range of other areas. This can save you money in the long run, by establishing the development potential of your land more quickly.
Consider a joint venture
If you’re a developer, you can reduce your risk by making a planning application for land before you buy it. In practical terms this enables developers to buy land subject to a satisfactory planning decision. Legally binding ‘option agreements’ mean you can go ahead with the purchase if planning consent is granted, or walk away if not.
This benefits you if you’re the landowner too, as you can partner up with a developer, who will do the planning legwork on your behalf and then build the development out.
Understand community issues
Part of the process involves the planning authority consulting your neighbours and giving them the chance to object. However, objections do not always mean refusal – councillors and officers are the decision makers.
One way to reduce the risk of objections is to engage with your community and talk to your neighbours through a public consultation. By entering into an open dialogue and showing you are open-minded about changing your design to allay concerns, you will create sympathy and potentially win people round.
Use local democracy
Your local councillor can be a key ally because if the planning officers don’t accept the merits of your application, the elected member can usually make a request for the decision to be taken by the planning committee.
This allows you avoid ‘delegated powers’ and gives you the opportunity to present your case to planning councillors who will consider the pros and cons of your proposal at a formal meeting. You are also entitled to lobby council members and put your side of the argument ahead of the meeting.
Paul Walton is a director of Preston-based planning consultancy PWA Planning, which specialises in planning applications for residential housing development. For further advice on the development potential of your project, call Paul on 01772 369669.