Planning ahead to get your consents – the importance of timings

If there is one thing I could stress to anyone considering, or needing, planning consent it would be to start as early as you can.  It will take longer than you think.  Many of my enquiries come to me with intentions of literally starting whatever it is they want consent for several weeks later.  They may even have tradesmen booked or materials ordered.  That first conversation is a balancing act.  I am a huge believer in managing expectations but sometimes it is a balance between being positive that it can be done, but realistic as to timings.  If you come to me exactly eight weeks before you want to build something, I’ll be blunt, it is unlikely you’ll be starting with a consent.

If you are planning a project, big or small, within the next twelve months (or even beyond this) I would strongly advise people to start pursuing consents early.  Why?  Because this gives you plenty of chance to do a proper submission, get it through planning and discharge any conditions required in advance of your start.  It doesn’t make sense to start the planning process immediately before you are wanting to get started.

So what should you consider in terms of timings?  The first is the basic fact that most applications are subject to eight, or thirteen, week determination periods.  Does this mean you will get a decision at eight weeks?  No.  Not at all.  In the current climate it is common for Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) to request an extension of time.  In some extreme cases some LPAs are so far behind that they are not even acknowledging or validating applications for nine weeks after submission.  In this extreme case, by the time it is validated (and backdated to the date received), you will automatically run over due to the requirement for a twenty-one day consultation period.  Add in, if you have objections, that you may end up going through a planning committee which has set (generally monthly) dates.  In terms of timings with the LPA alone it is easy to see how immediately things could take longer than you think.

Notwithstanding the actual determination period, there is the preparation of the application itself.  Even basic applications will need scale plans.  These are often done by an architect and/or CAD technician who needs to time to prepare the plans and finalise them with the client before they come to me for submission.  Add in other requirements (site dependent) including potential tree surveys, noise assessments, flood risk assessments and ecological surveys you are then requiring multiple professionals to schedule in, complete and provide the required information prior to submission.

In terms of ecological surveys, if you are submitting in the winter and there is a requirement for bat survey then it is likely the LPA, even if you submit, will not validate the application until receipt of the bat survey.  This can create significant delay with bat survey season not starting until the following May and, with 2- 3 survey visits, you may not get your report until June/July (and indeed by Christmas and New Year I am booking bat survey work for May onwards for projects).

When you do get your consent there will normally be conditions.  Whilst there have been general attempts to reduce pre-commencement conditions over the last couple of years, some conditions still need information to be submitted and approved to complete the consent.  Don’t overlook your planning conditions – they are just as important as the rest of the consent (I did an article on this on 30th April 2021 which is still on the website for reference).

The above is a very brief overview of the sort of matters to take into account in terms of considering the timings for potential applications.  It demonstrates, very simply, how planning (literally) in advance can save you time, money and stress when it comes to being ready to start a project when you are ready and not still be waiting for planning.  Getting your planning in advance means you can book tradesmen and contractors ready which, in a world where construction is busier than ever, is a distinct advantage too.

The vast majority (there are some exceptions) of planning approvals only require you to commence within three years so, why not get your consent ready now and be in a position to start when you are ready, for example, next year?

So – if you are thinking of a project for 2022 and beyond… get in touch in advance so we can see what you need to factor in to give yourself plenty of time to get consent!