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9 July 2020 Read

When planning applications get tough…

Brookburn Perspective Street View

A challenging brief creates great architecture as it pushes all parties to be creative in finding innovative design solutions.

However, it can also mean that we need to work harder to gain planning permission. Sometimes creative proposals are challenging for all parties and seeking planning consent for a project when it is novel or contentious requires a leap of faith. Some projects get consent relatively easily but for others more work is necessary. There are no cut and dried rules as far as planning is concerned; the council often need to balance a wide range of competing objectives and so planning decisions are very much a judgement-based art but supported by a range of policies, laws and processes.

When we start out by giving our clients a fee proposal, unless the site is in a conservation area, listed building or other special designation, we don’t tend to recommend a full justification statement as we feel that it would add unnecessary cost and time to what might otherwise be a standard and straightforward application. There are however instances when even though the site is not designated, the planning officer/authority approach the application with caution if it is a contemporary or challenging design. It is not always possible to anticipate this and it is only when we receive a response to an application are we then able to advise that more justification is required.

Bespoke projects need bespoke approaches. At Butterfield Architecture we not only design fantastic projects but we have the ability and vision to negotiate on behalf of our clients. We don’t do this for all clients; some projects don’t need this level of analysis and justification. When faced with challenges from the planning authority we will review the project with the client to be sure we have dealt with as many of the planning concerns as possible. When it is appropriate, we will agree with our clients that more work is required and then we will begin to build our case through planning policy research, searches for local precedents, studies such as daylight and sunlight analysis, photomontages and 3D models. This enables us to write a reasoned justification to support our applications and to support our discussions with the local council.

A planning statement can often provide the council with the justification they need to grant permission.

Preparing supporting statements often enables us to gain planning permission where otherwise the project would have failed. The challenge is often in making the case in a technical and analytical way.

When, from time to time, projects face planning challenges there is always a point in time where both the team and the clients feel the pressure and begin to doubt themselves. At times like this it is really important to remind ourselves of our past successes and to work both with the client and the council to achieve the best outcome for all parties. We have over 25 years of experience in handling these negotiations.

Here are some recent examples of applications that have been supported (approved) following initial negative feedback from the planners and then positive feedback once we have provided more information/justification (without the design radically changing although that is not always possible):

73 Park Road Sale - Planning Approved

This Victorian semi-detached dwelling had existed in a range of configurations over time. Many alterations to the building fabric had been undertaken most unsympathetically. It was very much in need of improvement as it had no real connection to the garden and the kitchen area was dark with little natural light. A successful application would create sufficient value in the property to facilitate the required investment and transform the property into a modern flowing family home.

When the plans were presented to the local council we were surprised at their negativity. We believed in the scheme we’d designed and felt that it met all of the appropriate criteria. The council’s initial response is below:

“after some consideration we have concluded that we cannot support the scheme at the above address.

The overall design has no obvious relationship with the host dwelling, street scene or wider area. The development introduces a number of alien features, material and design influences."

The planners were asking us for more justification for the innovative proposal.

We discussed the initial response with the client and made a small number of changes that didn’t affect their overall ambitions for the property but met some of the planning concerns. However, we were still left with a number of issues that could not be changed without compromising the scheme. We decided, with support from our client, that the best route was to prepare a planning statement that tackled each of the issues one by one. Once the council had read and received our statement their response was:

“We now feel we can support the principle of a contemporary extension”

Another example of an application that was originally unsupported and was then approved is:

100 Roseneath Road, Urmston - Planning approved and Built

A really exciting opportunity arose to reconfigure a property with huge potential in Urmston, Manchester. The 1920’s semi already had great proportions and a fantastic sized garden. When the prospective new owners approached us they wanted to rationalise the four small rooms at the back of the house into one large scandi styled family living, cooking, dining space with the addition of a loft conversion and large rear dormer to create a master bedroom.

We submitted an application for all of this and the response we received is below:

“Having carried out a desktop appraisal, I do have a few concerns with regards to the scheme. These primarily relate to the size, scale and design of the rear dormer window and the design of the rear first floor extension.

…..the overall design, whilst of a modern approach, will not respect the character of the existing dwelling which is of traditional red brick construction with mock Tudor detailing to the front elevation.

Whilst I appreciate that this is not the response for which you were hoping, I trust that it is of some assistance in helping you to decide how you may wish to proceed.”

We reviewed the project with the client and agreed to push to maintain the modern styling of the ground floor but remove the dormer window in the loft from the application as that could be undertaken using what are called permitted development rights. This means that this aspect of the proposal could be undertaken without planning permission.

We also removed the terrace following neighbour consultation.

We then prepared a planning statement that cited a wide range of examples where this type of work has previously been undertaken in the Trafford Council area and elsewhere. The statement demonstrates that our approach has worked successfully in design terms elsewhere and made it very hard for the council to sustain their concerns. Their response to our report is below:

“Just to confirm I had a case review meeting this morning with my Team Leader who was happy with the proposal, however, she was requesting details in respect of the timber cladding prior to issuing the decision – primarily the actual material, the colour and quality of the timber and whether or not the windows would be flush with the timber or show a reveal and be recessed.”

The application was approved and has now been built.

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