My first ever planning approval for a private client in 2015. From disused Garage to a Studio Room.
The whole concept of town planning is not something I fully grasped until I had the opportunity to work on a project for a private client. Securing planning permission whilst working for a developer or housing association is generally instigated by the client (me), but a planning consultant or architect carries out the detail and submits the application. There is a big difference between being a passenger of a Ferrari and actually being behind the driver’s seat. In this post, I will share how I was able to get onto the driver seat and steer my client towards planning approval.
The situation reminded me that you never know who is watching you so be mindful what you are doing at all time.
It was April 2015, and a private client approached me to consider submitting a planning application on their behalf to convert their garage into a small studio room. The client was introduced to me by a family member and wanted planning and design services. I explained to the Client that I had not done this privately, but they were adamant that I assisted them and advocated heavily for my assistance. The situation reminded me that you never know who is watching you so be mindful what you are doing at all time.
At the time, I hadn’t helped anyone privately but thought the high road has the start somewhere. I have always been entrepreneurial, so I thought, why not give this a try and carry out the services outside working hours. Before taking this instruction on, I considered whether I was competent to carry out the task. The questions I asked myself where:
Can I carry out planning and design services? Yes, as I am competent in the use of Autocad and can produce basic floor plans and elevations. I learned how to use AutoCAD at college whilst studying a BTEC in Construction. After 9 years, my City and Guilds certificate in Autocad finally came to use.
Am I confident in submitting a planning application? I watched others do it through my working experience, and I was confident that I had the necessary understanding to get this scheme through planning myself.
Do I have professional indemnity insurance ? I knew I could get get this arranged
After pondering for a moment, I thought I would go ahead and provide the services. For those wanting to do something similar, make sure you have the skills and knowledge, and you have professional indemnity insurance. Also, do not forget to get your terms agreed and signed in advance of commencing services.
What did I do next?
I met with the client to discuss their requirements in more detail and then carry out an inspection of the garage area and took measurements. I also took numerous photos and took loads of notes to support my analysis of the property and area.
I spent some time researching the planning policies and the local development management plan policies for the council together with similar applications that were submitted in the local area. I was delighted to find a few examples of similar applications that were approved.
Secondly, I suggested to the client for us to carry out a pre-application with the Council for them to consider the merits of the application before submission. A pre-application should always be undertaken where possible as it is encouraged by the National Planning Policy Framework. The planning officer will highlight what she or he would expect to see in a forthcoming application, so be sure to make use of this service. The advice is not binding, and it will also cost a small amount of money.
The application process
AutoCAD is very expensive software, so a friend suggested that I use a free software draftsite to produce the floor plans and elevations. I then downloaded a location plan which has to be submitted with all planning applications. Once I produced the plans, and the client was satisfied with them, the moment of truth came, which was to apply for the householder planning application, but how was I to do this?
As this was my first private planning application, I did research and found that the way to submit planning applications was to use planning portal. I created an account for free and was ready to apply.
As I was inputting all the information on the proposal onto the planning portal, I was thrilled that this was my first planning application submission. There were so many questions that I was unsure of, so I carried out a lot of research to ensure that I inputted the correct details.
What did I need to submit the planning application
As this was my first planning application, I needed a lot self-belief and a shot of hennessey (I don’t drink) but in all seriousness, I needed the following:
- Application fee from the Client
- Site and location Plan.
- Ownership certificate.
- Planning application (via planning portal).
- Floor plans and supporting documents.
I had produced or obtained the above items and uploaded them onto the planning portal. The last part was to press submit. I was nervous and thought if I pressed submit, a big error sign would spring up on my screen saying this application will be refused. I guess there are two sides to being a big dreamer.
After receiving the client’s consent, I submitted that application on the 1st June 2015 in what felt like Fredo’s ring wearing moment from Lord of the Rings. In other words, I felt empowered yet very anxious about what the result will be.
The application was in then what?
The application had been submitted, I waited anxiously for an email from the planning department. A day after the submission, an email came in from planning portal saying, your application has been transmitted to the London council. It was in, but who was to be the planning officer ?, will they see chinks in my armor/ submission ? and will they see that an absolute amateur submitted this application ?
As the application was to be determined in eight weeks from the date of submission. On the 9th of June 2015, I received an email from the Council saying that the application will be determined by the 27th July 2015. I temporarily relieved but the pressure started mounting as I got closer to the determination date.
Following what felt like a lifetime of waiting, in the back of my mind, I thought did I do enough to secure the consent.
You will fall before you can run and you will likely crash before you ultimately fly.
If the application was rejected, does this mean that I clearly wasn’t good enough or even worst should I continue with a career in property development? The answer to these questions was, if it was refused, it wasn’t that I was not good enough, but perhaps I needed to consider more things. Secondly, like most things, you will fall before you can run and you will likely crash before you ultimately fly.
It was the 23rd July 2015, and I received an email from the planning department which said Planning approval had been given. I exploded with a large smile which could have been spotted from out of space. My first phone call was to the client to let them know the good news. I was happy to be a part of that story with my client as the success was theirs, not mine. In my mind, I thought with this win, was this a sign that I will have a fruitful career in property development ?
Community Infrastructure Levy was not payable on this project by the client as the garage conversion would be part of the main dwelling house and would not be a separate unit of accommodation.
Be mindful of how you carry yourself in your personal life, as you never know who may approach you with an opportunity.
If someone offers you an opportunity, ponder on it deeply and do not let fear hold you back. This was my first planning application submission that I worked on privately, but the client was happy to use me, and for that, I did everything I could to provide an excellent service. I knew I had the skills and knowledge to assist the client with their requirements.
Utilise others expertise and do your research to justify your position. If you do your research, you get to learn about things that you were not considering. The recipe behind success in securing planning consent is to research a similar applications.
Also, try and keep up to date with revisions to planning policy as the use of permitted development can make the planning process much more straight forward. Finally, please do not overlook the pre-application process as you will get to learn from the decision makers themselves (non-binding information by the way).