Why is it so hard to get planning approval? Such a simple thing is mired in bureaucracy, pettiness (at least perceived), personal interpretations of the planning policy (e.g. the definition of disproportionate to the existing building) and, in some cases, pure incompetence!
One such example was from Southern Water who said they couldn't approve the proposal with a sewage treatment plant and we had to apply for connection to an existing sewage system. err....the nearest sewer is about 200m away as the crow flies over roads and fields that aren't owned by us! none of the houses in our hamlet have mains sewage and we even have an existing Klargester which we will simply be replacing with a new version. so why would they say that we need to connect to mains sewage? crazy. fortunately, I got on the phone and a few weeks later I got a call from someone who actually knew what they were doing and eventually got an email saying that using an on-site treatment plant was not an issue.
Then we get to the highways agency. we're asking for a new entrance off the road as it's more practical with the way the plot is and where the new house is going to have it rather than use the existing entrance that is shared with our neighbours. We submitted the visibility splays (although the architect forgot this initially and the first letter from the highways agency was asking for them) and the response we got was basically, how can we put a new driveway in when we don't own the (approx. 1') of verge between the adopted highway and our land and also we needed a traffic survey for the road as it's national speed limit (albeit a single track road so no one could get or does get above 40mph). I got our solicitor on the case about the potential ransom strip and he's sorting that out so we pointed this out to the highways agency and also submitted the existing visibility splays and showed that the visibility of the new entrance is better than existing and so the highways agency eventually agreed to the new entrance and had no issues with the application but did stipulate some conditions. This whole thing took so long that we had to grant a 1 month extension to the decision date.
It wasn't all bad though, the Parish council didn't have any objections but did raise a concern about the flat roof as there's a policy against flat roofs in our parish apparently and we had no complaints from neighbours as part of the consultation period and even had one lovely neighbour who wrote in support of the application.
so, with all the above done and no issues it came to the planning officer being able to view the application in its entirety. We really weren't expecting too much of an issue here as, although the footprint was quite large, we were adding an annexe for my mum and figured that would be considered as a separate entity to the main house for footprint etc. also we have planned a basement but that also shouldn't count to the footprint. we thought we might get pushback from the ridge height as the outlying planning was for a chalet bungalow and we submitted for a 2 storey house with a pitched roof. So we were shellshocked when the architect said he'd heard from the planning officer and said that the gross internal area (GIA) was too much and we'd need to lose the basement, studio (the room above the garage) and the garden room and also shrink the annexe! wtf! we honestly couldn't believe it. Our initial reaction was to comply and then build the garden room and convert the garage loft post completion. but after thinking for a bit I decided not to capitulate and that we would fight it and so hired a planning consultant to fight our corner for us.
we have since supplied to the planning officer the potential size the existing bungalow could be if extended under permitted development with an 8m deep rear extension along the entire length of the property and a loft conversion. with these figures it shows that what we intend to build isn't actually as much of an increase as the planning officer officially thought. hopefully common sense will prevail and he'll understand what we're trying to achieve here and that we don't want to have to have buildings in the garden to get the space we need but want it all under one architecturally designed roof that is sympathetic to the surrounding woodland. if it doesn't though and he's still adamant that the property is too big then we have a list of potential reductions that we're willing to do.
And that's where we're at with the planning application at the moment. there's another extension in place until the middle of June so hopefully we can come to some sort of agreement to get the house built. fingers crossed!