Worried About Planning Permission? Talk to Sally Arnold

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Planning Advice for Kensington and Chelsea, Merton, Westminster and more

Sally Arnold is an Associate at Planning Potential, a leading planning consultancy specialising in commercial and high end residential projects nationwide.

Her exceptional knowledge of RBKC, Camden, Westminster and Merton planning policy has put her at the heart of many of our projects, so we asked her to share some of her planning advice with our readers.

Make life easy for the planning officers

Planning departments in London are exceptionally busy. In 2018, they made decisions on almost 70,000 planning applications. More than 2,000 of these were in Camden, 2,500 in Kensington and Chelsea, 2800 in Richmond and an incredible 6,000+ in Westminster alone.

It is important to remember when you submit a planning application that you are adding to the top of a very large pile. Planning officers will not be able to hold your hand through the process and they will often be too busy to offer advice and feedback on your application outside of key stages.

A successful planning application considers the person who will be reading it. It should be clearly laid out, easy to understand and include all the required documentation – and often more. The easier you make the planning officer’s job, the more you will get out of the process.

This is especially important during the pre-application stage, where you can receive advice on aspects of the design that should be changed or further documentation that is required to support your proposals. Such advice won’t be given to people who don’t take the process seriously.

Seeking pre-application advice provides the opportunity to acquire a clear sense of what the planning department is looking for in domestic developments and what consultants you may need to support your plans.

Many homeowners underestimate just how many consultants this may be, each of which comes with a fee. Depending on the extent of your development, you may need supporting documents from sustainability consultants, ecologists, archaeologists, heritage consultants, surveyors, flood risk assessors, arboriculturalists – the list goes on.

Consider the environment, history and context of your site

The biggest mistake people make in their planning applications is focusing on the design and nothing else. Even if your design ticks all boxes, there is a high chance your application will be denied if you don’t consider planning policy.

Planning departments are not solely concerned with whether your design is safe or feasible. They will also be strongly considering whether your design is suitable for its location, for the wider area and if – in the case of a listed building or Building of Townscape Merit – whether it respects the history of the building.

You can glean some information about what your local planning department is likely to approve of through their planning guidance or conservation area appraisals. Simply walking around your area and seeing what developments are underway will also provide useful context.

While there are borough-wide principles that planning officers will adhere to, much of what will and will not be considered appropriate for your home will be specific to the street it is on or even the site itself – doubly true if your home is in a conservation area. This is another reason why it is always worth seeking pre-application advice from planning officers.

For example, we know that RBKC aren’t fond of full-width rear extensions, so it is safer to design to this preference than to discover this only upon rejection. However, there is no way you would know this without talking to planning officers (or a planning consultant, more on us below).

Hire a planning consultant

If you plan to carry out a substantial development or if your home is a listed building, you may find yourself quickly overwhelmed if you attempt to tackle the planning process without assistance.

Some projects can be handled entirely by the project architect, but architects who want to give their clients the best chance of planning success or really push the boundaries of what can be approved will often seek assistance from planning consultants.

Working with a planning consultant removes the mystery from the planning process. We know each planning department’s attitude towards various types of development and have years of projects and data to demonstrate precedents and trends.

Planning departments know our name, so when we consult on a project they are reassured that the process will be carried out seriously and professionally and that we won’t waste their time.

Thanks to our close relationship with planning officers, we are able to gain insight into planning policies and seek advice with more regularity and with more detail than people who are unknown to them.

By becoming a part of your team along with your architect and other consultants, we can provide advice on the design from the earliest stages to make sure that you don’t waste time on plans that have no chance of being approved.

This doesn’t mean that we will hold you back from pushing boundaries; quite the opposite. The more complex and bold a project is, the more you need the help of planning consultants to negotiate and mediate with planning officers to sell the benefits of your project and find compromises that don’t undermine your vision.

Do you have questions about the planning process? Contact Planning Potential today

At Planning Potential, we have access to a breadth and depth of knowledge and experience of the planning process in London. We know what makes planning officers tick, and can anticipate with tremendous accuracy what they will and will not approve – and where we might find some wriggle room.

If you have any questions about the planning process or a development that you are considering, please feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected] or +44 (0) 20 7357 8000.

Sally Arnold

London Associate, Planning Potential