Receiving planning permission for your home extension or renovation project can be an exciting step towards making your project a reality. However, it is not uncommon for planning applications to be refused, which can be a frustrating setback.
Remember, however frustrating it is, it is unlikely to be the end of the world. In 95% of cases that we work on, there is always a way to overcome the refusal, albeit their may need to be some compromises along the way to get the council onboard.
If you have recently had planning refused, it’s important to take the time to understand why and what you can do to move forward. In this article, we’ll discuss six things to think about when your planning permission has been refused.
Understand the Reasons for Refusal
The first step when your planning application is refused is to understand the reasons for the refusal. The council will provide a written explanation of why your application was refused, so take the time to carefully read through the reasons and make sure you fully understand them – this is normally within the officer’s report and can be found online.
Common reasons for refusal include issues with the design, impact on the surrounding area, and lack of compliance with planning policy. Typically you will find that the officer may have cited 2 or 3 reasons for refusal based on local policy to support their decision.
You will need to spend some time with your architect or design team to unpack this. A common reason is around bulk, design and massing – this can appear highly opinionated and so when you review the officer’s report, they may give some background as to the thinking and inadvertently some clues as to how this can be overcome.
Consider Your Options
Once you understand the reasons for refusal, you can consider your options. There are likely to be 4 routes forward:
1. Make a new application addressing the issues raised by the officer.
This is likely to involve making modifications to the original design to overcome the reasons for refusal and may also include providing additional supplementary information for the officer to better understand what is being proposed and meet compliance with policy.
Worth noting, that your architect and design team may charge extra for this work to be undertaken and you should establish that at the outset if this is the case,
2. Make a pre-application
A pre-application is an informal application with the council that allows for the council planning teams’ opinion to be gaged before formal amendments are required. In some instances you also get the opportunity to have a conversation with the officer of what is being proposed and the grounds for refusal and what they would support.
Not all councils offer meetings with officers for householder applications – so establish at the outset what you will get for the pre-application. Note that pre-application advice is not binding so a positive report in itself does not mean that the application will be supported and unfortunately we have had instances where in spite of the pre-application report and positive response councils have back tracked when an application is made and officers change.
This is quite rare, but possible and the council do caveat their pre-application response by stating that it is not binding. However it can be good starting point to allow for some further discussion.
3. Appeal the planning decision
With any application, you have the right to appeal the decision given. This is assessed independently by the council by the Planning Inspectorate. An independent body, based in Bristol that will assess the application relative to the council’s own policy and the argument being put forward for the development on behalf of you. A clear structured argument is important and you may want to back it up with other case history in the local authority and additional information to make a strong case.
An appeal statement should seek to break down all the reasons for refusal and counter argue these relative to local and national policy. Taking this route should not be taken lightly. It can be time intensive and render further fees from your consulting team, Householder appeals are taking about 6 months to determine in 2023 and with on going resource issues this is unlikely to be reduced. There are different types of routes to appeal, and we will not labour on these here; but for most householder applications likely that you are looking at a written appeal.
An appeal can be more favourable when the decision is more opinion based rather than strictly aligned with policy or considered contextually – remember council guidelines are just that – guidelines and the council should not be taking a computer says not approach but often this can be case when officers follow the guidance very prescriptively without due consideration to context.
We find in these instances we have the greatest chance of success at appeal – so an example would be a very large garden not being granted an outbuilding because council guidance suggests that the area of most outbuildings should not exceed 30 sq.m – the council failed to consider that the garden in this house far exceeded the average garden in the borough for which the policy was geared towards and thankfully the appeal officer on their assessment also saw this saying it was a modest addition.
4. Do nothing/ give up
As noted above, we do not think this is always the way forward as in most cases the reasons for refusal can be overcome. However, there are times when it may be sensible to take stock and re-strategise on the space to establish if it is actually needed and consider whether this should be pursued.
Seek Professional Advice
If you’re not sure what to do next, it’s a good idea to seek professional advice. An architect or planning consultant can help you understand the reasons for refusal and advise you on your options.
They can also help you make any necessary changes to your application and guide you through the appeal process if needed.
Often when you get a refusal, you may loose faith with your architect or design team; in most instances seldom do people guarantee an application will get approval. The planning process can be challenging and cumbersome and is forever changing – getting refusals are part of the territory.
If you do feel that the team that you were working with are not in a position to creatively consider options or explain why the scheme has been refused, then you may want to establish what scope you have to change service providers in your original appointment and seek out another team.
If you are doing this – start by outlining all of the facts of the case and provide as much information as you can to the second team so that this can be picked up.
Review Your Plans
If your planning application was refused due to issues with the design, it’s important to review your plans carefully. Look for areas where you can make changes to address the council’s concerns.
This may involve adjusting the size or layout of your extension or making changes to the materials you plan to use. It may something as simple as providing some additional reports / information; if you can establish what is required then you can understand the action that needs to be taken and who needs to be commissioned to do this.
Your architect or planning consultant may manage this process for you – this is the ideal position given that they do this every day and so have the expertise and are likely to have a little black book of useful contacts that they can call upon.
Consider Current Planning Policies
When revising your application, it’s important to consider the local planning policies that apply to your area. Your council’s website should have information on these policies, which will help you understand what the council is looking for in planning applications and the refusal notice is likely to cite all the policies that the officer is assessing against.
By addressing these policies in your revised application, you may be able to increase your chances of approval in any future submission. We find it can be useful to really clearly label on drawings the references to policy relative to specific areas so that the officers can in a snap shot assess the compliance so as to overcome any reasons for refusal.
Finally, it’s important to be patient when dealing with a refused planning application. Making changes to your application and going through the appeals process can take time, so be prepared for delays.
Remember that the council wants to ensure that any new development is in the best interest of the local area and in context, so it’s important to take the time to address any concerns they may have. Allow the time for changes to be made if you are seeking a resubmission as this is likely to allow for some thinking and strategising by the architect rather than rushing things through.
Remember any resubmission of a refused application is likely to be free in terms of planning fees with the local authority if this is your first resubmission on the site.
In conclusion, having planning refused can be a frustrating setback, but it’s important to stay positive and focus on your options for moving forward.
By understanding the reasons for refusal, seeking professional advice, and carefully considering your options, you can increase your chances of achieving planning permission for what you are looking to achieve with your home.