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For anyone commencing a home improvement – planning permission is one of the first hurdles you’ll need to overcome. Whilst permitted development rights allow for certain types of work, full planning permission is generally required whether you’re building something new, making major changes to existing structures (such as extensions) or changing the use of a building. A homeowner planning application can be easier than permitted development if you have multiple extensions. 

Whilst things often go reassuringly smoothly, there are common issues faced by homeowners. In a survey conducted by Which (of more than 2,000 individuals), 80% of people didn’t experience any problems with planning at all. But for anyone starting a building project, it’s important to know the potential pitfalls, so that you can be best armed to avoid them.

From underestimating how long the planning process actually takes, to surprise costs, objections and refusals – there are several potential pitfalls that you’ll want to understand and avoid. So let’s get started.

Underestimating timescales

Underestimating the amount of time that planning permission takes is one of the most common problems faced. Especially if you’ve got builders and tradespeople lined-up, delaying the start of a project can cost a significant amount of money – and in the worst case scenario can even result in the loss of contractors.

To avoid this issue, don’t assume your application (no matter how seemingly straightforward) will be approved in a few weeks. The process can often take two months and sometimes much longer. The more complex the project of course, the longer this process is likely to be.

To speed things up, work in close conjunction with your architect to get details in your application 100% correct before submitting. You can always consult your local planning department prior to submission, where basic advice is usually available for free. Formal “pre-application advice” is also available – with costs varying from council to council.

As part of this, be sure to actively monitor the process of your application, so that if any actions or questions come through, you can answer them as soon as possible!

Also most planning departments are understaffed and as such need to process your application, so sometimes they can refuse/ approve applications without any dialogue. It can be frustrating for the architects and the homeowner.

How long does planning permission usually take?

For a homeowner, planning permission is typically an eight week process to get properly validated. It can take upto two weeks for the council to validate applications. If all is good, then the application starts from when plans are submitted. Some councils can slow things down by finding something extra required at the beginning however, so you can sometimes lose the initial two weeks.

Changes to agreed plans

After timescales, changes to plans after building work has started is another common issue. Of course, builders, architects, engineers and clients alike all hope to minimise changes to plans once construction has started – but we all know that from time to time, plans may have to adapt!

If this does happen, notify your team and local council as soon as possible, who’ll advise on next steps. To further decrease the likelihood of major changes, be sure to discuss the project in detail (and any concerns you may have!) with your architect and construction team before submitting applications.

Most changes will not require a new application and would be non-material. But make sure to get an architect that will enjoy exploring options with you, and also talking to builders very early-on to make sure the options are considered against costs. This will minimise any changes once on site.

Objections and common issues

Now this is a scenario that every homeowner wants to avoid. Most objections from neighbours are not relevant and will be ignored. But it’s always good to try and avoid objections. 

It brings greater scrutiny to your application and the planning officer may be a bit more conservative if it’s a subjective situation. As part of this, planning officers will look to ensure that the neighbours privacy, amenity and other such issues are looked after.

Miscalculating costs

Most costs of submitting applications are surprisingly low. Costs are generally £200 for a householder planning application and around £100 for a permitted development application. 

Other costs could be incurred if you live in a flood risk area. Indeed, many homeowners are surprised to find this out! You can check whether you live in a flood risk zone here.

Build costs and budgets should be discussed at the earliest stage. As part of this, ask for recommendations from your architect. Once the scheme is fully developed, a detailed price can be obtained.

What to do when a planning application is refused

Last but not least, if your planning permission application is rejected – don’t panic! This certainly doesn’t mean the project won’t happen or that a drawn-out process is necessarily needed to overturn the decision. It’s getting more common. More and more homeowners are trying to achieve the last 20% rather than the first.

Planning officers may sometimes tell you in advance if an application is likely to be refused (especially if this is regarding minor points that can be easily amended). In this scenario, you may be able to amend designs quickly so that the application can still be approved.

If permission is denied outright, you have two main options. These include resubmitting your planning application (taking the council’s concerns into consideration) or appealing against a decision. Do bear in mind that the appeals process often takes around six months. 

Going to appeal is only worthwhile when you comply with all the policies or there is a disagreement on something that is subjective, like character. Ask your architect first! In this instance, it’s usually best to get the application back in, or do a pre-application process to fully understand what’s the best that can be achieved.

For anyone going through the planning permission process, we wish you the very best of luck with your project. With a firm understanding of the most common issues faced (and importantly how to avoid them), your build will be off to the very best start. For further advice on the planning process, take a look at our detailed guide on how to apply for planning permission.

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Post Author: yoopblogadmin