In theory, the process of submitting a planning application and it working its way through the determination process should be ‘relatively’ straightforward.
However, based on the complexities and intricacies of the process, which can vary from one local authority area to another, significant caution and care is required if the process is to work in your favour, and quickly.
In this post, guest blogger Jonathan Vose of Walsingham Planning looks at 5 common mistakes which can often occur as part of the application process, and how they are best avoided.
Make sure that your plans are accurately drawn
Whilst minor amendments to plans can often be readily made within the determination process, these changes can still force a council to re-consult on your scheme, which can add up to 21-days to the determination process.
In more serious instances, for example, where it is found that part of your access sits outside your red line application boundary, it is likely that your application will need to be withdrawn and resubmitted.
On this basis, it is imperative that your plans are accurate and have been checked against legal ownerships etc before being submitted.
Awareness of national and local planning application requirements
The documents and reports that you need to submit with a planning application are known as the ‘validation requirements’. If you don’t submit the right information, the council won’t even recognise your planning application, let alone deal with it.
There are various national validation requirements. For example planning applications on all sites of 1 hectare or more in England need to be accompanied by a Flood Risk Assessment (regardless of the degree of flood risk). Many councils also have their own ‘Validation Checklists’ outlining what supporting information they require to accompany planning applications.
As requirements vary from council to council, it is imperative to thoroughly check what is needed from the outset, noting that the lead-in times for some technical reports can be significant.
Crawlers, Critters, Diggers and Swimmers
Knowing whether a site is important for wildlife is one of the key things councils look at when deciding whether to approve a planning application.
Whilst mitigation measures and strategies can generally be found for most ecological scenarios, perhaps the greatest associated delay can come from not having undertaken the right suite of surveys and assessments to reflect the site’s ecological characteristics or the council’s requirements.
Surveys for a number of species are date specific. Hence, in extreme examples, if you just miss the species survey period, you could have to wait another 10 months for the survey window to re-open.
On this basis, it is really important to ensure that the scope of required surveys is agreed and undertaken prior to submitting an application, or can be undertaken before the council have to decide whether to approve the application.
A change of description or emphasis
Every application must include a ‘description of development’. You will put this on your application form, but councils can alter it if they consider there to be a more accurate or logical one.
Once this is set, it can often be very difficult to make changes to the application if it would mean a substantial change to the description of development is required. This could apply if, for example, you want to change the number of residential units, or seek to alter one of the proposed uses sought via the application.
As such it is important to have undertaken all relevant viability and other research before submission, or to seek to work flexibility into your description. Flexibility can be provided by, for example, applying in outline for ‘up to 100 units’, thus allowing the number of units to be reduced during the course of the application or in relation to any subsequent reserved matters phase.
Seek pre-application advice
This could come from the council (via a formal or informal approach), or from the instructing a Planning Consultant, to advise you on relevant planning policy matters, registration requirements or amendments to your proposed scheme.
Time spent at the pre-submission stage can often be more than recouped post-submission if it means that the application is submitted with all required validation material and the supporting case has been honed to cover all relevant matters and issues.
Jonathan Vose is a Director of Walsingham Planning, who have offices in Knutsford, Bourne End and Bristol. Jonathan would be happy to be contacted to discuss any planning application or advice matters.
The Strategic Land Group specialise in working with land owners to deliver planning permission on their behalf at our cost and risk – and helping them avoid common mistakes just like these. If you have a site that you think might benefit from our tailored approach, get in touch today.