So, you have a project, and you know it needs planning permission, so now comes the time to find a planning consultant to assist you in gaining the relevant permissions so that you can start progressing your project. A large number of people have never dealt with planning permissions, or notifications, in any way, shape or form, so it naturally follows that they have limited knowledge of what to expect when first speaking to a planning consultant in terms of what you may be asked or need to tell them.
When you first come to us, as a potential planning consultant, we will ask you quite a large number of questions. Bear with us with this! The reason we ask so many questions is so that we can work out the best planning application route(s) for you in terms of approach, planning fees and timings. These can all depend on a number of factors such as whether you need any initial survey work, what plans you need, site constraints and, in some cases, which local planning authority you stand in (which will, in turn, designate any planning designations we need to consider in shaping your proposals).
Ultimately, we are here to guide you through the process as well as manage your expectation as to what is and is not realistic (albeit we appreciate that the latter is not always what people wish to hear). We will, however, always be honest as to the realistic prospect of your proposals gaining permission as we do not take on every single job and we will certainly not submit applications that are a complete non-starter in principle to protect both our reputations, but also your purse.
Before speaking to us, or any planning consultant, it is worth considering five initial key questions:
- What do you want (as well as why do you want (or need) it);
- Where do you want it to go;
- How would you access it (day to day as well as construction);
- How big will it be;
- What materials do you want to use.
The above are some of the very basic, initial, questions which we will ask you when considering potential planning options for you and responding to initial enquiries. It is surprising how many people have not thought about the above which are some of the key pieces of information which we need to ascertain how, and if, we can help and what your directions your proposals should progress.
We can, of course assist you in answering those questions by talking proposals through, but in realistic terms, you will get the most out of any consultant within initial enquiries, as well as development appraisals, if you can broadly answer those questions to the best of your ability at an early stage. These answers may, of course, change but they are a great starting point for discussions.
One of the key questions we are asked, within initial discussions, is whether you can move things or change things around once permission has been gained. Planning permissions are generally granted subject to a condition which requires proposals to be undertaken in accordance with the approved plans in order to define the development for which permission is granted. It is, therefore, a breach of planning condition (currently enforceable within a 10-year window) if you do not implement your planning permission in accordance with what has been granted.
There are, however, some routes to vary conditions or make non-material amendments if changes are not significant but, if you are moving something to a different location entirely or the changes are materially different, you may need to reapply for permission for your new proposals as appropriate. Currently, if you re-apply, within 12 months of a decision, you can get a free go subject to qualifying criteria (meaning you do not pay your planning fee to the council again) which can be a useful mechanism for amending proposals if required. Despite this, if you do find that once you come to build your proposals you do need to make amendments, please do not simply proceed without taking advice as it can sometimes be harder to regularise proposals retrospectively (and more costly if indeed they cannot gain approval).
So, if you are considering a proposal, do not forget that we offer 15-minute mini-chats which are bookable via our contact page. If you give us as much information as possible up front, we can make the most of this time with you, especially if you think about, and are able to answer, the initial five questions above!