Services to suit every planning situation

As planning law specialists, our expertise and experience allows us to secure planning permission and win planning appeals that would otherwise end in disappointment and unnecessary costs.

Is the Planning Permission you want obtainable?

Before a planning application or planning appeal is even contemplated, it is pertinent to consider whether there is a reasonable prospect of winning the permission required. Every year, people with little understanding of how the planning system really works will waste an awful lot of money on planning applications which stand no chance of being approved from the start, and planning appeals that can result in thousands of pound in costs against them when they lose.

Whether a planning application is decided by a Planning Committee or by a Planning Officer under delegated powers, a planning authority cannot simply issue any decision it chooses. Both the decision and the way it is made are controlled by law and by national planning policy guidance issued by the Secretary of State on behalf of the Government.

The planning system operates on the basis that permission sought should always be GRANTED – unless the proposal would “cause demonstrable harm to issues of acknowledged importance”. Whether or not Planning Permission can be obtained – and, if so, for what – depends on two factors:

  1. whether the permission sought can be demonstrated to be within the policies of the development plan, which is intended to provide a basis for RATIONAL and CONSISTENT decisions on all application and appeals.
  2. “other material considerations.” These are wide and varied, but include over 200 national planning policies.

Understanding the role of the Planning Officer

Many people think that the Planning Officer for their area will provide free advice about whether planning permission can be granted for development of land or buildings; and they accept what he says without question.

Ignoring the fact that almost all planning authorities now charge a very significant fee for “pre-application advice”, this totally misunderstands the functions of the Planning Officers and their objectives. Planning Officers are NOT there to help applicants to obtain valuable planning permission you want. (Indeed most amateur applicants for planning permission soon discover that the Planning Officer’s more usual role is obstructing their attempt to get it.)

Such total misunderstanding of the Planning Officer’s role and objectives is potentially very costly, because it can result in the planning permission not being pursued and obtained when, presented in the right way and regardless of what the Planning Officer says , it might be very difficult for him to refuse a formal application. Or sometimes it results in obtaining a planning permission of much lower value than another which could have been obtained.

The Planners are NOT ON YOUR SIDE and have no motive whatever to help you to obtain planning permission, much less to obtain the best permission available. Their function is not actually to help YOU at all; they are paid to pursue the planning authority’s policies and interests. So their objectives when dealing with your planning application will usually be very, very different to yours.

To secure the planning permission with the maximum benefit and the highest capital gain for your land or buildings requires an expertise in Planning Law and Practice which is a MATCH for the expertise of the Planners – an expertise which can take on the Planners “on their home ground”, if necessary by lodging an appeal over their heads to the Planning Inspectorate. The Government’s official watchdog confirmed our expertise in that respect over twenty years ago.

A badly prepared planning application which results in a REFUSAL can make it difficult to submit a successful planning application or appeal later. And a badly drafted planning Appeal which results in a lost appeal will be even more damaging to future development prospects, and may result in an award of the council’s costs if a sound case has not been presented.

INDEPENDENT Pre-Application Advice and Development Potential Assessment

If you would like to KNOW whether land or buildings you own have development potential, a Development Potential Assessment will disclose WHETHER and WHY planning permission is likely to be obtainable, and for what kind of development, before you start spending money pursuing it.

We will examine your proposal in the light of the relevant national and local planning policies, together with all other material considerations which will influence whether a planning application is likely to succeed, and submit a comprehensive report of our findings. Our Development Potential Assessment – which can be either SPECIFIC in relation to a particular development or EXPLORATORY to examine all possible kinds of profitable development – will assess your prospects of obtaining planning permission in the light of the same policies that the planning authority must use to decide your planning application, and those that the Secretary of State’s Planning Inspector will also use to decide any Planning Appeal against refusal.

Planning Applications

Anyone of average intelligence is capable of submitting a planning application. Unfortunately, that results in literally thousands of refused planning applications every year! Winning planning permission involves far more than filling in a form and supplying a few plans. The way an application is presented, and what information is included, or excluded, can determine the success or failure of the application and even the success or failure of any subsequent planning appeal. Successful planning applications demand a thorough knowledge of Planning Law.

If you decide to proceed with an application for planning permission, we will advise what form the application should take and what should be included (and excluded!) to maximise the possibility of a successful outcome. We will then submit the application and negotiate with the planning and other authorities to secure the best possible result. In all cases, we will recommend the most cost-efficient form of planning application consistent with achieving the desired result. If they are gratuitously obstructive and awkward, we will pursue the approval “over their head”.

In addition to planning applications for development or redevelopment of land and buildings, we can of course undertake all other forms of application – e.g. Changes of Use, Listed Building Consent, Certificates of Lawfulness of Use or Development, etc.

Planning Decision Reviews

Like all human beings, Planning Officers and Planning Committees sometimes issue wrong decisions.

Our Decision Review will disclose whether the authority’s decision should be challenged by appeal, how, and on what grounds.

Often a refusal of planning permission will rest on a simple difference of perception or on a subjective opinion which can be defeated by rational argument, by the correct application of development plan policies, or by the weight attributed to conflicting national and development plan policies which address the proposal.

All unreasonable refusals of planning permission should be challenged immediately. Otherwise, the decision is tacitly accepted as correct and will weigh against the possibility of securing planning permission for the same land in the future.

The cost of a Planning Decision Review will depend on several factors, including the number, and nature, of reasons for refusal and the number of development plans involved. Simply send us a copy of the application and the planning authority’s refusal notice, we will be happy to provide a firm cost quotation.

Planning Appeals

Appeals against refusal of planning permission, against unacceptable planning conditions, or against the many kinds of Planning Enforcement notices issued by local planning authorities, are the ultimate test of planning consultancy skill.

When a Planning Appeal is lodged, the appellant has just one opportunity to state his Grounds of Appeal and convince the Planning Inspector. They must be valid planning grounds and must demonstrate that the decision is wrong and should be reversed. Each and every valid reason for contesting the planning authority’s decision must be stated to ensure the maximum opportunity for success. Not only that but it must be stated in the right way – the way that will tend to influence the Planning Inspector appointed by the Secretary of State to decide the planning appeal in your favour.

Be assured that nobody who is unfamiliar with Planning Law – or inexperienced in drafting Grounds of Appeal – is likely to know what the correct and most effective grounds for appeal are in a particular case, much less how to present them to maximum effect.

With so much at stake, it simply does not pay to skimp. If an Appeal is not dealt with properly, you might as well not bother at all, since success is extremely unlikely in such circumstances. Additionally, an unsuccessful planning appeal will merely add to the difficulty of securing a worthwhile planning permission in the future.

Hiring a planning consultancy is not like buying a car or a specific computer or printer, where the same goods will be delivered and the only different factor is the price.

Success at planning appeal is very much dependent on the qualifications and experience of the consultant. That can be assessed through its track record.

Planning permission is always extremely valuable and it therefore does not pay to try to win a planning appeal “on the cheap”. Losing an appeal cheaply has nothing going for it!

In general, the more time and effort and the greater the expertise that goes into an appeal, the better the prospects of success.

General Planning Advice

General Planning advice (including the cost of “initial consultation” – i.e. preliminary general advice for the proposal under consideration), is charged at our normal consultancy rates.

We are legally responsible for the advice that we issue. Therefore we will not issue advice “off the cuff” over the telephone, or by email. Before issuing any planning advice, we will require a plan showing the exact location of the land and full details of what you want permission to do on it.

Want to work with us part-time in your area?

We have limited opportunities for agents to promote our services in their local area and receive 10% of the fees resulting from their introductions. Your function will be simply to promote our services in your area, following our detailed guidance. We do all of the professional planning work.

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