Despite Government claims post the publication of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF both 2012 and 2018) that the planning system has been ‘simplified,’ the reality is somewhat different.
There are myriad pieces of primary legislation, ministerial statements, national policy and guidance, local policy and guidance, and the ever-present matter of 5-year housing land supply or lack of, which can have a bearing on the status of plan policy.
Add into that mix planning considerations such as; permitted development rights (heavily restricted and far more complex than the name might suggest), prior approval, permission in principle, right of appeal and enforcement proceedings – it is hardly surprising that embarking on a development project of any scale can leave you confused as to where to start and what to consider.
The planning system – clear as mud?
The name of our practice ‘Plainview’, stems from our appreciation that for most people, the planning system is complex and often difficult to navigate. Our goal has always been to explain to our clients, in plain English, clearly and succinctly, how the planning system works and the process for navigating the system. A plain view for moving forward.
This is made rather challenging by the current system. The difficulty is that there are so many variables in planning and the decision to be taken is rarely as simple as ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Planning decisions are made on balance; what has gone before has a bearing, what local and national policy says has a bearing, what is going on nearby has a bearing, what is going on locally and nationally has a bearing, each individual site context has a bearing, and client aspirations have a bearing.
Our goal is to understand your project goals, budget and attitude to risk and from there we can provide you with honest, informed and clear advice, tailored to you and your project. We can guide you on the various options open to you, and the risks and costs associated with each.
What does a planning consultant do?
As our clients, like all of us, become ever more conscious of every penny spent, we are often asked “…but what do you DO and what value can you add to my project?” In seeking to respond to this, I have sought to distil our role into 6 key areas:
1. KNOWLEDGE & STRATEGY: We understand the planning system as a whole and where all the various documents/policy and guidance sit in the ‘pecking order.’ Or, in planning terms, ‘how much weight’ each should be given in assessing a scheme proposal. We are also strategists – because we understand the process, legislation and wider influencing factors, we can tailor strategy accordingly, to reflect your aspirations.
2. CHALLENGE: We challenge the way in which an LPA applies planning policy. In times of budget cuts and austerity, local authorities are often under resourced and not able to keep abreast of the frequent changes arising from appeal and high court decisions, changes in guidance from the government and amendments to permitted development rights. We make it our priority to be in the know and aware of these shifts and changes, and have been proactive in our ongoing harnessing of planning technology to further enable this.
3. BALANCE: Planning decisions are all a matter of balance – balancing the harm against the benefits with reference to adopted policy. We are here to tease out the benefits of your proposal, ensure the necessary technical supporting reports and plans are provided and to present the proposal holistically to the LPA, setting out why it should be granted permission in the round. We work hard to establish contact with planning officers and build relationships, rather than taking an adversarial approach, which can often do more harm than good.
4. COMMUNICATE: From communicating with relevant stakeholders at public consultation, to communicating your project vision to the case officer, to communicating the relevant planning justifications and how the proposed development meets the necessary requirements – clarity in communication is a vital part of our role.
5. SOLUTIONS: We are all about finding solutions. A prime example is planning enforcement. We can help you navigate the often-stressful situation of planning enforcement, where you may have undertaken work without realising it needed planning permission. We can negotiate with the enforcement team on your behalf to avoid enforcement action wherever possible, or if needs be, guide you through the complex appeal process and prepare your appeal case.
6. TEAMWORK: We work effectively across project teams, engaging with architects, ecologists, arboriculturists, and more, to ensure adherence to the project vision and that the necessary planning justifications for development are made. We are flexible in our approach and can act in an advisory role alongside your architect say, or take a more central position, coordinating the entire planning application process. The value that we bring, results from the fact that planning is our specialism. We can advise much more widely on all matters that influence planning and have a much broader understanding of all the factors that feed into a successful planning application.
We certainly can’t change the system that is in place, but we can use our knowledge, experience and dynamic approach to planning, to help you to navigate your way through it. Our aim is to understand your site and your project goals, present clear and effective planning strategies, and to achieve the best planning outcome we can for you and your site.
The team at Plainview Planning have been providing expert, effective and considered planning support to developers, commercial clients and householders for over a decade. We work on a wide range of projects, all at different stages of the planning process, from new development on currently vacant sites, through to changes of use of existing buildings, to advising clients on what to do when they already have a refusal. Our team has a breadth of experience and we have worked with over 60% of all Local Planning Authorities across England. If you need planning consultant support on your project, then contact our personable team via firstname.lastname@example.org to see how we can help and to receive a no obligation fee quote for our services.