It is a truth universally acknowledged that an applicant in possession of a new planning application must be in want for a good analgesic. Anyone who has a planning application of any significance, be it for a new wing of an existing building or a full application for a major new development, knows what a headache the planning process can be.
Angry local residents, concerned Councillors, pressured planning officers – all of these and more can hamper, hinder or utterly derail your plans, costing you anything from the price of a packet of aspirin to hundreds of thousands in appeal fees.
However, there are steps you can take to help minimise risk and maximise the chances of success. Like all measures they are not totally infallible, but they could help stop you from reaching for two tablets and glass of water after dealing with your local planning authority
1. Make sure you have the right site
This might sound like a no-brainer, but have you really checked your site out? Does it have a difficult planning history? Are the local residents hostile to any development? Is a competitor submitting a massive application just around the corner? Perhaps most important of all, are you confident you would win at appeal if it comes down to it? A little early research might just save you a lot of heartache further down the road.
2. Get the right people on your team
Your project architect may be able to advise on the right consultants to address any site-specific issues you might face. Also planning consultants can plough through a myriad policy documents to ensure there are no nasty surprises officers can throw at you.
3. Engage with the community
In planning more than any other area, ignorance is definitely not bliss. Talk to your future neighbours about your plans BEFORE you submit an application. Hold an exhibition and let them know the benefits of your plans before they learn about them via hearsay. And let the council know you have done so via a Statement of Community Involvement. It wants to hear about good community consultation.
4. Talk to the politicians
Contrary to popular belief, there is nothing wrong with letting Councillors know about your new plans, so arrange a meeting with your Ward Councillors. Invite them to attend your exhibition. Listen to their concerns and keep dialogue going. Who’s your local MP? Is he or she a potential supporter? Talk to them early on and perhaps they’ll even be there for the ground-breaking or opening ceremony.
5. Don’t forget the press
You need to let the local paper know about your plans before any objectors do. Give them the facts, be positive and let them know how you’re working with, and not against, the local authority.
6. Be open and transparent
Be clear about what you’re providing. Don’t use jargon. Explain what you are doing in straightforward terms and people will be much more responsive to your proposal.
7. Listen and be flexible
It’s all very well getting out there and spreading the good news, but you really do need to listen to the views of the local public. You never know, listening to a neighbours concerns about the boundary treatments and then responding with a minor revision could change a stubborn objector into a staunch supporter. Planning committees just love to hear about developers who’ve listened to local communities and responded in kind.
8. Be proud of what you’re providing
You’re going to be delivering a fantastic product to people in the very community you’re talking about. You may well be providing lots of new job opportunities too. So don’t be afraid to let everyone know about it. After all, if you aren’t going to tell everyone, who is?
9. Keep up the dialogue
Your architects and/or planning consultants will no doubt be maintaining an ongoing dialogue with officers as your plans proceed. Don’t forget to maintain a similar dialogue with the community and with the Councillors throughout the application process. If you’re nervous about communicating with Councillors, check out your council’s code of conduct – it should be available online.
10. Deliver on your promises
Talking to the local community and politicians, and listening to their hopes and aspirations, is an excellent way to help your planning application succeed. But whatever you do, don’t forget to deliver on what you’ve promised. If you make a commitment to a local resident (perhaps to replace their boundary wall) or you promise a Councillor to support a community initiative for instance, then you absolutely must deliver. You’re going to be part of this new community and you don’t want to start off on a bad footing. Also you never know when you might be looking to extend your new development, or to open nearby – hell hath no fury like a local resident or Councillor scorned.
Finally, if you really want to ensure you’ve laid the foundations for success, give the team at PLMR a call. We’ve helped clients secure planning consent across the UK and would be delighted to discuss your plans too.