We have 6 acres and verbal permission to replace our static caravan with a dwelling. We have chosen a simple cottage design which faces front and back and not overlooking anyone. Our road has about 12 houses and bungalows all completely different sizes and styles. None of our neighbour’s object and we are supported by our parish council. The planning officer says she wants it to be less noticeable and to lower the ridge height and not have any second floor windows facing the road. This however makes it difficult to build anything but an ugly bungalow with very little usable space on the second floor. We have fantastic views front and back which we would like to see. Why do they insist on bungalows and what’s wrong with a one and half storey cottage. Should we just leave the plans as they are and potentially go to appeal or should we be grateful and turn our preference into another ugly bungalow in the countryside?

  • Adam


    You are currently swimming through the murky waters of the planning system. As you are discovering it can be a very fickle beast at times.

    The issue here is something many would consider to be their biggest gripe with the planning system;that it is subjective. There are rarely crystal clear guidelines that can point you in the right direction and it can sometimes be the personal views of the planning officer handling your case that dictate how your application goes. That said all is not lost!

    In this situation I would endeavour to say stick to your guns. There are numerous reasons for my view here. Firstly there is no strict local vernacular that you must adhere to in terms of building style. You will find it difficult to build a two storey house on a street consisting of only bungalows but the fact that you are not limited to a particular type of bungalow means you can explore all sorts of designs to achieve what you want. Good design can overcome most issues if you have a good home designer, architect or experienced builder.
    Secondly you have the backing of the neighbours and parish council. Whilst this backing does not formally count for much on paper it can be enough to dispel any qualms the planning committee might have about some issues such as forward facing windows. Be sure that any support you have is documented and submitted as part of your application.

    Right now you have two paths to choose from; Firstly, forge ahead and make your application. Your case officer can make her recommendations to the planning committee on your submission but she does not have he final say. You could wing it and see what happens. Frustratingly though if your application is not passed there is often little feedback as to why. Going to appeal could then get you what you want but it is a lengthy process and one again fraught with uncertainty.

    Secondly you could seek to make appropriate changes to your design that would bring the planning department more onside with your application. Going back to my point on good design you could perhaps alter the dimensions of the bungalow to accommodate a reduced ridge height without compromising the space in the loft for your second floor. By widening the building in all directions you can change the roof design to a mansard or hipped roof that will leave you with plenty of internal space and minimise the overall ridge height. These considerations should be put to your architect, structural engineer or even your case officer at the planning department! You could show that you are trying to work toward their wishes but they may have to make a concession (on an enlarged footprint for example) to allow for the new roof design that appeases them.

    You should also remember that this process is not simply about them dictating to you what you can have. Yes, the planners have an important role to play in ensuring development is well managed, fair* and adds to rather than detracts* from the surrounding environment but you can also exert an influence. And you should….
    ( * denotes that this is a perfectionist view of things. Often there are mixed views on the issue of development)

    Key to this whole issue is communication with your case officer. She has already expressed her views on your plans in a negative way. You could ask for clarification on what it is exactly she sees in your proposal that she feels is unacceptable. If you discover what it is that is being frowned upon you could consider some alternatives that may allow you to keep elements of what you want but also sate the planning beast. If you are able to go to them and show that you have considered the case for compromise you may well find that she starts to pull in the same direction. You might not get everything you want but you might get more than you anticipated. Having a go can’t hurt.

    Another more extreme tactic would be to submit multiple design proposals and see which of them get passed and which do not. Many people do not realise you can submit as many proposals as you like and they will each be considered on a case by case basis. Big developers do this a lot for their sites. I know it is adding extra cost in submissions and altered drawings but it is simply a possibility I wanted to highlight.

    When and all is said and done you can submit your application. It may seem like a mammoth undertaking now but with determination you will get through it. Keep an open mind and one eye on the end game: your own self built home and you’ll find the motivation keeps on coming.

    Fingers crossed. Good luck!

  • Amanda Adams

    Thank you so much for your excellent reply! To me the whole process is so subjective and as you say a fickle beast. We are putting the plans through ourselves and probably should have found a planning consultant. I will let you know what we decide. Many thanks again.

  • Adam


    Unless your application is of contentions design, located in an area of steep planning restrictions or in the green belt I would advise you be wary of hiring a planning consultant. They can bring serious expertise to the table when there is a complex application to consider but this usually comes at a serious cost. Sometimes prohibitive and as with everything in planning there is no guarantee.

    Given your situation I think you will be just fine proceeding on your own. You can always seek someone out for advice at a later date should you need it.

    Good quality plans together with a well written design and access statement will get you a long way in planning. It will really help to include as much detail as you can with your application. Remember, your visions are in your head and the planners cant see in there! Get your intentions down on paper (for example a detailed planting plan for the site, photo’s or brochures from the suppliers for your choice of driveway, roof, facing brick/stone etc) All this can help the committee decide upon your application. A well considered overall plan for the site can be much more carefully judged upon than a set of drawings for a house that has little context.

    Good luck.

  • Amanda Adams

    Thank you Adam for you input. We have actually already put our plans in and the parish council and neighbours were all happy. We even had a previous application on the same site with a bigger and taller house which has already been passed but only on the basis that we took the mobile down as well as our old house which we have now sold. Our planning officer remarked she didn’t know how we got that application through and she herself was not happy with the size and height of our new design not the style itself. She wants it scaled back even though we have an 8 foot high hedge in front. She said if we alter the design she will pass it. We are thinking now that we will go along with her and reduce the whole thing down and get the permission with a view to putting in amendments later. Its just so infuriating that its all down to the opinion of the one or two planners.

  • Jeremy Murfitt

    You mention in your last post that that you had a previous house approved. I suggest you get hold of the Committee Report (assuming it went to Committee) and review the Case Officers comments. It seems very odd that this was approved and yet she says she isn’t happy with it. Is this permission still valid? Also ascertain what exactly the conditions say about the removal of the mobile and the old house. If the permission is still valid you could submit a Section 73 application to vary the conditions relating to the removal of the mobile and old house.

    One final idea take a good look at the general street scene. Compare the nearby houses and take a look at the ridge heights. Compare these with your plans. If they demonstrate the mass and scale of your proposal is similar to other houses it will help your argument.

    It does sound like your application is generating similar frustrations to those experienced by David Snell. Keep persevering.

  • Amanda Adams

    Thanks for your comments Jeremy, we have been away for a week and only just seen them. As we sold the original house we had the previous planning on I’m pretty sure the application is no longer valid. However to tie things up before we went away we shoved in a third plan with a ridge height of 6m x 20m x 7m giving us 2 + rooms in the roof and she is happy with it! It is nothing like we originally wanted but are happy with it for now and feel we could probably apply later for amendments. Thank you everyone for your help!

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