How Do Planning Applications Work for Property Developments?

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Securing planning permission is a key stage of any property development. It can be confusing how this process works, particularly for larger-scale residential developments.

In this guide, we’ll break down how planning applications work for property developments in England.

How do property developments start?

Every development starts with an appraisal, which estimates all the costs involved in building the development. At Salboy, we use a spreadsheet that includes costs of construction, planning, section 106 / affordable contributions, sales and marketing, materials, licences and legal fees. 

These figures are then compared against the market rate the properties may be sold at once complete. If the appraisal adds up, it means the scheme is viable to get built. As developments can take time, things like labour and material costs can radically change making a development difficult to develop and no longer viable.

From the outset, it’s also important to find out the feasibility of the project from a planning perspective. How likely is it that planning permission could be secured for the development? 

A planning feasibility study is undertaken by a town planning consultant and assesses the development potential and planning opportunities before developers invest further in preparing and submitting an application to the local housing authority.

How do property developers consult with local councils?

Before submitting a formal planning application, pre-application advice can be sought from local councils. This is usually done as a desktop only service or with a site visit and virtual meeting or phone call. 

Pre-application discussions with local councils can help property developers understand the planning department’s view on the merits of a proposed development. It’s also an opportunity to discuss any site challenges and potential problems. 

The council is also expected to provide advice on consultation requirements, including the information and documents that should be submitted within a formal planning application, to reduce the likelihood of submitting an invalid application.

Once an official planning application is submitted, the applications also go through a front-screening process. This is before the application has been officially registered and validated. 

Front-screening involves a quick scan of an application by the local housing authority to help identify if the proposed development is likely to be acceptable and includes all of the necessary documentation.

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What are public consultations?

While it has been considered good practice for some time, engaging with the local community is of growing importance within the planning system, and pre-application engagement or public consultation at an early stage is encouraged where it will add value to the process and outcome.

At Salboy, we undertake public consultations through forums or local exhibitions for our property developments. These provide opportunities for more in-depth discussions with the local community on the plans of a scheme and a chance for the public to meet the development team and ask any questions they may have.

This is a two-way dialogue so trust can be built and provides a way for clear and accurate information to be provided on any new developments. Without this, it’s easy to see why scepticism can arise about new developments.

What are the types of relevant planning policies?

There are a number of national planning policies that need to be understood to put together proposals for a new property development. The National Planning Policy Framework sets out the government’s planning policy for England and how it should be applied. Additionally, there are local policies which can differ across the country. 

Here, we’ll cover some of the relevant planning policies and terms when it comes to residential property developments.

Section 106 is a legal agreement between a local planning authority and property developers. It’s also known as planning obligations and includes measures that developers must take to reduce their impact on the community.

Affordable housing contributions are another part of residential planning obligations. These are intended to mitigate the shortfall in social housing provision across the country and to ensure that affordable housing contributions are included in a development over a given threshold of units. This can be done through financial contribution, social rented accommodation, and shared ownership units.

Listed buildings are buildings that have been included on the National Heritage List of England, which is compiled and maintained by Historic England. Decisions on listed building planning applications need to have “special regard” to the desirability of preserving the building and any features of historic interest.

Tree protection is also an important area of planning applications. Tree Preservation Orders are made by a local planning authority in order to protect specific trees or groups of trees. This prohibits the cutting down or uprooting of trees, which can impact planning applications for property developments.

Natural environment and wildlife protection is another consideration for planning applications. The National Planning Policy Framework encourages net gains of biodiversity to be sought. Safeguarding designated sites and protected species is of significant importance as well.

Flood risk is an additional area that’s taken into account within the planning process. Flood risk assessments must be undertaken for any development larger than one hectare. This usually has to be done by a flood risk specialist.

How can I find planning applications and notices?

To find a specific planning application, visit the government’s website to search the register of planning applications. After putting the relevant postcode in, this will tell you what the local council this relates to and provide a link to the council’s website.

On a local council’s website, you can usually search planning applications and documents by using the application reference number, address, postcode, or through a map. This can allow you to see the details of the planning application.

If you wish to make a comment, you will usually need to register with the site by entering your contact details. Once you’ve registered, you’ll then be able to make a comment on the proposals. Some councils will also accept comments via email or post.

Comments on planning applications are usually made publicly available. Even if you have not received a planning notice, you can still submit comments. You usually need to provide your name and address for comments to be taken into account.

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How are planning decisions made?

There are a number of considerations that are expected to be made when dealing with planning decisions. Once a local planning authority has received a planning application, it will undergo a period of consultation. This is where views on the proposed development can be expressed and will usually last 21 days.

The local planning authority will identify and consult a number of different groups to provide representations. This can include neighbours and neighbouring properties, the parish or town council, Highway Authority, and Environment Agency.

Once the consultation period comes to an end, the local planning authority will proceed with deciding on the application, using some of the information consultants provided.

With planning decisions, the National Planning Policy Framework is a material consideration that must be taken into account wherever it’s relevant in a planning application. This includes the presumption in favour of development, which can be found at paragraph 14 in the framework.

If decisions are made that do not follow the national framework, where it’s a material consideration, clear and convincing reasons are needed for doing so. Local plans can also help determine planning decisions in local areas.

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How long does the planning process take?

A decision on whether planning permission is being granted is usually given within eight weeks of submission as long as the council doesn’t need any additional information and nothing goes substantially wrong. However, major developments can take 13 to 16 weeks.

If permission is not granted and an applicant wishes to make a formal appeal to the Secretary of State, this can take several months to be decided.

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Are property developers just cashing in? 

Some people have negative opinions of property developers bringing forward new developments. They sometimes feel they’re just coming to an area, erecting their building, and cashing in their profits and leaving. Some are also worried about the gentrification of towns and cities across the country.

As developers need to invest upfront, it can take several years to see a profit on a project, so the planning system can help ensure property developers aren’t just cashing in.

There are also a number of benefits to some of the residential property developments being brought forward. And with modern standards increasing, this will help ensure properties are built to higher standards. 

Property developers who have a good reputation and follow the highest of safety and quality standards will likely lead the way moving forward, leaving lower-quality developers in the dust.

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What are high-quality property developers providing?

At Salboy, the majority of our developments are built on derelict brownfield sites. With these disused sites, this is providing regeneration, and sometimes these are even in areas where people haven’t been previously living. 

This can breathe new life into different areas that have sat unused, while also creating new neighbourhoods and providing much-needed new housing. New residential property developments can also bring new amenities, making the local area more liveable. 

Additionally, Section 106 and affordable housing contributions can even provide benefits to the local community. And new property developments create additional council tax paying residents, which help fund local councils.

On top of that, property developers like Salboy, who pride themselves on using local suppliers, help create local employment opportunities and provide boosts to the economy. This provides a number of benefits and opportunities for the local community. 

Salboy’s residential developments have created much-needed housing in redeveloped industrial areas across the UK. Get in touch if you have any additional questions about how planning applications work for our property developments.