Acquiring Planning Permission in the UK

Getting planning permission can be one of the most difficult aspects of a home renovation. For cities with many historic buildings like Cambridge, regulations are often strict, complex and confusing. Here is some information on acquiring planning permission.

Cambridge houses
ARTICLE: Philip Saich

However experienced you are in building and renovations, there are two words which are more likely to send a shiver down your spine than any other: ‘planning permission’. Planning can be something of a minefield but, as experienced Cambridge builders, at Refresh Renovations we work with our clients to remove the guesswork and follow tried and trusted methods to achieve a positive outcome for all parties.
Whether it’s a new build, extension or loft conversion, you’ll often need planning permission, and it can prove to be the biggest challenge of any project. Planning rules and regulations are complex and occasionally confusing. In addition, in Cambridge – possibly more so than in many other cities in the UK – there’s a delicate balance to be struck between sympathetic development and architectural innovation as centuries-old university buildings rub shoulders with contemporary new builds.
The key aspect to a successful design and build is to have a plan. A significant number of people start out without a clear vision and projection as to what they want to achieve. In some ways that’s understandable as they don’t tend to be professionals in this area. Many homeowners have also invested huge sums in extensions which they either never use or which sadly turn out not be fit for purpose. Our Refresh Renovations design and build specialists focus on giving our clients a better home by planning the project, creating accurate drawings, agreeing on detailed budgets and managing every step of the process, all with the aim of improving our clients’ family lives and adding value to their properties.

Overall, the design will need to fit with the character of the surrounding area as planners are notoriously nervous about granting permission for developments that will stand out or, in their view, devalue the area. Rooflines, colours, windows and brick choices all influence planners’ decisions, as do the implications of your build for your immediate neighbours. In short, planners tend to view projects with minimal implications for neighbouring plots more favourably, especially as privacy is high on their agenda.
On the flip side, it’s vital not to make any assumptions about the need for planning permission for your project. The size of your project and the location of the plot or property can affect this. Developing in a conservation area, for example, carries different rules which need to be heeded. Many projects come to a shuddering halt, or incur considerable expense, when the homeowner has assumed that planning permission was not required. In most cases work needs to stop while the situation is resolved, while in some instances remedial work is required at considerable cost to correct mistakes that contravene subsequent planning stipulations. You may need to apply for retrospective planning permission, which can take months, or even face an enforcement order to remove all the work carried out and return the property to its original condition.
If you’re considering a new build, it’s also worth remembering that you can apply for planning permission to develop land that you don’t yet own. This is especially useful as it may influence your decision as to whether to proceed with the land purchase or not.
As Simon Kelliher of Cambridge builders Refresh Renovations explains, it’s imperative to follow the correct procedures on any design and build project. ‘We see our role as guiding our clients through the whole process from initial concept through to completion. In the design and planning stage we focus on ensuring that the project is properly specified and that all details are correct before submitting a planning application. When planning permission is granted, we then work with our colleagues to schedule the project and source materials, and we are hands-on throughout the build phase to ensure that we meet the timelines and stay within the budget.
‘As an indication of the value we can add to a project, we met with a client recently who was looking to convert their loft. They’d already had drawings created and had received planning permission, but when we reviewed the drawings in order to discuss the build element with them, we realised that a ceiling height of only 1.9 metres had been allowed for. The client assumed that this was a standard height, but when we demonstrated how high this actually was, they realised that it wasn’t adequate. We have since redone the drawings for re-submission to planning and the client has sadly lost around 12 weeks through not understanding their architect’s initial drawings.’
Refresh Renovations UK are Cambridge builders offering design and build services. To discuss your home improvement project, please get in touch today using the enquiry form listed alongside, or if you would like to submit a more comprehensive enquiry, you can do so on the Get In Touch page.

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