Applying for planning permission can be emotionally and financially challenging.  You reveal what you would like to do with your house, your business or your land. You lay down your plans for others to see and wait to be judged, you wait for responses from your neighbours, technical consultees and the Council.  You hope that your plans will be approved. But how do you improve your chances of securing planning permission?

  1. Be realistic
  2. Understand your priorities
  3. Understand the issues
  4. Decide on a strategy
  5. Know that people will disagree with you
  6. Seek local support
  7. Actively manage the process
  8. Separate emotion from decisions
  9. Be prepared to accept a refusal
  10. Have I got everything I can?

1. Be realistic

Understand your site, understand all of the surrounding influences, understand the planning policies and therefore understand what is realistically achievable.  You probably know that a new skyscraper in the middle of the green belt is unlikely, but:

  • How big can my replacement dwelling be?
  • What can I do with redundant buildings?
  • How large can my house extension be?
  • How much can I extend my rural business?
  • How many dwellings can we build?
  • Where can I set up a new farm?


In order to achieve planning permission for development, you need to be sure that you have realistic expectations as to what you can achieve?  Beware that learning through trial and error is mentally and financially draining.

2. Understand your priorities

It is important that you understand your priorities from the start so you can manage your expectations of the process.

In building, there is considered to be a golden trilogy of quality, time and money. You can have it built to high a standard and you can have it built quickly but you can’t have it built cheaply as well. You can have two of the three but it is impossible to have all three.  It is the same with planning, you can have an ambitious scheme and you can try to secure planning as quickly as possible but to do this, you have to be prepared to invest in it.  Conversely if reducing cost is a greater priority then you have to be prepared that the process may take longer.

The golden trilogy of planning – understand your priorities

3. Understand the issues

Some applications are relatively straight forward and only need simple plans and an application form.  Many can be prepared by an architect, a design technician or a layperson with plans drawn at home. Other schemes can require a bewildering array of technical reports. Some applications can require a deep understanding and interpretation of planning issues and policies.  This, in turn, relies on knowledge of planning appeals and judicial precedents from the planning courts.  In many applications, these issues are interrelated and can sometimes have competing interests.  Careful balancing of the considerations is often required in order to achieve a successful outcome at planning.


4. Decide on a strategy

Once you understand your site, you understand your own priorities and you understand the issues, then you can develop your strategy for your proposal.  Your ultimate goal for the site may be achievable but it may require some preliminary work in order to set the optimum conditions.

You will also want to consider how you respond in certain situations. For example:

  1. What do I do if people object to my planning application?
  2. What do I do if my application goes to planning committee?
  3. What do I do if my planning permission is refused?
  4. How do I respond to changes being requested?
  5. What do I do if the Council request more information increasing cost?
  6. What do I do if the council ask me to withdraw my application?
  7. What do I do when my planning permission is approved?


5. Know that people will disagree with you

Two people can look at the same thing and both see something different. How we interpret things depends on our background, our beliefs and our conditioning to the world. Appreciate that other people will have different views to you, that they have different interests and different priorities; accept that this is OK.  Make sure you address the issues in your application and present your case in the best possible way by seeking to understand other people’s position.

Do you see an old or young woman


6. Seek support

The local planning authority will make the decision of whether to approve or refuse your application, they will take into consideration representations made by other parties. Representations will only carry weight in the decision if they address relevant planning issues. It is always better to seek to have support for your application rather than objections.

Representations can come from government bodies, local and national groups, industry bodies, neighbours and ultimately any interested party.


7. Actively manage the process

The whole process of securing planning permission from inception to approval requires active management.  This will ensure that different professions come together to produce the very best possible solution for you.  This is particularly true during the determination process of the application.  This is the period between submission to the local planning authority and a decision.  The responses from consultees should be monitored regularly. So appropriate responses can be made in a timely manner to keep the process on track.


8. Be prepared to accept a refusal

You may have realistic expectations of your site, understand what is important to you and have developed a strategy that you’re comfortable with. You should be aware if you have an ambitious scheme that could be pushing the boundaries of what is achievable.  This should have been a conscious decision when you’re fully armed with all the facts.  You should also be prepared that you may have to accept a refusal from the local planning authority in order to achieve your goal.


A first refusal should be seen as a tactical decision by you as part of your strategy.  In some cases, it may be a subjective issue that is a matter of planning judgement.  In others, it may be more of a technical issue which can be addressed by expert evidence.  In either situation, the matter may be resolved by a resubmission to the Local Planning Authority or a planning appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.


9. Separate emotion from decisions

The point at which decisions are made to amend applications or accept a refusal are often after significant investment of time and money.  It requires some cold clear thinking to make effective decisions on whether to bank what is on offer or hold out for more potential.


10. Have I got everything I can?

Once an application is approved it is important to consider the quality of that application.  Does it include everything you wanted?  Is there more potential for the site? Has potential development opportunity been left on the table?  Are the planning conditions justified or do they create an unnecessary and expensive burden? Is it worth reapplying, amending the application or altering the planning conditions?