Ben Adam-Smith reviews what it took to be granted planning permission for his new Passivhaus home.
A recap of the self build journey so far
We really liked the initial sketches and, through an iterative process, we developed the designs.
One of the main constraints with our plot is the proximity to the neighbour (because this is effectively a garden plot) and so a lot of time was spent addressing the height of our proposed building.
Planning applications can be viewed online
Each local authority has a ‘public access' planning portal. For example, I had to go through East Herts County Council.
When you put in an application it will be posted for anyone to see.
Supporting documents can be included with an application
Due to the proximity of our plot to the neighbouring dwelling (we are effectively building in their old garden), we needed to demonstrate that there was no loss of amenity.
So drawings were created to show how our designs compared with the extant consent.
We also included a Passivhaus verification sheet to show we were serious about meeting the standard.
Applications can be amended or withdrawn
The planning process doesn't have to be a case of submit your designs and wait for the outcome. There is the opportunity to engage with the planners and make it a two way process.
So if there's something they don't like about the scheme, you can look at new solutions or withdraw your application completely.
By managing the process you are far more likely to have a positive outcome.
It is possible to get more time to address concerns
For a small project, such as a house build, the planning process typically takes 8 weeks.
However, it can be possible to get an extension before the final decision is made.
For example, our planning application was not granted initially because our house was deemed to be ‘oppressive' to the neighbour. However we were able to submit more evidence to show this was no worse than the extant consent. We also chose to lose our porch and move the house a further 700mm away from the neighbouring property. These alterations were sufficient for our planning application to be granted.
Visual aids add clarity to an application
Whilst these (such as the comparison drawings above) often take time to create they can be worth their weight in gold.
Your local planning department is likely to be busy so if you can do anything to save them time and make the arguments ‘visual' then it will probably be appreciated.
Going to appeal is not as attractive as it sounds
Any planning decision can be appealed. This generally introduces a 6-month delay. Quite often there may be other options in front of you, before you consider going to appeal.
If you do appeal, someone independent (from another geographic area) will look at the case again. However, whatever decision they come to is final.
Test your application against policy before submitting
The application will be decided on planning grounds (unless you’re very unlucky!), so knowing you have thought through all the possible objections before making your application will take you a long way. Hopefully you can deal with them before they turn into an issue.
There is no ‘one size fits all' when it comes to planning
Unless you are building on a site like Graven Hill, where the planning has been done upfront and you simply have to adhere to the parameters, the planning constraints of your self build site are a slightly grey area. It takes you being in the process to unravel them one hundred percent (and even then different people may end up with different outcomes).
For example, there were no set parameters for the height of my own house.
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