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Rod | Prism Planning

All posts by Rod

Pre-commencement conditions are routinely attached to planning permissions by local planning authorities. Such conditions prohibit work starting on the development until such a time as agreement has been reached between the developer and the local planning authority on certain matters, such as use of external materials. Typical wording, usually at the beginning of a condition, would include: “no development shall commence until”; “no development shall take place until”; “prior to the commencement of development”; or, “prior to the commencement of construction.” There have been concerns that local planning authorities have been over-zealous in their use of pre-commencement conditions and that this has caused delays in construction work starting. In many cases, rather than prohibiting work from starting, a condition could be worded to prevent occupation of a development or it being brought into use until certain matters were addressed. This would not delay works commencing and such conditions could be dealt with during the construction period. The Government has announced that it intends to amend secondary legislation so it can introduce an additional requirement for local authorities to justify the use of pre-commencement planning conditions, in the hope that local planning authorities will reduce their use of pre-commencement conditions. Unfortunately, no date has been given when these changes will be acted upon although it is likely that it will not be until after the general election.
Eight and a half months after it was first submitted, the Planning Inspectorate have just allowed permission for a hot food take away to extend its opening hours which has made a nice, if somewhat belated Christmas present for our client. The appeal referred to a hot foot takeaway located within a local shopping parade in Redcar comprising a mix of units, including another hot food takeaway, a number of which open later into the evenings. Planning permission was originally granted for the change of use of the property to a hot food takeaway with opening hours restricted to 9.00 am to 7.00 pm hours Monday to Saturday and closed on Sundays. Subsequently, temporary planning permission was granted on three separate occasions since 2009 allowing the premises to open until 10.00 pm every day. The temporary nature of the permissions was in order to allow continued monitoring by Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council of the impact of the later opening of the premises. As far as we are aware no issues arose and in January 2013 our client applied for a permanent permission that would allow the takeaway to open until 11.00 pm each day. However, the application was refused by the Council’s Planning Committee and we were engaged to submit an appeal to The Planning Inspectorate contesting the Council’s decision. During the appeal process we were asked to consider a condition the Inspector was considering whereby the takeaway would close at 10.00 pm on Sundays, bringing the closing times of our client’s takeaway in line with that of the other takeaway within the shopping parade. We advised our client to accept the compromise suggested by the Planning Inspector and we believe that this helped in the successful outcome of the appeal. Our client is over the moon with the decision, which has arrived just in time for the busy festive season. As a side note, the appeal highlights the generally appalling situation in the Planning Inspectorate with speed of decision making lagging way behind where it should be for such an important institution. We hope that Father Christmas brings them some additional resources in the New Year to improve the current situation!
Planning consent has been granted, subject to the completion of a S106 Agreement, for the residential development of a 2 hectare area of land at Low Cragg Hall Farm, Carlin How. The decision was made by members of Redcar & Cleveland Planning Committee on 6th June. The approved scheme comprises a residential development providing 46 family homes in a mix of two, three and four bedroomed dwellings of up to two storeys in height. The development also includes 8 two-bedroomed affordable houses, meeting the Council’s 15% requirement on developments of more than 15 dwellings. The application was submitted in outline form with only the means of access to and from the site and the scale of the development to be determined at this time. The architectural layout for the site was provided by BSBA Tees and this was a big help in getting the permission through the system. Prism Planning co-ordinated the preparation and submission of the application and subsequently negotiated with planning officers. The proposal was not without it’s hurdles since the site lies outside of development limits, Carlin How has suffered periods of flooding in the past and the existing access arrangements were not suitable for the development. However, we were able to argue why the development should be allowed and engaged a flooding and drainage specialist who provided a scheme to overcome the flood risk issue. We also engaged a highways consultant who negotiated a new form of access to the site with the Council’s highways engineers. Councillors welcomed the development as providing a welcome boost to Carlin How and were pleased that the development will include some bungalows. The final vote was unanimous which is most welcome for a site that lay outside the framework for new development. Our client is now looking for a purchaser of the site so please feel free to contact us if you are looking for any opportunities in the area.

New Rules come into force on 31st January 2013 that are intended to reduce the amount of information that applicants are asked provide with planning applications in England

 The new rules will have an impact on ‘outline’ planning applications in particular.  Applicants will no longer be required to provide information on layout and scale of the proposed development with ‘outline’ applications where these details are reserved for determination at a later date through a separate ‘reserved matters’ application.

 This should make ‘outline’ applications easier and therefore cheaper to prepare.  Current rules require applications in which the layout is a reserved matter to state the approximate location of buildings, routes and open spaces.  Where the scale is a reserved matter, the application must state the upper and lower limit for the height, width and length of each building.  Whilst such requirements are now set aside, there will undoubtedly be a ‘bedding-in’ period where local planning authorities seek supporting information that is no longer strictly required.  It will be for us as your planning consultant to argue the case with the local planning authority as to why you need not provide them with such additional information that they may otherwise require you to submit.

 Associated with the relaxation of information requirements for ‘outline’ applications, the Government have made clear that they expect local planning authorities to keep their ‘local list’ of information requirements for planning applications under regular review and that they should seek to reduce rather than increase such requirements.  With this in mind, the new rules state that for any planning application submitted after 30th June 2013, the ‘local list’ only apply to a specific application if the list has been published within two years prior to the date of the planning application.


If you would like to discuss what information and level of detail you should be submitting for your planning application we offer free consultations and will always let you know what we think your prospects of success are, good or bad.



Even in these difficult times when town and district centres are seeing their trade contracting and an increased number of shop premises stand empty securing planning permission to bring an empty property back into commercial use is not always straight forward.

This was the challenge facing a client who had taken a lease on a vacant ground floor premises on Yarm High Street and converted it to an ice cream parlour, under the ‘Archers’ franchise, producing and selling delicious artisan ice cream.  Our client had been unaware that planning permission would be required to use a former gents’ tailors shop as an ice cream parlour and had opened for business having spent a considerable sum of money in fitting out the ground floor premises and installing ice cream manufacturing equipment.  He was shocked and concerned when informed by a planning officer that planning permission was required but was unlikely to be granted due to local planning policies seeking to retain shop premises and discouraging conversion to other uses, including an ice cream parlour.

Prism Planning were engaged to try and rescue the situation.  It was noted that the premises had been vacant for a considerable period of times; that the ice cream parlour was operating as an ancillary use to the main retail business of Yarm High Street; that within a matter of months of opening the ice cream parlour had built up a loyal customer following; and that there was no other ice cream parlour with the High Street.  Prism Planning suggested to the client that he should start a petition, asking customers for their support in calling on the Council to grant planning permission.  The planning application was subsequently accompanied by a 910 name petition supporting the application.  Support was also sought from Yarm Chamber of Trade, who subsequently wrote to the Council advising of their backing for the ice cream parlour.

Following submission of the planning application and following further discussions with the planners, Prism Planning were able to convince the Council that there were good grounds for granting planning permission notwithstanding the prevailing local planning policies that frowned upon the change of use of the former shop to an ice cream parlour.  Our client is understandably delighted that planning permission has now been granted and that he can continue developing his business, which is showing every sign of going from strength to strength.

The NPPF starts to bite … Local Plan Housing Allocations Two northern councils have run into problems with their core strategies relating to housing land supply and whether they should include an extra 20 per cent buffer of land for homes. The Inspector examining Wigan Metropolitan Borough Council’s Local Plan has suspended proceedings for six months as he said he had “significant doubts” about its attempt to demonstrate an adequate supply of deliverable housing land. Meanwhile, Hull City Council has asked for a six-month suspension of its Core Strategy examination as it has also been challenged by the Inspector over housing land supply. The new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) says that councils should maintain a five-year land supply with an extra five per cent buffer, although this should be 20 per cent where there is “a record of persistent under-delivery”. In both cases the Inspector has said that a buffer of 20 per cent is required due to past under-performance. It is understood that the Inspectors are basing their assessments on housing completions. This has led some to argue that this is an unfair basis on which to assess Council performance as it takes no account of the current economic climate under which house-builders and not building anywhere near to the number of houses they were before the financial crash. They argue that whilst there may be an undersupply of housing, proper account should be take of permissions that have not been implemented. However form a purely practical perspective, people can only live in completed houses and an unbuilt permission is useless to someone in need. The Home Builders Federation has said that most councils should consider using a 20 per cent buffer as few have delivered on housing and they must be realistic about the types of sites the market can bring forward. The Royal Town Planning Institute has said that the suspension of Wigan Council’s examination was an example of the NPPF biting and showed that councils have to take the buffers very seriously. The thrust of these two decisions leaves developers in an interesting position. Potentially, shortfalls in delivery might open the door to arguments for new permissions being obtained. The arguments to support such positions will usually require specialist help and are not likely to be straightforward. In particular, council annual monitoring reports are not likely to give all the answers and specialist Freedom of Information requests may have to be made to get the evidence needed. As you would probably expect us to say, if you think you might need help with this, contact the team at Prism!

If you are looking to make a ‘minor’ application, for a small scale development it really does pay to make sure that the application is as complete and throrough as possible before submitting it.

Many Planning Authorities in the North East of England are imposing strict time limits to allow them to meet their Government imposed targets, particularly for applications with an 8-week determination target that are delegated to the Planning Officer for decision – these are applications where a decision can be reached without going before the Council’s Planning Committee.

These time limits can mean that applications need to be withdrawn, or worse are refused by the Council, where information is incomplete or when issues arise requiring further attention and resolution would take the application beyond the 8-week target.

This can seem unfair given the huge amount of work which needs to be undertaken and often doesn’t even guarantee a successful outcome.  Indeed, withdrawing an application to avoid refusal (refusal is nearly always better avoided if possible), preparing the additional information and then re-submitting can mean that an application that should take 8 weeks to approve can take 18-20 weeks!

It really does pay to get advice before you start and to make sure that you are providing the planning authority will all of the information that they might reasonably require to properly consider your application.  We offer free consultations and will always let you know what we think of your chances, good or bad.