Strategic planning approach secures multiple retrospective approvals, paving the way for future development

key strategy considerations for regularising existing built form

Picture the scene; you purchase your new home, decide to seek planning permission for further development on site, only to discover that relevant planning permissions aren’t in place for the existing buildings and uses. It is not an unusual situation, but it can unearth multiple planning issues which need to be regularised.

A recent project provides a good example of this scenario and the types of potential planning considerations and strategies which can be explored.

Regularising the planning position, which route is best?

Our client owned a large property and associated land holding in West Sussex. Their overarching project aim was to provide an annexe for a relative, convert and extend current outbuildings and erect new. However, much of the existing built form and uses had not been lawfully established. This needed to be regularised before planning permission for new structures and uses could be sought.

We undertook a detailed planning appraisal, considering both the long term aims of development, and the more immediate requirements to regularise the planning position. Weighing up the benefits and pitfalls of a piecemeal vs a comprehensive approach was key to establishing a robust planning strategy for moving the project forwards.

In regard to these approaches, the former takes a stepped approach to secure the optimum consents incrementally, rather than a larger holistic application. The latter may seem the more cost-effective option but can result in overwhelming the council or requiring the scheme to be cut back, resulting in comparable time and costs to that of submitting a series of smaller applications.

Certificates of lawfulness and retrospective planning applications

In this case, a stepped approach was the most effective strategy. Firstly, we established whether retrospective planning permission or a certificate of lawfulness was required for each element of existing development on site. This is dictated by the length of time a structure or use has been in place and/or whether there is precise and unambiguous evidence available. Following this analysis, we:

  • successfully submitted 2x certificate of lawfulness applications to secure both the presence and the use of one outbuilding as an annexe;
  • given that the planning position appeared ambiguous, we secured approval for a retrospective planning application for the swimming pool, pool house and associated plant room;
  • then we secured approval for a planning application to extend the proposed annexe building to provide greater living space for the occupant.

The project outcome and how we can help

As the site has now been regularised in terms of its built form and associated uses, this not only gives the property owner security for potential future sale, but also allows any further development options to be explored without the risk of exposing unregulated development on site.

We add value to complex applications like these through our nuanced understanding of the planning system. In each case we identify the best planning strategy to take, use our knowledge of what constitutes precise and unambiguous evidence to inform our approach and present rigorously researched and substantiated applications to secure the necessary permissions.

If you require assistance with regularising existing built form or uses, feel free to contact our team via or call us on 01242 501003 to see how we can best assist you, providing the site address and a brief overview of your project.  You can also submit your site via our Landmark Page. We value your privacy and any information which you provide will not be shared outside of our company and will only be used in relation to your enquiry.