And how not to let the planning process turn you into an emotional wreck...

19 December 2017 Tom Allen, Self Build Consultant
Many aspects of the self-build process can seem daunting and confusing: How do I find and buy land? Who do I talk to about borrowing money? What is the right way for me to get my new home designed and built? Will I get planning permission? The reality is that they’re not if you break each of them down into manageable chunks and address them at the correct stage of the process.

Securing planning permission cannot be isolated from other parts of the build as it runs as a thread through the process from before the land is purchased until at least all of the planning conditions have been discharged.
To avoid wasting time and money, the ability to secure planning permission is something that needs to be considered in some detail via an appraisal before any commitment to purchase a plot of land is entered into.

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Potton’s Self Build Academy provides support to self-builders at an early stage of the journey and two of the core seminars (‘How to Find & Appraise a Plot’ and ‘Design Process Explained’) consider the planning process and help self-builders understand what can and cannot be achieved with the plots of land that they have found.

To avoid wasting time and money, the ability to secure planning permission is something that needs to be considered in some detail via an appraisal before any commitment to purchase a plot of land is entered into.

There is no point in buying fields or paddocks in open countryside where permission will not be granted and there is no point in us designing homes for locations where an application will not be successful.

Potton provides a free appraisal facility for those planning to use our Design & Planning service and before we take an instruction from any customer we want to be confident that both we and our customers understand the risks in the process and the likelihood of securing permission for the type of design that the customer wants.

Understanding Policy

Overgrown plot of land
Each Planning Authority has its own set of policy documents that have been developed following guidance given in the National Planning Policy Framework and to reflect local circumstances.

Policies follow a consistent structure and are published on Planning Authority websites; though there is a bit of a knack to finding and navigating them. Planning is fundamentally a process driven by policy.

If the scheme you propose to bring forward follows the policies then permission is likely to be forthcoming; if it doesn’t then it won’t and this should not be a surprise.

There are grey areas and sometimes it is worthwhile making a request to the authority for pre-application advice, not every authority offer this facility and therefore, our appraisals consider the applicable policies and how they might be addressed bearing in mind the requirements of the authority and the customer.

Sometimes, even if permission might in theory be granted on the site (ie. it is a viable building plot), if the customer is not prepared to compromise on style, scale and positioning then the scheme won’t address the policy requirements and permission won’t be granted.

This can be where planning turns from a policy driven process into an emotionally driven one.

Policy is there to guide, support and protect, not to be continuously fought against so work with it, use it to your advantage where possible and don’t fight against it - because it won’t help your blood pressure and your chances of winning are slim! Every site is unique and therefore so is every appraisal.

Amongst other things, our appraisals always consider:

  • the sustainability of the plot location
  • the risk of flooding
  • whether it’s in a conservation area or area of outstanding natural beauty

We will also consider the style, scale and positioning of surrounding properties and what type of design the customer proposes. For replacement dwellings we will establish what the policy requirements allow in terms of increase in scale; policies vary in this regard so what might be achievable with one local authority may not be acceptable elsewhere.
Ultimately, we are trying to answer 3 fairly simple questions

  1. Will we get planning permission?
  2. What will we get planning permission for?
  3. Are there any special steps we will need to take to gain the permission?

If we get the initial appraisal right and the customer agrees with the approach set out, we set off with a clear plan and our eyes wide open to the risks and pitfalls proceeding as follows:

  • Undertake a topographical survey to determine site levels, position and levels of existing and adjacent properties
  • Commission site surveys as required (Flood risk assessment, arboriculture surveys, ecological survey, contaminated land, archaeological etc.)
  • Design your new home so that it suits you, your family, the planners, the site and its surroundings
  • Prepare the necessary documents (Design & Access Statement, Heritage Statements etc.)
  • Submit the application and wait, keeping in touch with the planning authority responding quickly to requests for further information
  • Negotiate professionally when requests for design changes are received
  • Wait for a positive decision
And relax…

How to Self Build Guides

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