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House Extension - What Happens Through The Planning Permission process.

Your house extension Building Design Agent will complete all the required Planning application forms with drawings, details and covering letter if necessary and submit it to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) on your behalf with them acting as your Agent.

The application will be delegated to a case Planning Officer. Regretfully, this Case Officer will likely be a Junior ‘Graduate’ type of employee cutting their teeth in Planning within Development Control. They will be very much dependant upon the guidance and back-up of their experienced team leaders. Alternatively you may be allocated a more experienced and senior type of Case Officer - its very much a lottery I’m afraid.

APPLICATION REGISTERED

The Admin. Section of the Planning Dept. will register the application into two Council files (public and Officers)  provide it with a unique application reference number. Registration can take up to 14 days for busy or inefficient run Councils but will normally be accepted within 5 working days.

CONSULTATIONS

The application and drawings will be distributed to various consultations such as the local parish, Highways, etc. for their opinion on your scheme. Your neighbours and other interested people will be notified of your Planning application and made aware that they can view the drawings and make comments if they so choose normally within 21 days. The 21 day period is not mandatory and merely acts as a good target period in which to receive any comments.

THE PLANNING OFFICERS SITE VISIT

During the Application period (8 weeks) the Case Planning Officer will at some time visit the site to ensure that the drawings are in accordance with the on site conditions and to acquaint themselves with wider Planning issues such as local character, ground levels, neighbours etc.

For efficiently run LPA’s the Case Officer will visit within the first 3 weeks of the application. Experienced Case Officers familiar with the area may just spend a few moments at your site and may not even require full site access to the rear of your property. Should the Case Officer require greater access and not be able to obtain it they will contact me in order to facilitate an agreed date for access with you.

Should you be in when they visit, please do ask for identification and escort them to where they require. Most site visits are restricted to the external of your property. It would be very unlikely that they would want internal access. Should you meet them on site please do not put them under pressure to answer any of your queries as they will not have made any formal opinions at that time. Simply be courteous and let them assess the scheme with the information they have available - No further input from yourselves is required. Should you receive any feedback from the Case Planning Officer (Positive or negative) please do let me know ASAP.

NEIGHBOURS COMMENTS

This is always a tricky one and can be fraught with complications and misunderstandings. Some neighbours will already be aware of your scheme proposals - others will not. Some may have already given you un-apposing positive and supportive comments - others may not. Whatever you are expecting from your neighbours - please be expectant for the complete opposite during the next 8 weeks.

I could write a book on neighbour issues that have transpired during Planning applications so this is the voice of 25 year of experience advising you to be prepared for adverse written and verbal representations to the LPA from one or more of your neighbours. Regretfully, most neighbours are under the false preconception that their comments are treated in confidence and that you will not get to hear of what they have said.

Little do they realise that all representations are treated as public record and even posted on councils web sites. If at the end of the application you have not received any adverse neighbour comments then count yourself lucky - you have been very fortunate.

LENGTH OF THE APPLICATION

All Planning applications have a target decision notice date of 8 weeks from the date of ‘registered’ submission. All LPA’s are under immense councillor pressure and Government backed financial grant carrots to process all Planning Applications within this 8 week period.

Your home extension design agent will normally receive the decision notice in the post exactly on the last day of the 8 week period. It is getting unusual to obtain the councils decision notice later than 10 weeks. However, Due to the ‘process’ all applications have to take some councils do experience problems from time to time mainly during LPA staff changes or high application periods. If you application does exceed the 8 week period do not be concerned - it is normally quicker to refuse an application than it is to approve it.

WILL THE COUNCIL REQUIRE AMENDMENTS TO THE SCHEME DURING THE APPLICATION?

In most cases NO! Due to the pressure of the 8 week turnaround period, most councils now have a policy of ‘non-negotiation’ other than for the simplest of items (e.g. - removal of a side window). Therefore, if they do have issues with the scheme that they are unable to support, the scheme will be refused. Regretfully this attitude of ‘if in doubt - chuck it out’ is becoming more prevalent as time goes on.

Even though for most of my schemes this rarely happens it is a concern for all us designers and Planning Consultants who are not given the opportunity to amend a scheme during the application period. The LPA is under no obligation to give us prior notification of this possibility either so it can come as rare shock. However, all is not lost should a refusal be forthcoming even if it may be unexpected. It often means a simple alteration to the scheme to overcome the planning issue and use of your LPA one ‘free go‘ for another application. Regretfully it does mean another 8 week period for a fresh application.

CAN I MONITOR THE PROGRESS OF THE PLANNING APPLICATION?

To some degree YES! Many councils have joined the web and posted all their applications ‘on line’. Wycombe DC for example are very advanced in this field. Visit your own local councils web site and click on their 'public Access' link. You will be asked ‘copyright’ agreements and you can locate your application by either the application number or the site address. The pdf documents can be missing at night due to the system going ‘off line’ for updating. If your council does not support this ‘public access’ scheme then there is no other real way for you to monitor the progress of your application as each Case Officer is far to busy to personally keep you, the ‘customer’, up to date on progress.

WHAT ELSE SHOULD I BE PREPARED FOR AS A RESULT OF THE PLANNING APPLICATION.

In a nut shell - unsolicited contact via post or telephone or even targeted junk mail for the next year. All Planning Applications are a public record. The council even sells list of all applications received with details of your address and proposed works. That means unsolicited approaches from builders, kitchen furniture, upvc windows etc.

You must decide how to handle these contacts. Suffice to say that most good builders are busy builders not touting for work. Be very very wary of anybody arriving at your home in person claiming to be able to build your project next week at a very cheap price. If in doubt - call the police.

WHO WILL SEND ME THE PLANNING DECISION NOTICE?

If you have engaged your own home extension building design agent all documents will first be sent to them. They will then forward them onto yourselves with a covering letter.

 
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