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How To DIY A Planning Application?

In theory, anyone can submit a planning application. Often, people assume it is simply a case of doing some basic drawings and filling in a form, but it is much more complicated than this. In fact, most people who try to DIY their planning applications fail due to missing information or mistakes.

What a lot of people also don’t realise is that even architects are normally only qualified in design but not planning so, we regularly have clients contacting us having been refused with a local architect.

The designs may have looked fantastic but if the proposal does not meet all the required planning policies or this is not clearly justified, the application will be refused unnecessarily.

However, if you would like to have a go at submitting a planning application form yourself, here is an overview of the process and what you will need to do.

What is the feasibility and best application type for your project?

In order to establish whether your project is feasible, and which application will give you the best chance of success, first you need to have a clear project brief for what you are planning to do, including project management. This includes the design, scale/size as well as what the development will be used for, as different uses can require different types of planning permission.

Next, you need to check your project brief against the relevant local and national planning policies for your specific project brief, at your site location. There are usually several types of planning applications that could be appropriate for each project, and it’s important to gather additional information about each application type to determine the best fit for your project. Each application type will have different requirements and a different likelihood of success.

You should consider the advantages and disadvantages of each type of planning application, whilst of course making sure your project meets ALL the necessary planning and design policies. If your project does not meet even one of the criteria, no matter how small the difference may seem, it would be at risk of unnecessary refusal.

Then you should check the relevant planning history for similar projects in the area. To be of any use the projects must be of the same application type and of similar scale and design. For example, if you are planning to build a porch and your neighbour has planning permission for a loft conversion, this is unlikely to be of any relevance to your planning application.

Equally, a similar application that is too far from your site location or not approved by the local authority is unlikely to be relevant. You should also bear in mind that just because someone in your street has done something similar, this is not necessarily an indication that your project would be feasible. This is because many people build thinking they don’t need planning permission and get it wrong, resulting in a breach of planning law.

Sadly, it’s usually a case of when, not if, they receive a planning enforcement notice. So, to have any value to your project the design must be very similar, the application type should be the same as the one you intend to submit. And, of course, it should have planning approved, the more recently the better.

Planning policies are always changing so, if the approval was prior to any changes in local council planning policy, then again it could be totally irrelevant to your project.

You then need to establish whether there are any planning constraints that may affect your application, which can be found on your local council’s website. Aside from the architectural design meeting the required planning policies, there can be many hidden planning constraints, including those related to government services. Planning constraints can either limit or remove your permitted development rights or make it much more difficult to secure planning permission for your project. It is important to note that these constraints are enforced by the local planning authority.

Finally, you should consider whether any specialist reports will be required to support your planning application, such as a report on the impact of the proposed dwelling. There are over 30+ different types of specialist reports that may be required.

Common examples include; flood risk assessments, ecological surveys, wildlife surveys, bat surveys, parking surveys, transport surveys, drainage surveys, topographical surveys, arboriculture assessments, noise assessments, odour assessments, drainage surveys, and many more.

Architectural Design

Once you know whether your project is feasible, which application type is required, what planning constraints there are, what specialist reports are required, and how likely it is to be approved, you are ready to start working with your design team on the architectural design process.

It depends on which application type you are planning to submit as to what drawings will be required. However, most planning applications will require the following as a minimum;

Existing and proposed elevations

Existing and Proposed Elevations

Existing and Proposed Elevations

Existing and proposed floor plans

Existing Floor Plans

Proposed Floor Plans

Existing and proposed block plans

Existing block plan

Proposed Block Plan
A site location plan

Site Location Plan

However, there are many other drawings that may also be required including;

Existing and proposed roof plans
Existing and proposed sections
Visibility splays
Street scene elevations

To add to the complication, each of the drawings must meet all of the council’s validation criteria for them to even consider assessing the application. This is where most people get stuck and come back to us for help.

The drawings need to be accurate, to the correct scale, correctly marked up, and annotated as required. If your drawings do not meet all the criteria, when you submit your planning application the council will not process the application, until such time as all validation criteria are met.

Supporting Evidence

Once your drawings are complete the next stage is to prepare the required supporting evidence. Again, it depends on the project type, application type, and planning constraints, to determine what you will require for your application.

However, as a minimum, every application will typically require a planning statement and/or design and access statement. These are typically 4 to 50 page documents that describe the proposed development in detail AND clearly justify why based on XYZ planning policies your planning application should be approved.

In addition, you may also require additional statements such as a heritage impact statement, water management statement, drainage statement, and many more.

Finally, you may also require specialist reports to support your planning application, as listed above. Even if it is not clearly listed in the validation criteria, your planning authority can, at their discretion insist on various specialist reports in order to assess your application.

As with planning applications, in theory, you could DIY this, but these are very complex and even our chartered town planners can’t do these. Because they are outside the realm of planning and require unique skills and qualifications for each type of specialist report.

There are only a handful of providers in the UK and so these can be very expensive. Sometimes a project could require multiple specialist reports. If you are not aware that these will be required, your project could suddenly become significantly more expensive or even unaffordable.

Consider applying for planning permission like going to court. If you do not put forward the strongest case possible, even if you are innocent, you could be found guilty.

In the world of planning, even if your design does meet all the required planning policies if this is not clearly demonstrated, then your application is likely to be refused unnecessarily.

Apply For Planning Permission

Before you submit your planning application make sure that;

You are confident your project is feasible.

You know which application type will give you the best chance of success.

Your architectural design meets all the validation criteria.

You have all the required supporting evidence to clearly demonstrate why it should be approved.

Assuming this is the case, you are now ready to submit your planning application. You can do this via the government’s planning portal by selecting the appropriate planning authority and planning application type. Filling in the form(s) is the easy part but unfortunately, this is still not the end of the process.

Once you have filled in the form(s), submitted the drawings, and supporting evidence, and paid the relevant planning application fee, the process begins.

First, the council needs to validate the application, which is simply confirming they have everything required to assess the application. Once upon a time this used to happen almost straight away, providing everything that was submitted was in order.

However, almost all councils are understaffed and significantly backlogged so, this can take a couple of weeks these days. Again, this is simply to confirm whether they have everything required to assess the application and does not mean your planning application will be approved.

If there are any mistakes, missing information, or additional requirements, the council will invalidate your planning application and send it back to you. You will then need to address all the issues raised and resubmit with everything they have requested. If you are unable to do this, your application will not be processed. 

Once your planning application is validated the clock starts, and in theory, most application types should be determined within 8 weeks. However, again bear in mind that almost all councils are significantly backlogged and taking longer than the statutory time frames. Most planning applications currently take 3-6 months from start to finish, but some take even longer.

Even once the application is validated, the council may come back requesting further information or changes to the architectural design. Depending on the application type, it’s also common for people to object to planning applications. These may need a formal response to justify with technical planning facts why the council should disregard the objections.

All in all, if everything goes as smoothly as possible, you could have a decision in 3 months, if you are lucky. However, every request for more information will add delay to the process.

Something else to bear in mind is that it takes 4-6 years at university studying architectural design, plus at least 2 years of work experience to become a chartered architect.

It also takes 4-6 years at university studying town planning, plus at least 2 years of work experience to become a chartered town planner.

This is why at Planning By Design, we have both Chartered Architects and Chartered Town Planners, working together on every planning application, to ensure the best chance of success.

You can see lots of examples of our planning applications in our Portfolio. You can filter by project type and/or application type, to find the most relevant examples for what you want to do. Click on any of our projects to view all the required drawings and supporting evidence for each planning application.

Still have questions about how to DIY a planning application?

Don’t worry, most of our clients have never done this before and have zero knowledge or experience. So, if you are feeling a little daunted or unsure about what you need contact us for a free no obligation consultation as a starting point.

Our expert town planners can conduct a planning appraisal to give you the answers you need in a day, which may negate the need for a formal pre-application with your council which would take at least 5-8 weeks to get a response.

Unlike many companies, we always prioritise the right advice over profit. So, if we think your project is high risk or has no chance, we will advise you not to proceed or to consider alternatives. Don’t take our word for it, check out our customer reviews:

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Of course, if you would like our experts to take care of all of this for you, we remain ready to help with whatever you need. As well as having some of the UK’s top chartered architects and chartered town planners, we also offer a price match guarantee and will beat any like-for-like quote!

You can use our Free Online Cost Calculator to get an instant online estimate for most project types. Please bear in mind this is based on the minimum requirements for each planning application and does not mean your project is feasible.

Alternatively, you can Contact Us for a free no-obligation consultation regarding your project.

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