Making a Planning Application
Peter Eade, builder, project manager and author
The government’s proposed new planning policy could mean some major changes are in the offing. Currently, planning permission is required if you wish to add more than a modest extension to an existing house, or build a new one. (See Guide to Permitted Development Rights for residential building that can be completed without planning approval.)
Making a planning application may seem to be something best left to the professionals but in reality most selfbuilders can do it themselves.
Once you know what you want to build and have prepared some preliminary sketches, it is well worth making an appointment with your local planning authority to get some pre-application advice. This service is not free, but is definitely money well spent. You should come away with a reasonable idea of your chances of getting your project approved. Before a meeting you will need to have draft drawings of your scheme. These don’t need to be professionally prepared but it is essential they clearly show what you intend to build and include dimensions and distances from the boundaries. Don’t just turn up with the proverbial scribbles on the back of an envelope.
It’s wise to take on board all points raised by the planning officer.
Make a note of the name of the officer and the date of the meeting. This information will be required when you fill in your planning application. If you intend to build an extension check if your proposal falls within Permitted Development which doesn’t require planning permission. You can do this online on the planning portal website which is very informative.
Engaging a designer
As soon as you feel you have a good chance of getting planning approval you will need to prepare some drawings – probably from an architect, designer or other professional.
You should check their fees first, and ask how busy they are – you don’t want to commission them only to find you have to wait several months for your plans. A good designer who is on your wavelength will be able to interpret your ideas, as discussed with the planning officer.
Once you are happy with the drawings you can make the planning application yourself or ask your designer to make a submission on your behalf.
Drawing the plans yourself
Although not recommended, you may choose to prepare the plans yourself. However, there are some important points you need to consider first. Almost all architectural plans are produced using CAD, the industry-standard software. This is expensive and quite difficult to learn. Your drawings should look professional and be to the minimum scale of 1:100. If you have thought this through and are still certain you would like to draw your own plans it is advisable to go down the CAD route.
Many lowerpriced CAD programs are perfectly capable of producing architect-quality plans. You should allow at least two months to properly get to know the finer points of using a basic CAD program. Planning applications can now be submitted online so you are no longer required to print off A1-size drawings.
If you wish to avoid using CAD it is still possible to produce your plans on drafting quality paper, but these will still be required to be drawn to scale and – most importantly – look professional. Remember the quality of the drawings could affect the outcome of your planning application. Your local print shop should be able to print off your plans onto A2 or A1 paper.
Submitting a planning application
If you are making a paper submission you will need the original and three copies of all application documents. For online applications, only one copy of each document is required. The planning application forms are available on the planning portal website along with lots of useful advice. You have the option of either filling in the forms online or you can download and print off the forms if you intend to make a paper submission.
Filling in a planning application form is relatively straightforward.
It must include the completed and dated Ownership Certificate (item 11A on the application form). There is a cost for making a planning submission and it’s best to check online for the current fee. You should also check the council’s policy on the community infrastructure levy (CIL) so that you follow the correct procedure right from the outset. Failure to do so can be expensive.
Within a week or so of making your submission, you should receive confirmation that it has been validated, along with the name and contact details of the planning officer dealing with your application. It is a good idea to contact the planning officer after a few weeks to get a general update on how things are going. The officer may flag up some issues that could result in refusal. You can withdraw the application and resubmit new plans with any amendments or changes suggested by the officer.
Getting the final decision should take eight weeks, but it can take longer. With luck, you will find dealing with the planners a positive experience. Remember, over 80% of planning applications are approved.
Checklist of what to include with your application
- Completed planning application forms
- Scale plan (either 1:50 or 1:100) showing the existing house or plot
- Scale plan (either 1:50 or 1:100) showing what is proposed
- Location map (1:1,250) with the site outlined in red (downloaded from a mapping website)
- Site map (1:500). The site to be outlined in red (downloaded from a mapping website.)
- If the proposal is in a Conservation Area, a Design and Access Statement (see below) will be required
- A tree survey report is required if any trees are affected by the proposal
- A flood risk assessment is also required if the proposal is known to be on a flood plain
- The correct fee
Design and Access Statement
A Design and Access (DAS) statement is a short report accompanying a planning application. It explains how a proposed development is a suitable response to the site and its setting, and demonstrates that it can be adequately accessed by prospective users.
A DAS is required for major developments and some smaller applications. The level of detail in a DAS should be proportionate to the complexity of the application, but not too long. For straightforward planning applications, the DAS may only need to be a single page.