A couple of weeks had passed since my wife and I submitted our application for planning permission for our extension and I’d been anticipating the appearance of statutory yellow planning notices pinned to the gateposts, inviting neighbours to submit objections within a three-week timeframe.
Then, one afternoon I spotted a mysterious figure at the front gate. It turned out to be a case officer from the district council planning office. The case officer’s site visit is a pivotal stage in the process of deciding whether to recommend planning approval or refusal. So it’s a valuable opportunity for applicants to ‘flesh out’ the drawings and deal positively with any queries.
Planning for Planning Success
Although our proposed extension is relatively large (at around 130m² gross external floor area, it’s about the size of a terraced house), the design carefully sidesteps two of the big issues that torpedo so many proposals — overlooking and overshadowing.
Furthermore, viewed from the front, the extension is politely set back from the existing house, a design detail which, in my experience, planners generally appreciate.
There’s nothing particularly radical about the architecture, and the drawings are liberally sprinkled with the magic words ‘to match existing’. The proposed extension complements the existing architecture, basically adding a new ‘wing’ that’s designed to look as if it was built at the same time as the original house.
So despite its substantial size and bulk, I felt reasonably confident that the application wouldn’t be too problematic.
Taking on Board the Planning Officer’s Comments
The case officer duly raised a number of questions, such as whether we intended to utilise the existing driveway. (Any new access would require consultation with the Highways department as well as our local parish council). The issue of parking provision also arose. Thanks to the house being set back on quite a large corner plot, sacrificing a few square metres of garden to enlarge the existing parking area shouldn’t be a problem.
As a rule, planners like to have a big say in the type of materials you use, although it’s arguable whether this is actually within their remit for run-of-the-mill applications.
Our proposed extension is literally within spitting distance of a Conservation Area. So, I thought it worth stressing on the planning application that the design incorporates relatively expensive clay tiles in keeping with the original house, with contrasting natural slate on the single-storey roof. This made it very similar in appearance to an extension approved only last year located inside the adjoining Conservation Area.
By the end of her visit the case officer seemed generally satisfied with the proposal and said she envisaged the decision being made comfortably within the proscribed eight-week deadline (from initial acceptance of the application).
But if experience teaches you anything about planning applications it’s that ‘it ain’t over until it’s over’.
Proposed Plans for the Front Elevation
The ‘before’ (top) and ‘after’ (above) plans for the front elevation show the new extension slightly stepped back from the main elevation. This is a feature planners tend to favour (it shows a property’s evolution in time)
Proposed Plans for the Rear Elevation
The ‘before’ (top) and ‘after’ (above) plans for the rear elevation reveal the new ‘wing’ to be added. A set of bi-fold doors between the two wings, and the French doors mean the house will be light and bright
Applying for Planning Permission
Following the site visit I felt reassured that the application would progress smoothly. So, I made my applications via the Planning Portal website. Applications are no longer submitted directly to the local council.
Some ‘householder extensions’ can now be fast-tracked with a Local Development Orders (LDO) application. This applies where designs can meet a number of basic criteria, most of which appear strikingly similar to Permitted Development rules (where planning permission is not required).
Happily, our proposed extension ticked all the right boxes — not being a listed building, or located in a Conservation Area. But there was one awkward question which provoked a certain amount of head scratching: ‘Does the property have a side elevation facing a highway?’ Well, yes and no. There’s an unmade bridleway meandering alongside the garden that’s used mainly by farm vehicles. Unfortunately, the legal definition of the word ‘highway’ embraces all manner of muddy tracks, so we reluctantly resorted to making a full application.
After much box-ticking and uploading of plans and drawings, the completed application form was submitted along with a fee of £172.
The Planning Portal is one of those websites that leaves you unsure as to whether payment has actually been processed, although they subsequently send you a reassuring email confirming that your application has been received and forwarded to the relevant planning authority.
The following week I took the precaution of phoning the local planning department just to check that all was well — which it was, other than the fact that they were still awaiting the payment.