Chances of securing planning permission? A comment on planning and risk

Planning should be easy. If your development complies with the Local Plan, and other “material considerations” are in your favour, then planning permission should be granted.

So grab your council’s Local Plan. Read it through, check the proposals map, and if your proposal is in accordance with the various policies then securing planning permission should be low risk.

If only it were so simple… there are a few hurdles along the way.

Subjectivity and “planning judgement”

Design policies are understandably open ended and should not be too prescriptive, but it does raise the question of what is “good design”? Much of this will come down to a good architect and a pragmatic case officer to thrash out the detail. Understanding and responding to local context is also vital. In the end it all comes does to “planning judgement” and this is difficult to de-risk completely. The trick is to preempt any difficult questions and ensure all bases are covered and evidenced.

The planning balance

It is very rare for a development proposal to comply with every single local plan policy and goal. Your proposal may have significant economic and social benefits, but does have an impact on the countryside. On the whole such a scheme should not be refused out of hand, and instead a planning balance should be made. However, this again comes down to the discretion of the decision maker and their planning judgement. We always try to provide quantitative evidence rather than qualitative to help focus the mind of the decision maker.


Many policies can be interpreted in different ways. Policy is not law and is generally open to reasonable interpretation. Keeping a close eye on how policies have been interpreted in the past, especially by appeal inspectors, is critical.

Local politics and neighbour objections

Whilst planning is not a popularity contest, if you receive many objections then local politics may come into play. Whilst councillors are still governed by the Town and Country Planning Act there is no doubt that occasionally local politics can influence decision making. Managing the message and engagement with the community at an early stage can be important.

The Local Plan cycle and 5 year housing supplies

Whilst the Local Plan will always be the starting point of planning decision making, at times less weight may be given to it. This can happen if the plan is out of date, or the council are struggling to deliver housing and failing to meet their 5 year housing supply targets. It is difficult to accurately predict when Local Plans may carry less weight. Appeal decisions, Local Plan evidence, Ministerial Statements and National Planning Policy Guidance are changing all the time and can have a bearing on the decision making framework. Keeping on top of such announcements is vital.


At Plainview we handle 100s of applications a year. Regardless of scale the premise remains the same – is the proposal in accordance with the local plan, and if not what material considerations can we advance to give the proposal the best chance of securing planning permission. Trying to cover off all the potential risks with robust evidence is critical, as is managing the message and keeping a close eye on precedents and emerging policy / evidence bases.

If you want to discuss your proposal and how we can help, please email Catherine Hoyte (