Pre-emptive Planning For Setbacks

Even the best laid plans are well-known for going awry and architects and self-builders are not immune to having their planning applications turned down.  However, it’s not the end of the world, nor does it mean that your build needs to be cancelled.  So what are the options if you find you’re your application for planning permission is refused and most importantly, what are the costs of this setback?
Pre-emptive Planning For Setbacks
Before Appealing a Planning Decision
In most cases you will have the right to appeal a planning decision; only the applicant (including their planning consultant or architect) can appeal against a decision.  This means that it’s not possible for objectors to appeal against permission that has been granted.  However, before considering the appeals process you should consider the following.

  • Discuss the reasons for refusal with the planning officer that dealt with the case.  You can do this in person or your architect/consultant can speak to the officer in question.  Planning permission (both granting of and refusal of) are governed by a complex mixture of planning regulations, the majority of which are to be found in the local authorities planning policy documents.
  • In order to refuse the application the permission must breach one of these policies or contravene a “material consideration”.  Material considerations that can be used in deciding a planning application can be found via the Planning Portal, these are limited to a number of specific matters.  With the assistant of your consultant or architect it’s important to understand why the application has been refused, in order to find a way to make the application acceptable.  Permission should not be refused on objections which have no valid basis in either local planning policy or considerations other than those specified as material.
  • If by discussing any issues with the planning officer it’s possible to resolve the problem at this level it’s usually the simplest, easiest and least costly route.  If you submit an amended application this must be done within twelve months of the original in order to avoid a second application fee.

The Planning Inspectorate and Appeals Process
If you and your consultant believe that the application has been refused for no good reason, or that the reasons given are unfair, you may wish to consider an appeal.  The appeals process is dealt with by a national organisation known as the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State.   This inspectorate is not part of your local authority and the aim of the body is to provide expert, professional and impartial decisions on planning decisions.  There are a number of time limits to be aware of when appealing against a planning decision; for householders the appeal must be made within twelve weeks, while major applications have up to six months.  However, if an enforcement notice is in place on your development these timescales are radically reduced.

The Costs
Appeals are not a chargeable service but the process is lengthy and it’s essential to employ professional consultants in order to negotiate the technicalities of the appeals procedure.  This will incur additional costs and you should be aware of this from the outset.  Technically, it is possible to claim for costs against the other party, but this is rare and it must be shown that they have behaved unreasonably.

The Planning Appeals Process
In order to make an appeal you must apply to using a specific form; this is available via the Planning Portal which is available to both professionals and the public.  There are three types of appeal procedure; these include written representations, an informal hearing and a public enquiry.  The latter two are more likely to be suitable for major commercial developments and in the case of domestic appeals the written procedure will normally be used.

The written representation route is simple to understand; both the applicant and the council put their arguments in writing and these statements are exchanged with opportunity for each to add further comments.  The Planning Inspectorate then views the statements and a site visit is then carried out; you may attend the visit but any further comments made to the inspector will not be taken into account – the same applies to a representative of the local council.  The planning inspector will then report in writing (to both parties) on their decision.  If the appeal is not allowed (i.e. you’re permission is denied) there is no further right of appeal.  If you believe that the process has been in any way unfair it may be possible to take the matter to the High Courts but this could be extremely costly and is not normally an option for domestic projects.

Jann Webb is a writer who has a keen interest in home renovation. She suggests that if you are seeking guidance from a professional Architect, Kent experts can advise you on housing related matters such as how to appeal a planning permission denial.