The best way to get planning approval – a step-by-step guide

Most people have heard stories about planning permission headaches that can halt progress before it’s even started. And when you’re about to embark on a large project it can be a big concern. 

After all, no planning approval means no new home.

Fortunately, there are steps you can take to give you the best chances of success. 

Read our guide to find out what you need to know about planning permission and the best way to get approval for your bespoke home.

How long does planning permission take?

This is a great first question to ask. The answer is that it’ll vary depending on which area you live, so it’s important to factor in this time when you’re planning a project. 

In England and Wales, it typically takes planning authorities eight to 10 weeks to make a decision on a planning application for a non-major development, like making structural alterations to a home. For more complex applications the time limit is up to 16 weeks.

Of course, not all projects need full planning permission. Plenty of work can be done through what’s called ‘Permitted Development’ which doesn’t need a planning application. 

However, because we know the planning regulations inside out, we also know how to maximise success. For example, if planning permission is needed, we might split a project into two separate applications to get it over the planning approval finish line – our Grove Road scheme is a good example.

How can you avoid planning permission problems?

Research and preparation are key to avoiding common pitfalls, and while you can’t control how long it takes the planning authority to decide on your application, there are steps you can take to boost your chances of success:

1. Allow plenty of time and accept unpredictability

Councils’ timeframes can vary widely, so check your local authority’s performance figures to see how likely it is that your application will be approved within the statutory timeframe.

Getting your application correct from the off will speed up the process and this is where our expertise comes in. We’ll also be able to tell you what planning you’re likely to need during our live design session and consultation. 

Embarking on a project can be unpredictable so prepare yourself for unexpected delays and plan for what to do if it’s not able to go ahead when you were expecting it to.

Rear Elevation View - Lauderdale Drive, London - Bespoke Living AIC

2. Don’t expect to get approval because others have

People often use the word ‘precedent’ when they’re talking about planning permission. It’s commonly assumed that, if other houses in the street have made changes like the ones you’re hoping to, you’ll automatically be granted approval because there’s a precedent.

Unfortunately, in a planning application precedent doesn’t count for much. If your neighbours’ renovations have been in place for a while, the planning rules may have changed.  While their home’s features might be deemed to be ‘established’, similar renovations may no longer be allowed.

Again, this is where our expertise comes in. We understand the planning considerations around your project and will be able to come up with alternative solutions that will still provide you with the space, and very often a better outcome, that you need. You can see an example of this in our Cyncoed Rise project.

Front Elevation - Lauderdale Drive, London - Bespoke Living AIC

3. Avoid changing your plans after the work has started

In reality, if you’re working with us to design your bespoke home it’s unlikely you’ll need to make any changes to your plans, as together we’ll have factored in all the considerations.

However, we know that sometimes things change in life, or very occasionally an issue might be uncovered during the construction process that means we need to work around a problem. 

Small changes can often still be made under ‘non-material amendments’. This could include reducing the size of your extension, changing the position of windows, or altering the interior layout. 

If a major design change is required, you’ll need to reapply for planning permission. Our design team can package up your changes in detailed plans and manage your submission on your behalf to give your revised plans the best chance of approval.

4. Consider using the pre-app advice system

You can opt to pay for ‘pre-application advice’ from the planning department, generally known as ‘pre-app’, for your project proposal. This typically costs between £100 and £300 and gives you specific feedback on your project so that the plans can be amended in line with the suggestions.

It’s designed to provide useful advice and reassurance before you put in a full planning application. So it can be a worthwhile investment and may save you time and money in the long run.

While we’ve had many pre-app successes, some of our experience has been mixed and we’ve found it to be more beneficial with certain local authorities than others. However, on balance, we’d say that for larger and more complex projects it’s generally a good idea.

5. Provide the right information

Not surprisingly, this is one of the most important factors in a successful planning outcome. Your application won’t be accepted if it doesn’t include enough detail or the correct information, so it’s best to make sure everything needed is included.

You’ll need a set of detailed planning drawings of the existing and proposed structure and features. And even if you’re only changing one floor of a house, the planning department will usually want to see all the floor plans and elevations.

Occasionally, additional requirements, like a parking study or bat survey, are also needed (the pre-app process will highlight these requirements) before the application will be considered.

To help you achieve your dream home, we can manage the planning application for you. We’ll use our expertise to identify and understand the planning considerations attached to your project and build your application around these. We can submit all plans and applications on your behalf and liaise with the council directly on any questions that arise.

6. Speak to your neighbours

We always encourage our clients to engage with their neighbours before the planning application is submitted. Talking to them and letting them know what you’re planning before they receive a letter from the council will help to keep them on your side. Plus, it might even be the first step in getting to know each other a bit better!

It’s rare that objections to your planning proposal from neighbours will make much difference, if any,  as it’s the planning officers who’ll be scrutinising your application in relation to planning policy.

And showing off your newly renovated home to neighbours may soon see more planning notices popping up on your street as they follow suit!

7. Make a design statement

It can often be helpful to submit a design statement along with your drawings at the planning application stage. A well-thought-out and reasoned design statement can carry weight with planning officers and boost your chances of approval.

It can help to explain the design story and show how the design takes into account local planning policy and responds to it. 

In cases where a design might not completely conform to the policy, your design statement can be used to explain why the specific nature of your site and its environment makes it appropriate. The design statement can make your proposal more difficult for the planners to dismiss.

In our Catwg cottage project, we used a design statement to explain the architectural merits of the scheme, which blended a listed building with a modern but sympathetic extension – as a result, planning permission and parish approval went through smoothly.

8. Hire an experienced architect

While it’s certainly possible to submit your own application, using a reliable architect who’s experienced in navigating the planning process can increase your chances of success.

We make sure that your design will work for planning approval and will make the most out of any planning constraints.

The detailed planning drawings we’ll supply will show how the proposed alterations to your property might change its appearance. And also what impact they will have on its surroundings. 

Where we think it’s beneficial, we’ll also produce a design statement to help the planning officers understand the project and its merits.

How Bespoke Living AIC can help you get planning permission for your new home

Whether it’s a new build home, a home renovation or an extension, we’ll help you transform your ideas into reality. 

Our experienced team will make sure everything about your project, from the design and planning approval to the construction of your bespoke home, is a success.

Contact us now to get started.