Making plans for your perfect home

We have just obtained planning approval from the London Borough of Richmond-upon-Thames on behalf of one of our long standing clients. The project is in leafy Grange Avenue, Twickenham and we have achieved a substantial addition to the house in the form of a side and rear extension. We are thrilled with what this will mean for our client’s future home life experience.
Whilst the application process on Grange Ave was pain free, it can sometimes be a long and arduous journey. A surprising amount of work can be achieved through Permitted Development, but if it’s Planning Permission that you need then our 10 point guide could come in handy:
  1. Prepare for an unpredictable journey. This isn’t always the case, but schemes which seem perfectly acceptable, can be rejected. There is less chance of this happening, of course, if you have a specialist planning applications service on board. Because it can sometimes be unpredictable, you should also allow plenty of time for the process. With so much building on at the moment, applications are taking longer than the usual 6 weeks and that’s not including any challenges that may be discovered along the way.
  2. Be clear what ‘precedent’ really means. Just because your neighbour has a sizeable dormer don’t assume that you are in the clear. Policy may have changed since they had their work done or they may simply have undertaken their extension work through Permitted Development. It could be quite possible that their work was never submitted to Planning. If it has been used over a period of time and no objections received by the planning Borough it could be deemed ‘established’.
  3. Understand local policy. If you like reading, you won’t be at a loose end. Alternatively, you could use a professional. Planning departments put a great deal of time, effort and resource into policy writing, so a quick and easy way to rile your case planning officer is to show little regard for their guidelines.
  4. Provide all the information requested. This seems an obvious one, but there may be some rather obscure requests depending on the zoning or type of building you are working with. For example, if you are required to submit a bat report, make sure you have it covered.
  5. Use the Pre-Application Advice System. This is not obligatory, but it can be useful. Sometimes a lengthy process and can cost several hundred pounds, but can in the long run save a great deal of time and money if you have a good planning officer on the case. It is intended to flag policies considered pertinent to the case. Either a written report or a meeting will be granted to give specific feedback.
  6. Play it by the book. If you are thinking that a crafty strategy might yield you the best result, know it’s more likely to infuriate the planners.
  7. Don’t make it personal. If your proposal doesn’t go through it’s unlikely to have anything to do with your planning officer, more likely to do with inappropriate policy to the context of your site. Of course, what you may need to watch out for is an unreasonable interpretation of the policy, and this is where the appeals process comes in.
  8. Remember to talk to your neighbours. The sooner the better. Apart from being good mannered, you will be living next door to them for years to come and there’s no need for me to make manifest here the benefits of good karma. It is worth noting, however, that an objection from a neighbour, if you are within the boundaries of policy, is highly unlikely to be fatal to your application.
  9. Provide a design statement. This should be submitted along with the drawings at application stage. This should be brief, clear and to the point, referring to relevant policy as necessary. This is your opportunity to explain how your design fits, working with local policy and the attributes and location of the site.
  10. Keep an open mind. Don’t be deterred by the terms ‘Conservation Area’ or ‘Listed Building’. Instead, keep a calm head and appoint a specialist to the job who has experience in these areas and knows well and understand the parameters. If you can remain open you may find other ways of achieving what you wanted to in the first place. There is always a way.