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How to get the best from your local Planning Department for your home extension scheme.

Those homeowners who employ an experienced home extension building designer will not be too bothered about ensuring they get a fair and efficient service from the local Planning Dept.

Any experienced Planning Design Agent will know what works what doesn't with regard to house extension designs through the formal Planning Permission process and they will guide and engineer your design in a way that should give you a good chance of receiving formal Planning Permission at the first attempt.

For those homeowners embarking on their own DIY home extension design including drawings or simply outsourcing their requirements to a 'draftsperson' may want to explore the services on offer to the homeowner from their Local Planning Department to limit their exposure to abortive time & costs.

Most Planning Departments offer a pre-application advisory service for which most now charge a fee.  To make this service work best you do need to prepare your own sketch schemes & supply as much information about the building project & the site surroundings so the Case Planning Officer can make an informed judgement about your scheme.

They also normally complete a site history check and advise you on the level of detail and information required together with a clear indicator on your intended scheme.

A lot of the reply will be standardised wording and you may have to read between the lines quite a bit.  You may even read the response and ask yourself 'what did they say?'

This is fairly common as they tend to sit on the fence for a lot of the schemes unless the design deviates so far from their current accepted Planning Policy or design guides.  As a general rule, the more specific & detailed you can be with your sketch scheme proposal the better & more relevant the advise will be.

This should be enough to give you the red or green light on how next to proceed.

Forming your design based upon the advice received is no guarantee that a properly conceived & worked up house extension design will automatically be granted Planning Permission as the Planners would not have had the benefit of any external consultations (Highways, neighbours, Environment Agency etc).

Some extension schemes require the submission of a Design and Access Statement to explain & support your scheme.  If you are not used to compiling planning jargon filled piece of navel gazing discussion prose then you may want to out-source this element to an experienced Planning Consultant or home extension building designer especially if you are within a Conservation Area as you need to analyse the impact of your scheme upon the Councils Heritage assets (nearby listed buildings).

Should you be submitting your own Planning application then you can always monitor its progress on line using the Councils Public Access system which most now have in place for looking at any consultation responses & checking the target dates.

You will also be informed of the Case Officer handling your scheme which is more often than not a graduate or junior member of staff reporting directly to their team leader.

Contacting the Case Officer early in the application period (within the first 4 weeks) is usually a waste of time as most Case Officers only really analyse your scheme after they have had all the consultation responses returned.

A quick telephone call within week 5 or 6 is about the ideal time but most wont tell you their thoughts even if they know simply to avoid giving you false hope in error or entering into a lengthy debate should they be unsupportive.

Some Councils (or the more efficiently run ones) will make contact with you early if they are unhappy with your scheme or require a minor alteration to enable the current application to be amended or withdrawn.  Other Councils take the view of no contact during the application period and no alterations permitted and simply state that if it is refused, simply attend to the refusal reasons and resubmit as part of your one free second go which can be very frustrating at times especially if the alteration required is very minimal.

All in all, due to the lack of competition (no alternative private certification process for the public) and not having the requirement to be self funding from fees, most Planning Departments and their staff mind set do not see you as a principal customer to be valued & well serviced.  Their role is multi-customer faceted given their responsibility to neighbours & others affected by your proposals so I suppose you can understand their 'off handedness' at times.

You will receive the Councils Decision Notice within the 8 week period for 95% of cases.  If it is refused, do not automatically appeal. Look at the refusal reasons and read the Case Officers report.  It will be quite specific.  Amend the design to accommodate the refusal reasons & resubmit or negotiate directly with the Case Officer.


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