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Planning Applications in Architecture Explained

01/02/2024

Planning Applications

Planning Applications in Architecture Explained

As an award-winning UK-based architecture and planning practice, we understand the numerous complexities that can arise within the planning application process. Put simply, planning applications form an indispensable part of any building project, whether it’s a compact residential renovation or a large commercial development. A successful application becomes the green light that propels your dream project from paper to reality. But how do they work and why are they so important? Sit back, as we explain everything you need to know about planning applications.

What Are Planning Applications?

Planning Applications are formal requests submitted to your local planning authority seeking approval to carry out development. Whether it’s about building a new structure, making changes to an existing one, or changing the use of buildings or land, a planning application is an essential stage of any project.

Planning applications typically include existing and proposed design plans, a site location and block plan and a completed application form, amongst other necessary documents – such as a design and access statement, and external consultant reports covering matters such as heritage, ecology, trees, and highways. These are all intended to present a thorough understanding of the proposed development’s impact on its surroundings.

The goal of these applications is to ensure the harmony of local development with environmental considerations as well as economic and societal needs. This process allows for an evaluation of how the proposed project might affect its surroundings and, critically, its accordance with local and national planning policies.

It’s not uncommon for homeowners to feel daunted by the idea of putting together planning applications, which is where an architectural planning practice can step in. They will work with you to ensure that what can be a seemingly complicated process, becomes a seamless experience. Armed with their in-depth knowledge, an architectural planning practice can foresee potential issues, suggest alternatives, and increase the chances of first-time planning approval, saving you time, money, and resources.

Why Do You Need a Planning Application?

The necessity of planning applications might seem like an additional hurdle in your building project’s journey, however, they serve an essential purpose, and not initiating one when required can lead to complications such as legal issues and more. Here are key reasons why planning applications are vital:

Legal Requirement: For most building endeavours, planning permission is a legal necessity. It’s often the first step in an architectural project. The lack of one when required could mean having to undo the work done, which could be both stressful and costly, or even prosecution.

Understanding Viability: Planning applications evaluate the practicality of your proposed project. They provide a framework to gauge whether your dream project is acceptable in terms of design, size, impact on neighbouring properties and compliance with local planning policies alongside any other ‘material’ consideration.

Avoiding Future Problems: Throughout the process of a planning application, all potential issues should come to light. These could be related to your legal rights, the local development plan, building height restrictions, or other site-related obstacles. A planning application helps iron out potential problems before they arise, which in turn can save you from surprises mid-project.

Protecting the Environment: Planning authorities take a holistic view while reviewing applications to ensure the proposed works don’t adversely affect the local environment or protected sites, ensuring a sustainable approach to development.

Enhancing Value: An approved planning application often adds value to your property or development, especially if your project involves adding usable space or improving the aesthetic appeal of your home or land the buildings are a part of.

Considering the complexities involved, having an experienced architect is invaluable. They can guide you through the process, helping to enhance your proposal while ensuring it sits well with the planning guidelines, thereby increasing the chances of approval at the earliest stage, and saving potential rework costs. Architects’ insight into planning policies and their knack for design can make navigating the planning application process considerably smoother.

proposed site architecture

How Do You Submit a Planning Application?

Submitting a Planning Application is a process that requires time and expertise. Here’s a quick overview of how this procedure unfolds when Base takes charge:

Consolidating Required Information: We begin by gathering all the crucial details about your proposed project, such as the design specifics, the site’s context, the potential impact on neighbours, and so forth. Our team will prepare detailed plans and documents that conform to the particular requirements of your local planning authority.

Pre-Planning Application: The pre-planning application is a pivotal early step in an architectural project. The aim here is to explore, identify and understand the local authority’s view on the project’s likelihood of success as well as the potential challenges facing it, establishing strong foundations before moving forward. During the pre-planning stage, we provide clients with advice including guidance on design, the likelihood of achieving the required planning permission and advice on the type of application and consultant reports required.

Application Preparation: The next step is preparing the planning application itself. This includes filling in the necessary forms, creating precise architectural drawings and collating relevant supporting documentation. Our wealth of experience allows us to carefully curate this package to clearly convey your vision and its agreement with planning policies, significantly heightening the chances of a successful application.

Liaising with the Local Planning Authority: After submission, there is often back-and-forth communication with the planning authority. We manage these interactions on your behalf, addressing queries and providing additional details if required. This process can sometimes involve negotiation or design alterations; our team stands in this gap, ensuring your project’s essence remains untouched while maximising the likelihood of approval.

Planning Decision: After the planning authority’s thorough consideration of your application, which generally takes about 8 weeks for minor applications and up to 13 weeks for major applications (such as a new housing estate), a decision is reached. If the outcome is not favourable, you can appeal the decision or amend your proposal based on the feedback given. Our team will guide you through whichever route you choose to take.

What Do You Do if a Planning Application Is Refused?

Receiving a refusal for a planning application can feel disheartening, but it’s important to remember that it’s not the end of the road for your project. Each refusal comes with a detailed reasoning for the decision, providing valuable insights to revise and strengthen your application.

As experienced architects, we will more often than not know when a refusal is coming and will have advised potential changes required to make the scheme more acceptable.  We will sometimes withdraw an application if it looks like it is going to be refused, in order to make significant changes to the scheme, so that a resubmission can be made, however despite these changes refusals are always possible.

Here are the steps we help you navigate through at Base, in the event of a planning application denial:

Understand the Reason(s) for Refusal: The reasons for refusal act as guidelines for amendment or appeal. Our first move will be to thoroughly review these explanations, understanding whether the issues were related to policy, design, impact on neighbours or any other reasons.

Modify the Design:  Based on the reasons for refusal, we may revise the plan to address the local authority’s concerns. As expert architects, we’ll ensure that the modifications align with your initial vision while complying with the authority’s recommendations.

Resubmit the Application: Once the design modifications are made, we can resubmit the application. It’s worth noting that previously if the application was resubmitted within 12 months of the refusal, there was no fee involved, however, this recently changed and the ‘free’ resubmission option was removed. We utilise the pre-application process to really identify what the council will find acceptable before the formal planning application gets submitted to avoid this, however a refusal can still happen. Our objective of this step is to address the refusal reasons adequately to secure approval in the following round.

Appeal the Decision: Should a revised application not be the appropriate or preferred route, you have the right to appeal the decision. The appeal is made to the Planning Inspectorate, and as your planning permission architect, we would guide you through this process, prepare the necessary documentation, and present your case strongly.

We understand that setbacks are part of the journey. A refusal can be disheartening, however, it’s not always the dead-end in the road to accomplishing your architectural vision. With experience and determination, we can utilise these roadblocks as stepping stones towards obtaining the essential planning permission for your project. 

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