All posts by Jonathan

Since the new General Permitted Development Order was published in April 2015 there has been a number of areas that have been open to interpretation by councils, leading to appeals and new guidance published by the Planning Guidance Suite as clarification. Such occurrences increase costs and timeframes for clients.

One such issue is the matter of repairs and internal alterations made to a barn and if they would be considered to be new structural elements of the building. The barn in question had a recent new internal wall (part of room used for lambing) which would become external once existing parts of the barn were demolished. We expertly navigated this complex issue gaining permission for our Client for the conversion of a barn to a dwelling.

We argued that this wall should not fall outside of permitted development as the works had already been carried out under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act as part of maintenance, improvement or other alteration. Our argument was successful resulting in an early approval ahead of the usual 56 day window.

Prism Planning has considerable experience with Prior Notifications with a strong success rate under the Class Q conversions. If you are planning a barn conversion and think that you might have an issue or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact use for an initial informal discussion on the subject.

Prism would like to thank all attendees and organisers for joining us at the offices of TBI Law Firm for the Housing and Planning Bill seminar. It was a maximum capacity turnout with a mix of professionals from ecologists to developers and estate agents. We introduced planning aspects of the emerging bill, discussing the main provisions and took questions.

The concept of starter homes was discussed. Starter homes will be discounted at 20% of market value, restrictions such as being only for first time buyers under 40 will apply. It is clear that the bill aims to boost the supply of housing in England, however the impacts on established affordable housing types looks far from certain. There will also be a new statutory duty for LPAs to promote delivery of starter homes.

Another of the key parts of the Bill will be new measures to be established under the heading of Planning in England. These give new powers to allow the Secretary of State (SOS) to override EIP planning inspectors and also allow selective focus on parts of the EIP process. Should the SOS be dissatisfied with the progress of a LPA local plan they could intervene, details of which will be introduced in secondary legislation.

The Bill also proposes Permission In Principle (PIP). This is proposed to be an automatic consent which grants permissions on brown field land, these would be listed in a register or local plan. The PIP system could be different to the way that existing outline applications presently work.

Should the bill be passed there will need to be secondary legislation passed for further details on how the bill will be interpreted. We hope to provide a further update when the Bill likely progresses or should any serious revisions take place.

Prism Planning is celebrating after permission was granted for a Children’s Outdoor Activity Centre to supplement the recently approved children’s nursery at Upperthorpe, Darlington.

The centre is a cosy log cabin and is set to be Darlington’s first ‘gingerbread house’, using architecture which gives the building a pleasing picturesque feel to create a refreshing learning environment for the children and to help stimulate their imaginary play. It’s a secure facility behind the fenced play area that currently protects the children.

Upperthorpe Nursery is one of Darlington’s newest nursery’s offering care for up to 98 children between the ages of 3 months to 11 years old and operates for 24 hours a day. It offers a flexible approach to child care to cater for working professionals and modern needs. It also caters for a range of disabilities is fully accessible. It can even cope with children when they have the normal ‘off days’ and normal tummy bugs that some nurseries cannot accommodate.  Located in Darlington’s West End Conservation Area, the nursery features an updated 1850s building close to the Darlington Memorial Hospital. More information can be found at

The play cabin will offer a range of social and recreational facilities for the nursery. This will complement the nursery and does not compromise the careful design for the safety and security of children.

Getting permission for a log cabin like this is one of the more unusual applications for Prism Planning . It simply broadens the depth of our experience in dealing with unique planning applications. If you think your development could benefit from our expertise please contact us for an informal conversation.

An application was submitted for a change of use from A1 to A5, changing a Hair  Salon to a Fish and Chip shop in a local shopping centre on Norton Road Stockton-on-Tees. The applicant, who had submitted the application himself, ran into problems with the planners who raised concern that the fish and chip shop might adversely affect the character, vitality and viability. In addition local residents submitted objections (mostly related to competition) resulting in the application being referred to Planning Committee for decision.

Prism Planning became involved, preparing a Planning statement that addressed the planning issues, provided a detailed walk through of how the proposals complied with Stockton’s planning policy and set out the case why the application should be approved. The robustness of our arguments led to the case officer preparing a committee report that recommended planning permission be granted.

On the day of Planning Committee Prism Planning presented the client’s case. We pointing out a range of considerations; that a previous fish and chip shop had been lost, it brought a vacant building back into beneficial use and that canvassing of local residents had shown that most wanted a traditional takeaway. The client also put forward strong arguments for their case. Members of the Planning Committee were satisfied with our case and voted unanimously to grant planning permission.

Our client was delighted with the outcome and as for Prism Planning, it’s always pleasing to turn around a difficult situation for a client and obtain the planning permission they had applied for.  If you have a planning problem you think we could help you with we’re only a phone call away.

Eric Pickles has just revised the rules on the provision of affordable housing so that small schemes of ten units or less no longer have to provide it.  The move also applies to other types of tariff based contributions on such small scale schemes. This has great potential for the small scale developer, helping to improve viability and encouraging the delivery of much needed housing.

However as with many of the government reforms and ’good news’ items, it’s not quite as straightforward as the headline announcements appear. There are size limitations and other checks and balances that blunt the delivery of what would otherwise be quite a bold step.

Our in depth experience and understanding in navigating the minefield of policy and guidance makes us aware of how potential limitations affect an application. Anyone who wants to take advantage of the relaxation will need to take professional advice. We would be happy to discuss these changes in further details with interested parties.

At Prism we are celebrating our latest anaerobic digestion success after planning consent was granted by Hambleton District Council, who approved an on-farm anaerobic digestion facility at New Mill Farm.

This is a renewable energy project primarily using fertiliser to produce both green energy and a nutrient rich, odourless fertiliser.  Our experience continues to show that the industry is regarded as a new, innovative form of development met with some trepidation from Planning Authorities and local communities.  As a result a great deal of reassurance is required to persuade people that they are safe and won’t impact on their lives.  That said, it is worthwhile noting that in our experience Hambleton District Council is probably the local planning authority most open to considering on farm anaerobic digestion schemes.

With this new decision, Prism have shown skills, knowledge and more importantly, experience of progressing a variety of anaerobic digestion schemes through the planning system, of varying scales and complexities from simple on-farm systems through to major food processing facilities. We have now also built up a formidable range of contacts in the AD technology and financial sector so that anybody thinking of undertaking anaerobic digestion couldn’t hope to meet a more experienced and well-positioned team.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you are considering some form of AD project.

We are celebrating our biggest success to date after securing outline consent for a major development on Teesside. Acting on behalf of Eaglescliffe LLP Prism Planning managed the development team that has worked for two years on the complex plans for the site known as Allens West in Eaglescliffe. The former Ministry of Defence site will now be transformed into an 845-home development as well as a 60-bed extra care facility, shopping parade, crèche and community facilities over 13-17 years. The approval means that more than £2.5 million will be invested in local schools, bus and rail infrastructure, footpaths and cycleways as well as Yarm’s first long term car park. The application came up against several project threatening issues which needed careful consideration to prevent the derailing of the development project. The most significant of which was the creation of a Great Crested Newt habitat on the adjacent Coatham Woods site to allow for the relocation of thousands of the rare protected species. View the case study and read the BBC News article featuring the development
At the end of March the widely debated National Planning Policy Framework was released taking immediate effect as national planning policy.

Since the beginning of the ‘Localism Agenda’ and the ‘Big Society’, Prism Planning has been advising clients large and small on the likely effect of the document. This concluding seminar will discuss what has changed since the draft was released in 2011, and what the transitional arrangements mean for development viability and approval of permissions.

Clients will be automatically invited to the event on the 10th of May, but if you want to come along, please drop us a line via the contact us form, and we will get in touch with further information.

Today has been a quiet day in the office, a time for reflection on the meaning of life and the National Planning Policy Framework that has just appeared yesterday. Yesterday we faced a barrage of phone calls from anxious clients wanting to know how they were affected by the new proposals and whether it really was the developers charter as some wilder parts of the media had suggested.

Mr A, who owns a field in the middle of nowhere in particular was most disappointed that he didn’t have his golden ticket for his new house but for other clients the position seems less clear.

On the one hand we are told that the guidance takes immediate effect and that decision makers should apply its principles straightaway. Yet buried in the back of the document, hidden in the annex is the statement that for 12months from the date of publication, decision makers may continue to give full weight to their old LDF policies, even when they conflict with the new NPPF, provided the ‘old’ policies stem from no later than 2004. 

A number of us who have struggled with the absurdities of ‘One App’ validation requirements will perhaps take heart from the idea that validation lists should be frequently reviewed and that LPA’s should only request information that is relevant, necessary and material to the application. I wonder if that means I don’t have to procure the Air Quality Report sought for a proposed leisure development built just above the high tide mark up the coast from here?

I was pleased to see the continued reference to LPA’s looking for ‘solutions rather than problems’ and the continued emphasis on approval of sustainable developments wherever possible. However from past experience I shudder to think how we are going to get to grips with measuring  and assessing sustainability.

There is interesting and positive clarity on the greater emphasis given to assessing viability and it is interesting to note the reference to mitigation taking into account the need for competitive returns to a willing landowner and willing developer. Now all we need to do is to work out how to use the HCA’s assessment tool and we have got it cracked!

I was also struck by the new definition of Veteran Tree defined because of its great age, size or condition.  This got me thinking to the prospect of a Veteran Planner defined because of its age and circumference…..I certainly think I qualify on both fronts!

I’m sure that as I continue to plough through the guidance there will be more interesting nuggets of new information to delight and frustrate us in equal measure so I’ll keep you all posted with my thoughts.

The long awaited National Planing Policy Framework has been published. You can view the document here, or check back soon for detailed analysis.