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How a planner got planning permission.


Tony K

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Hi,

As a small step towards repaying the valuable advice I have received on this forum I thought I'd share the attached document, which I hope will be useful and/or interesting to forum users.

 

I am a planner by trade, working in local authority. My SB is on a relatively small, highly inaccessible plot neighboured by mature trees, and tightly bordered by existing houses. The plot was a 'detached' back garden of sorts that came as part of the deal (and something of an afterthought) when we bought our current house. Nobody had ever even considered the prospect that it could be a building plot, and for many years I discounted the idea myself due to the restrictions listed above. 

 

Five years ago, having outgrown our house and exhausted other options, I decided to at least try to self build on the plot. I obtained permission at the first time of asking (albeit not quickly and not without having to make a tweak or two).

 

Everyone, without exception, from family to neighbours to building tradesmen to delivery drivers to other planners, have commented on how 'well' I've done to get permission. Some of them probably thought I'd made a mistake, or that the Council did, or that there was some old pals act involved because I am a planner myself (even though I don't work in the borough where I am building, and it really, really doesn't work that way anyway).

 

They are all wrong. I obtained permission because I did the thing that planners spend their working lives telling others to do - I read the relevant planning policies, designed a development that was in line with them, then demonstrated as much in the application. That is what the attached statement does, it goes from global to national to regional to local policy, then explains the thought process behind my design, in that context.

 

I cannot tell you how many architects, developers and would-be planning consultants fail to design development proposals specifically to meet planning policies, and then spend ages moaning, appealing, resubmitting, and generally wasting time. 

 

I can't promise that if you follow the thought process in my document you'll certainly get planning permission, but I hope you find it a useful insight into how a planner approached self-build, and specifically the matter of seeking planning permission on a plot that the rest of the world had discounted. 

 

Cheers

 

 

647910914_DesignandAccessStatementRedacted.pdf

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1 hour ago, Tony K said:

...

I did the thing that planners spend their working lives telling others to do - I read the relevant planning policies, designed a development that was in line with them, then demonstrated as much in the application. That is what the attached statement does, it goes from global to national to regional to local policy, then explains the thought process behind my design, in that context.

...

647910914_DesignandAccessStatementRedacted.pdf 2.89 MB · 8 downloads

 

Please could the Mods consider pinning this post / thread

Ian

 

I ask because the Design Access Statement is a model of 

 

  • Brevity
  • Focused argument
  • Well-structured content
  • Good use of images
  • Evidence-based discussion
  • Clearly produced maps
  • and an excellent written style
Edited by ToughButterCup
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Well done. It reads very well....... Lets be honest though, you gave your mate down the planning office a quick ring (wink, wink. Nudge nudge. ) You should start a side business helping other people write a decent D and A Statement.......  I still have a major problem with your average planning officer. Planning officer. "I wont allow any flat crown roof areas." Me. "Why not ?" Planning officer. "I dont like them". Me. "Can you point me towards a national or local policy that says, no crown roofs". Planning officer. "I dont need to. I will refuse it on the basis that it does not fit in with the local venacular. Me. "but unless you are in an aeroplane you wont be able to see it" ......I do wonder if yours would have gone through if the whole of it was a flat roof ? Most of the NPPF and the local saved policies are badly written, and allow the planning officer to twist them if he wants to either pass, or refuse an application. Banking used to be very similar. An individual using some training, and a crib sheet decided to either give you a loan, or decline it. The decision making process was taken away from them, and centralised, because generally the lending was poor quality.........So your average joe, will have to either hire, at great expense, a planner to write a D and A, or do there best to have a go at writing there own. If it is not up to your obvious high standards is it considered to be another rubbish application ?.  I still think that compromising photos are the best way of guaranteeing that an application will go through.   No offence ment, as i do think your D and A is top drawer. Well done and congratulations.

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1 hour ago, ToughButterCup said:
  • Brevity
  • Focused argument
  • Well-structured content
  • Good use of images
  • Evidence-based discussion
  • Clearly produced maps
  • and an excellent written style

Alpha+ to that - I mean the document not the marking  rubric!

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Glad to see some people have found the statement useful.

 

Something I didn't explain in my original post but which may be apparent anyway, is that once I had a good idea of my preferred design I asked myself: 'If I was the planner assessing this, and if I was being as harsh as I could reasonably be, what would be the specific grounds on which I could refuse it?'

 

The statement is partly an exercise in anticipating those possible grounds of refusal and addressing them in advance. That is easier for me as a planner than for many others, but it's not rocket science. Look at the adopted policies and supplementary guidance on the council website, and read the planning officers report for a few applications in your area to get a feel for how those policies are applied. You'll find that you get the gist pretty quickly, even if you've never looked at a planning policy before. 

 

Its not impossible to discuss and debate your plans once they are submitted (though it is increasingly rare to get the chance), but really the idea is to make the most substantive and comprehensive case upfront. It is for the applicant to support their proposal, not for the council to tease out everything that is good about your idea.

 

Ultimately of course, if you've designed something that obviously doesn't meet the policies then it doesn't matter how thoroughly you state your case. Equally, if you've got a design which plainly meets every criteria then you shouldn't need to sell it to the planning office. Most plans sit somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, where there is inevitably a degree of subjectivity, so put the work in to show the extent of compliance with planning policies as part and parcel of your application. 

 

You do of course get the odd stroppy or difficult planner, but not half as often as you get a stroppy or difficult applicant! However frustrated you might get, remember that there is a significant difference between making an argument and having one. 

Edited by Tony K
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That's a wonderful document, thanks for sharing.

 

My only off topic question is parking.  You provided 2 parking spaces a short walk away on a separate bit of land, I assume you had to buy / rent / come to some other agreement with that land owner to get those?

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On 12/07/2022 at 19:02, Tony K said:

I read the relevant planning policies, designed a development that was in line with them, then demonstrated as much in the application.

This is exactly what we did, I say we, it was really my wife. Knowing the local authority policies back to front meant that she could counter any arguments based on policy. It took a while and a bit of work but it was relatively painless. We still get the "how the hell did you get permission to build here" comments. 


Excellent document.

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10 hours ago, Tony K said:

... remember that there is a significant difference between making an argument and having one. 

 

Could I nudge that sentence to say ... there's a fine  difference .... between the two

 

"Sweetheart, I'm not having an argument with you, I'm just making one  argument, there are many others that could be made ... more tea?

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1 hour ago, ToughButterCup said:

"Sweetheart, I'm not having an argument with you, I'm just making one  argument, there are many others that could be made ... more tea?

I could see that going very wrong.

 

Remeids me when I told someone in a text I was going out for a row (in a boat) and he replied you can come and row with my wife any time you like she likes a good row.

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3 hours ago, ProDave said:

That's a wonderful document, thanks for sharing.

 

My only off topic question is parking.  You provided 2 parking spaces a short walk away on a separate bit of land, I assume you had to buy / rent / come to some other agreement with that land owner to get those?

 

There is a story there @ProDave, and one that leads to another topic of possible interest: post-submission alterations.

 

Firstly, the parking issue. 

 

Our current house (next to our SB plot) has no off-street parking, or even on-street parking nearby. You have to walk down a footpath to get to the house. That's not for everyone, but we like it. 

I agreed with a neighbouring landowner (an absentee landlord) that I would seek planning permission based, in part, on the use of part of his land for my parking, and that we would agree the terms of a lease thereafter.

Many will be aghast at the lack of formal contract, and on most occasions I would agree, but I felt my application had only a 50/50 chance. To be frank, in that context, I really couldn't afford a formal arrangement. 

During our pre-application conversations the neighbouring landlord told me that he wanted to keep his current tenants sweet, as they were paying him well over the market rate in rent, but he was certainly keen to get a few more quid from his land, this time out of me.

 

When the application was submitted, those same tenants objected not only to the Council but also to the landlord, who, faced with losing his over-paying tenants promptly wrote to the Council to deny any knowledge of the application. This made no difference in one sense, but did in another; you can apply for planning permission on land you don't own, even without the owners agreement so long as you give them notice (which I had). Of course, even if you get planning permission you cannot, in reality, proceed to use it if you don't own the land or have an agreement to use it.  

 

Which leads me to the subject of post-submission alterations.

 

As per an earlier post of mine, most planners just do not have the time to discuss your application with you once its in, and certainly not to advise you on amendments you might make in order to achieve permission. In this instance however, I met the planner when he did his site visit and the subject of the parking land came up. The end result was that I removed the neighbouring land from my plans altogether, agreed to an extension of time for the Council to decide the application (it was well overdue anyway), and supplied an additional document (copy attached, might be useful to someone) demonstrating that the over-supply of local on-street parking space justified the absence of off-street parking in my scheme. Problem solved. I don't have a parking space (or the cost or headache of the legal arrangements) but I do have a house, and in hindsight I should have gone down this route to begin with. 

 

Finally, to finish the story of my application, I came to the conclusion that flat roofs throughout (addressing a point of yours @Big Jimbo) and a less excavated bedroom block would be preferable. I thereafter made a second, separate planning application seeking approval for the same house but with those alterations. This was approved quickly and without comment, as can often be the way when the principle of the thing has already been found acceptable. I attach the D&A statement for that second application, which again might be useful to someone. You can see is a much shorter document, aimed largely at justifying the differences between the permission I had and the one I was seeking.

 

Cheers

 

1389349718_ParkingSurveyRedacted(1).pdf Design and Access Statement v2 redacted (1).pdf

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On 12/07/2022 at 19:02, Tony K said:

I did the thing that planners spend their working lives telling others to do

Bravo.

For some reason, the government dropped the requirement of a  d and a statement with every application. We continued to do them anyway.

At an open meeting of parish councils with our planners, I told them that my business continued so to do, for the same reasons you state.

It ticks off all the questions the planner has to ask anyway, so make it easy and quick.

It addresses all the questions that need addressing, and some more, and it is wise to do so before application, not after.

It concentrates the mind as a designer , to get the best from the project.

The client can also review and perhaps understand the complexities properly.

Most of all, if you can't prepare a d and a statement then you haven't designed it properly.

 

I asked a planner once why they seemed to respect planning consultants so much, when I thought they might be almost enemies. The answer was that they make the job easier by referring to all the expectations and requirements of the application. They could swap jobs. The planner generally doesn't have any prejudices, so just make it easy.

 

And lastly, a beautifully prepared d and a statement, such as yours, makes it easy for neighbours and parish councils to understand too. they are more likely to support the application.

 

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12 hours ago, saveasteading said:

Bravo.

....

And lastly, a beautifully prepared d and a statement, such as yours, makes it easy for neighbours and parish councils to understand too. they are more likely to support the application.

 

I agree wholeheartedly.

That statement depends on readers' careful engagement with the words in the document.

And almost nobody  does  .     At best, most skim.

 

This thread has taught me that -- if the applicant is keen to engage a wider readership -- it might be useful to provide a one page summary of the key aspects of the application at the front of the document.

 

I have long thought that in order to submit a formal objection, objectors should be required to submit their objections on a standardised form - one which explains clearly the difference between Material and Non-material Objections, and gives examples of each. 

It strikes me as quite difficult for the 'Average Joe' commenter to do anything other than say what's in his (her) heart about a Planning Application, and that any DA statement (even one as well drafted as the OPs) is too long.

 

A bit of support in terms of drafting a well-founded Material Objection is long overdue. Yes, some LPAs do have such guidance on their website. But thats not enough I think.

 

 

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38 minutes ago, saveasteading said:

On a simpler level, some private applicants submit a short letter to explain their intent. Entirely true or not, it goes down well with neighbours and councillors.

 

Interesting. If possible, could you link us to a (random) online example please?

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Quite interesting, and I'll try and find half an hour to comment.

 

I'm interested in the first para of Trees about the Leyland Cypress:

 

The site contains a TPO tree in its northwestern corner, a Leyland Cypress (TPO ref 161/T5 10/07/1985) which would be removed as part of the proposals.

 

(I've checked and that is what it says.)

 

Which individual put a TPO on a Leyland Cypress? Have they subjected to death by Candiru fish yet, and if not, why not?

 

🙃

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2 hours ago, ToughButterCup said:

link us to a (random) online example

Not really. I recall them as a parish councillor. It wouldn't be random.

But typically.

We are John and Jane smith , living at olde cottage. It is in poor condition and needs updating  (for example....). Also needs extending as baby on the way. We love the house and will retain all we can.The extension is shown on the (attractive 3d) drawings we have had done for you. See how well it fits in, and how unobtrusive.  Etc.

 

I would emphasise that very few counvillors or evd planners can read anf fully understand drawings. Artists impressions and photoshop make it easy for them.

 

 

 

 

 

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8 hours ago, ToughButterCup said:

 

I agree wholeheartedly.

That statement depends on readers' careful engagement with the words in the document.

And almost nobody  does  .     At best, most skim.

 

This thread has taught me that -- if the applicant is keen to engage a wider readership -- it might be useful to provide a one page summary of the key aspects of the application at the front of the document.

 

I have long thought that in order to submit a formal objection, objectors should be required to submit their objections on a standardised form - one which explains clearly the difference between Material and Non-material Objections, and gives examples of each. 

It strikes me as quite difficult for the 'Average Joe' commenter to do anything other than say what's in his (her) heart about a Planning Application, and that any DA statement (even one as well drafted as the OPs) is too long.

 

A bit of support in terms of drafting a well-founded Material Objection is long overdue. Yes, some LPAs do have such guidance on their website. But thats not enough I think.

 

 

"most skim" they all skim. My local Parish council consists of all the old farts who live in the big houses, but have been around the area for ever. At the public meetings it it obvious that most of them have failed to even look at the plans, let alone read a long D and a statement. When the plans are projected onto the screen they are usually met with "Oh , i dont like that". They then make stupid comments which are not material considerations, and object. The result is that even if the Planning Officer decides to support the application, it has to go before the council planning comm. What a waste of time and money. If the old farts on the PC dont even know what a material objection is what hope do jo public have..... Now lets go back to planning officers. Find me a few who have been sacked for being utter twats. Lets face it, job with the council means a job for life. Even if you are rubbish. My daughter was asked, as a management consultant, to look at a council dept. After three months she reported that the dept which had over 30 members of staff could be run by 3 to 5 people max. Most people liked to "work from home" but actually achieved very little, and that the department managers had no management skills, or offered little direction to staff. That was a few years ago. I bet by now the dept has about 50 people. I have no doubt that there will be some fantastic planning officers, but without doubt, there are also a load of crap one's. The whole planning system needs a re-vamp. Less than 10% of Great Britian has been concreted over. We have massive housing needs. Huge housing prices, and lots and lots of Nimby's. If the other 90% was used for food production that would be something. However, most of it sits there doing nothing.

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