Top 10 things to bear in mind when applying for planning permission

“Applying for planning permission can be a daunting experience, but it needn’t be that way if some thought is put into potential pitfalls that can be avoided,” says Michael Holmes, spokesperson for The Southern Homebuilding & Renovating Show which will be at Surrey’s Sandown Park on Saturday and Sunday, June 29 and 30.

He has drawn up a checlist of the top ten things to bear in mind to ensure applying for planning permission is a smooth process:

1. Approach the neighbours before submitting your application so notice from the local authority does not come as a surprise.

Try and consult them early on and discuss your ideas and try to get them onside. It will help if they do not object. Take on board their view as far as is reasonable.

2. Remember, planning is politics, so you need to campaign for your cause. Approach the parish council with your plans early on, at around the time you are ready to apply and try and get their support for the scheme. Take on board their views if possible and reasonable, and be prepared to show some compromise.

3. Take pre-application advice from the planning department early on to avoid aborted design fees. Take on board local planning policy, but look for precedents that may support your application, but bear in mind that planning policy is guidance only, and rules can be stretched and manipulated.

4. Applications for listed building consent should always involve professional planning advice, and may need advice from an historic building consultant. Clearly, identifying all repairs (standard rate VAT) and all alterations (zero rate VAT) can help reduce costs by minimising VAT.

5. It can pay to apply for a little more than you really want or expect to build so that you have something to sacrifice should you need to compromise.

6. Don’t make any contentious applications around the time of local or national elections. No one wants to stick their neck out to support a scheme that will be unpopular with the local community and potentially lose their political support - and all development is unpopular with someone!

7. If your scheme is recommended by the planning officers for refusal, withdrawing the application and making some amendments can be a better tactic than allowing it to be refused and then trying to appeal. Don’t waste time and money fighting a hopeless cause.

8. Take a tactical approach. If one or two aspects of the design are contentious, remove them, get approval for the main scheme, and then re-apply for the more controversial aspects later – there is no fee for reapplying the first time. You could also apply for minor amendments to the scheme by writing to the local authority.

9. Consider combining what you can achieve using Permitted Development Rights ( to extend and alter your home with what can be achieved through planning permission. The sum can be greater than the two halves.

10. If the application is contentious, get the advice of a professional planning consultant. Do not assume your architectural designer is also a planning expert, subtle differences in approach or wording can make all of the difference, and secure success rather than refusal, and unlock the true value of your property.

Visitors can get expert advice from Michael Holmes at the show.

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