Securing planning permission is generally about the right site in the right location but get the timing wrong and prospects can be ruined. In this post, I will explain some of the issues you may encounter and the significant impact they might have on your chances of success by way of a recent example.
Great Site – Wrong Time
A land-owning family wanted to know if a field had any prospects of being suitable for housing. The land in question had all the hallmarks of a potential development site; it related well to the settlement, there were local shops and services nearby, public transport was adequate, there were no significant environmental or physical constraints although the boundaries of the site with the countryside beyond would have benefited from further planting.
Whilst all the indications were that this was a suitable site to promote for development, there was a major stumbling block to moving swiftly on to realising the value of the asset and that was that the opportunity had been missed to promote the land through the District Council’s recently adopted Local Plan. The Parish Council had also recently “made” a Neighbourhood Plan. Both of these “Development Plan Documents” now sought to prevent development of the land in question with sites elsewhere being allocated for housing.
The Council was also in a very comfortable position from a housing land supply point of view so there was very little prospect of demonstrating that the supply was less than five years, which would have greatly assisted prospects.
Another complication arose in December 2016 when Gavin Barwell, the then Minister of State for Housing & Planning, announced (amongst other things) that in those areas with a “made” Neighbourhood Plan the 5-year housing land supply bar would be lowered to 3 years, thereby making it much more difficult for those with a reliance on housing land supply arguments to promote sites. That dramatic change in government policy is the subject of a potential legal challenge that is yet to play out and so for the time being we have to work with it.
Planning Out Future Risk & Maximising Future Prospects
So what to do? In these circumstances, the risks and costs of pursuing an application followed by an appeal were understandably very high, and failure may well have adversely affected the prospects of promoting the land through a future review of the Development Plan. The only feasible thing to do in these circumstances was for the family to wait it out until things changed: continue to intensively farm the land, introduce the structural planting mentioned above and of course to keep a careful eye on the Development Plan.
This one example highlights the importance of timing in the planning process. The outcome for the family may well have been very different 3 years ago when there wasn’t the sniff of an adopted Local Plan or a made Neighbourhood Plan and when the Council, unable to demonstrate a 5-year supply of housing, was prepared to release greenfield sites for housing.
Doing The Right Thing At The Right Time
Of course, timing is also critical for those sites that can proceed now. Careful consideration needs to be given to the timing of surveys necessary to support a scheme, for example, ecology surveys are seasonally dependent and a missed survey can potentially delay a project by up to a year, and the timing of traffic surveys generally should avoid school holidays.
Engaging with the Council, local people and elected representatives before an application is lodged also has to be timed carefully and handled sensitively if it is to be meaningful and beneficial to prospects. Even the timing of submission of a planning application has to be carefully considered so that it is presented to the Planning Committee at a point when it has the optimum chance of being approved.
Those relying on housing land supply arguments also need to be able to react quickly to the annual change in the Council’s housing land supply position which might create a short window of opportunity to secure an approval locally. This is also relevant in appeal situations, and there have been plenty of instances where an appeal has started with the Council claiming to have a 5 year supply of housing only then to change that position during the process.
The approach to timing in every case is different and there has never been and never will be a standard approach that is right for every site but rest assured that as far as planning is concerned delay breeds danger and quite often leads to lost opportunity.
To find out more about Hourigan Connolly can help de-risk the planning process and maximise your chances of success get in touch with Marc at the office on 0161 300 3476 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org