You will probably be not too amazed to hear that nearly every prospective client I meet has a general fear about planning. Its not unfounded given nearly all good stories about home renovations start with, planning was a nightmare. So here's some need to know pointers about the UK Planning system.
1. Small householders schemes are not likely to be refused if the applicant can prove it adheres to relevant policy. Schemes that involves over-enlargement, over looking, harm to the public realm and loss of parking provisions or amenity space will most likely be rejected. For the obvious reasons. Always speak with your architect to make sure that you are aware of any potential conflicts with policy and work a way around them before you submit.
2. Some planning decisions are political. There is little you or I can do about the sway of the constituents when it comes to election time. This does tend to apply more to larger developments but I have had one or two cases where political influence has been apparent on smaller ones. There isn't much you can do to avoid a political tussle but keeping an eye on local developments and politics will give you a better understanding of what's going on that could potentially influence your project.
3. 50 non planning relevant objections will not get a scheme refused. It might get it brought to committee but its still not grounds for refusal. So if something is happening in your street and you are unhappy about, asking all the neighbours to refuse because you don't like the guy doing the work will not be accepted as a valid reason. Objections have to be legitimate and relate to planning policy if you want to get them acknowledged against a scheme. The same applies for letters of support.
4. It is 8 weeks for a Householder and 12 weeks for a Full Plans Submission for an application to be determined. It is highly unlikely you will get your permission before the deadline. It is more than likely that if there are issues to work out that it will take another 2-3 weeks on top. Its so important to give your project extra time around the period of planning deliberation. If you want to start building the beginning of July, do not submit your application at the beginning of May, submit it in March at the latest.
5. As much as it frustrates me and my clients, planning decisions will always have an element of subjection. Design is a personal thing and if the planning officer is not happy with the design then it's going to harder to be granted permission. The options are to force it to committee but if it comes with a recommendation for refusal from the officer then it will most likely be held up. It would mean you get a second opinion though. Or appeal where the Planning Inspectorate decides the fate of your project.
6. It's worth going in with slightly more and compromising, than less. Planning involves a bit of bargaining and having something to negotiate with is a useful tool to have. Its always a good idea to sit down with your architect and look at some compromising solutions in advance of submission to make sure that you have all the options in front of you.
7. Let your agent do the work. Although the project is personal to you, planning does not work with emotions. I have found clients that try to bully officers, or shout at them doesn't really achieve much other than make them more likely to find reasons to refuse the application. Your agent will know how to handle the officers and their concerns to be best of both worlds.
There are so much to this complicated system than meets the eye but all I can suggest is when you are looking for an architect, find one that has worked in your area, on projects similar to yours and has spent a good deal of time working with planning officers. If you have found the best architect in the world but they live in a different county then ask them to recommend a good planning consultant who has experience with the council. Its worth investing that little bit more into the project at this stage to get the best result in the end.