Planning Permission
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Outline Planning Permission

Virtually all proposals to build new residential dwellings require planning permission. The likelihood is that you are buying a plot of land with outline planning permission (OPP) attached to it. If not, then it will either have no planning permission at all or detailed planning permission (DPP).

Land sold with an existing OPP means it has already been established, in principle, that a new building can be constructed. However, the type and size of dwelling, the method of construction and materials used, have yet to be approved. As the saying goes, 'everything is in the detail', and the site of the property, its design and layout, orientation, access and landscaping, are all contained in what is known as a 'reserved matters' application. This follows after an OPP has been received. The OPP and the approved 'reserved matters' application together form the equivalent of a detailed planning permission. Once an OPP has been granted, the buyer of the plot has three years during which they must submit the 'reserved matters' application, otherwise the entire process begins again or, alternatively, they could just proceed with a DPP application.

If the plot has both OPP and 'reserved matters' consent, it is essential you check the wording of the approval and any conditions attached which may restrict the design, extent of development and construction of the new dwelling. Particularly important are:

An OPP does not have to be in your own name (unless you are the one making the application), because approval refers to the site and not to the individual seeking it.

If you are the person making the application, your initial enquiries will be concerned with five rudimentary elements, from which you will be required to seek approval based on one or more of the following:

1. Siting

2. Access

3. Design

4. External appearance

5. Landscaping

It should be understood that approval could exist without certain important issues being resolved. Some local authorities will request additional information, for example they may enquire how the site is to be drained, or seek confirmation that easements are in place for connection to mains drainage. There is no statutory obligation for an authority to follow this rather heavy-handed early course of enquiry, though many do simply to prevent minor problems developing into bigger and more protracted arguments later.

There is good reason for arranging a pre-application meeting with a planning officer of the local authority where the land is situated. Most officers welcome such arrangements being made and will offer constructive informal advice to assist you in submitting a successful application. Always telephone for an appointment beforehand and attend with whatever documents and details you have already in your possession. If the officer is amenable, it is best to arrange an on-site meeting, where you can explain your proposals more fully and with reference to what actually exists. The officer will help you by pointing out site-specific elements that concern them and any which are likely to affect the planning application. These will include:

The planning officer is likely to be aware of any previously unsuccessful applications relating to the site and will give advice about how you can alter your plans to reverse an earlier decision. Once you have spoken with them, you should have a clear indica tion about the likely outcome of making a formal planning application. But, whether the officer's comments are positive or negative, they are not definitive. It will be the council's planning committee that makes the decision and, although they may take note of an officer's comments, they do not always rely on them during the final analysis.

An OPP, in its simplest form, should be considered as a red line around a piece of land with a representative block showing the position of the intended dwelling. A plainly drawn site-plan, together with a one-line description of the development proposal, is all that is required. All other aspects can be appraised at the detailed design stage. Be aware that intricate particulars are not helpful or required for the OPP application so, when describing the kind of development being proposed, explain it in simple terms. For example, 'the erection of a dwelling with garage' is usually quite sufficient. The forms required are available from your local authority planning department together with guidance notes to help you complete them.

One final point, if your plot is close to and/or likely to affect a listed building, you will not be able to make an OPP application because the planning department will need to have full details before they can consider the implications. If your plot falls within the curtilage of a listed building, it is highly likely the design of your new build dwelling will come under very close scrutiny and be subject to the most stringent development controls. These will affect the materials you can use, the style of dwelling and the attention to detail. These mandatory restrictions will increase the construction costs considerably and a reappraisal of the scheme will be necessary to assess and justify continuing with it.

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