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How to get planning permission for self-build projects first time

by on October 16, 2017

You have found the site or the renovation project and are keen to get started. The last thing you need are delays with processing your planning application. Whether your plot comes complete with planning permission or you need to apply for approval, understanding the process, as well as the requirements and concerns of your local authority, will help you to achieve your aspirations and ensure your project complies with both the planning and building control requirements.

In this article, we introduce you to our Professional Portal; a central online hub for finding guidance, information and tools for managing any project. We also offer some handy tips on getting planning permission for your self-build first time, below.

Submit a valid application

Planning applications take an average of two months to process and your local planning authority will not begin to process your application until you submit all the necessary documentation and payment. Even professionals who submit applications still occasionally make errors so if you do choose to do it yourself, check and recheck your application form before submission. Make sure you include all necessary reports and forms to support the application – and that you pay the correct fee.

Provide a compliant map

When you apply for planning permission, your local authority will usually require a planning map, or maps, to support the application. One of the most common reasons for a rejected application is an invalid or incorrect planning map. Buying the correct map from a reputable source increases your chances of a successful planning application and will save you time and money.

You will need to supply a location plan which shows the area in its surrounding context and depending on the nature of your project, you might also need a site or block plan which shows the project in a wider scale and includes access routes, amenities, pylons, trees etc.

The following errors can invalidate a planning map:

  • Incorrectly marked location
  • Incorrect or missing scale label
  • Out of date information
  • A reproduction rather than original supplied
  • The map does not fit correctly on a A3 or A4 piece of paper
  • The map does not show the direction of north.

How can I ensure my site location plan is compliant?

  • Ensure markings for both the property boundary and other land owned are clear and current; (showing the land as it is today) with a red line around all the land that is required for the development and blue line drawn around any other land owned by you
  • Use an identified standard scale – 1.1250 for urban applications and 1.2500 for rural or larger applications
  • Clearly mark the direction of north
  • Make sure that the plan can be scaled to fit A3 or A4 paper
  • To demonstrate that the map does not breach copyright, clearly show the date of both plan creation and purchase
  • Show relevant roads and buildings. 

How can I ensure my block/site plan is compliant?

  • Use an identified standard scale – 1.200 for urban applications and 1.500 for rural or larger applications
  • Clearly show the proposed development in the wider environment including the site boundaries and other buildings in the area
  • Clearly show all access routes, public rights of way, buildings, trees and footpaths on land adjoining the site that will affect the development
  • Show the type and extent of any hard surfacing/hardfacing.

Understand your local authority’s requirements

Unlike building control, planning rules can differ considerably from council to council, so gaining an understanding of your local authority’s local requirements is vital. Research the local council’s policy as well as national regulations and consult your council’s planning department or a Chartered Planning Consultant, architect or other professional, who can advise on the requirements and/or process.

If you’re still in the research stage of the process, take a look at the development plan policies of your local area for insights into plots that are more and less likely to get approval. Your local authority may offer supplementary planning guidance, giving more detailed information about their expectations and the external factors you need to consider such as the structure and layout of the neighbourhood. Talking to your prospective neighbours about any concerns they have can also help.

It’s important to note that policies can change over time, so what wasn’t permitted in the past may be considered today and vice versa. Don’t forget that you can track the progress of your application with the local authority and  if you receive a request for further documentation or your application is rejected, use their  expertise and ask for advice.

Get the support you need

Visit our Professional Portal for the resources you need to support your project; these key tools can be all be found in one central area of our website.

The planning system can be confusing so getting the right support and advice is vital. The aforementioned planning consultants or architects can help with guidance and once your project has been approved, make sure you recruit the right professionals for the job. The Federation of Master Builders can provide details of accredited, audited organisations and the RTPI has a comprehensive directory of Chartered Planners in your area.

Once you have been granted planning permission, don’t forget you also need building regulations approval to make sure you build to the correct standards. Find out more about building control on the Planning Portal website.

Visit our self-build hub for guidance on Community Infrastructure Levy, financing your project, brownfield registers and much more.

please note: this post was updated on 2/11/17]

4 Comments
  1. Catherine Hall permalink

    If a client has employed a registered architect they’re unlikely to need to appoint another consultants such as a Planning consultant, unless there are specific complications with the site or its planning history. Appointing a planning consultant from the outset is more likely to just add extra un-necessary fees to the project. A properly qualified architect has the skills knowledge & experience to advise on the kind of planning matters someone with a small self build project will need, whereas a planning consultant will not be able to design the building. I suggest you alter this blog to make this clear. A registered architect is the correct first stop not a planning consultant.

  2. P. Reynolds permalink

    I agree that one must do one’s homework. I have done two self-builds, and find Planning Committees have no logic to their thinking. They have no concept of fairness or Planning Law. It makes it difficult for the new-comer to set goals. It is best to Pay for a Connected person to steer the project through committee proceedings, and is worth the expense. It would help if Central Government created a level playing field for all. I had land some years ago, and was refused planning for 6 houses. Someone else bought the land, and ten years on there are now 6 other houses on the site.

  3. A disappointing view held by Ms Hall – whether you are an Architect or not. As a (fully qualified and very experienced) Planning Consultant I work and have worked with many Architects who are more than happy to have their projects honed and guided by the specific Planning expertise that they do not or should not be expected to hold. I have known many good Architects and practices who are absolutely lost in dealing with the complexities and nuances of the Planning processes, especially as required nowadays. Indeed I have known of more than a few Architects who have been absolutely disatrous in their handling of a project that has resulted in abject failure. The academic and professional qualifications for Town Planners are as rigourous and lengthy as for Architects, so let Architects keep to their jobs and Planners to theirs, please.

  4. I am with Catherin in that I find that this article seems to be diminishing the Architect in their role and usefulness. As Peter says a qualified planner can be a very useful consultant when facing more difficult planning policy issues, but an Architect should be capable of overseeing the majority of the planning process and of course can bring their overarching knowledge of the entire construction process as well as design flair. Planning is just as much the Architects job, but that is not to say the specialists do not have their place.

    Similar to Peter’s experience, I (as an RIBA Chartered Architect , qualified Urban Designer and a practice Principal) have rescued more than a few clients who went for the low cost option at initial concept stage and paid the price with failed applications, aborted or stalled works on site, where the wrong consultant was initially employed, before we were approached to help.

    A good Architect does not know everything but should know where to find the answers.

    While we handle most planning work ourselves even I will turn to local specialist Planning Consultants for advice or assistance, and similarly we are sometimes hired by Planning Consultant’s to produce the designs for their clients.

    I think the important thing to take away from this is that a qualified professional is worth their weight in gold. Saving hundreds by choosing an unqualified ‘designer’ can cost you thousands in badly administered planning or building regulations.

Please give us your feedback but we won’t publish any comments that are not constructive or that criticise any individual, any named business or any local authority. Please note, all comments will be moderated before being published.

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