3: Planning

Following my articles summarising the RIBA Plan of Works, this article continues from Stage 2: Sketch Scheme. I will be writing a series of articles going into more detail on each stage to help people better understand the process by which architects work. This article covers Stage 3: Planning. Please note (before the comments stream in) that this is a general summary, only refers to minor applications and primarily focuses on the statutory situation in Wales.

You've just finished the fun bit - felt pens, doodling & pretty pictures to get the scheme designed the way you want it; Now comes perhaps the greatest hurdle - gaining planning permission. As with most stages, we will have had an eye on this stage during the previous stages, but now's the time to get into it - applying for planning permission!


The most obvious component perhaps, but there are key considerations. To date, there's still no requirement for 3D visuals, even though their probably the most useful for getting a feel for what's trying to be achieved; The main requirements are still site plans to specific scales, existing and proposed plans and elevations. In this regard, very little has changed since architects migrated from the drawing board to the screen.

Furthermore, we may need drawings from other consultants such as a plan of the any trees, their locations additions and omissions as well as drawings for the drains. Drainage in particular will be a hot topic come January 2019 when new requirements kick-in for the management of surface water (rain).


As well as the drawings, you will potentially need some reports. In some cases we spend more time writing than we do drawing which comes as a surprise to many of our clients. Many of the reports are produced by others e.g. ecology reports - to ensure that we take care of any wee beasties or plants on site, well protected ones at least. In some cases we may even need an archaeologist if the site is of historic interest or we plan building close to a cemetery or chapel.


Once we've collated all the information noted (in brief) above, we can submit the application. Assuming we've not missed something or made a boo-boo, the application should be registered within 14 days of submission. It's only then that the clock starts ticking with the local authority who will need to get a decision to you within 8 weeks.


Now that the Council have all your info they consult with just about everyone from community councils, the highways department, Welsh Water, your neighbours and Natural Resources Wales, to name but a few. Fingers crossed for this bit, as one or more of them may say something that could potentially scupper your application. In most cases, the planner would contact us to let us know and provide a response. Sometimes these are straightforward and other times we may need to reconsider the application. Most of the time though, thankfully, nothing happens and we get our decision in due course.


We pride ourselves on having a really high success rate with planning, but there are exceptions as you can imagine. If the worst happens, we still have options. You can submit an alternative application, for which the planning department won't charge you or you can appeal the application, for which the planning inspectorate don't charge you either. So, we always recommend taking one of these courses of action to our clients as you have little to lose at this point. For the really rare and tricky issues, we may suggest going to a planning consultant. These are specialists, often ex-planners who can provide expert guidance and advice. Typically though, we would recommend these before-hand as we can usually spot the most difficult applications coming.

Extra Planning

Believe it or not, even once you've received planning permission, you may have to submit more applications! These relate to any conditions to the permission which the planners may set. For example, the planner may give permission, on condition that you supply samples of the materials your using. You won't be able to start building until you've dealt with these.

and next . . .

Next you move on to Stage 4! Which I will write about in the near future.

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