Lauryn Hill said: “Miscommunication leads to complication.” The complexity of the planning process often means that we have to communicate complex or technical ideas in a way that is easily understood by others, including, but not limited to, planning officers.
Even where two experts from similar disciplines, from the applicant and from the Council side are in discussion, there can still be a divide that can only be bridged by better communication.
This is the case of a development that we recently obtained planning permission on in Christchurch, near Bournemouth on the South Coast for 46 new flats. Flood risk was a major issue on which this proposal turned.
The overall strategy
The aim of the project was to obtain permission for 48 dwelling units in total within this 10,000 sq ft building. This would have required extensions to the building through an extra floor on the roof, bay extensions to the side and a small ground floor extension.
This would need a full application for planning permission at some stage. As the building had a lawful B1 office use, this would have meant proving that it had been marketed for an extended period of time (most Councils ask for evidence of at least 12 months open marketing).
However, most Councils will not be so strict on the need to ‘prove’ a period of marketing if Prior Approval for the change of use has already been obtained. The reasoning here is basically because, if the Council knows that Prior Approval has already been granted for the change of use, then they will not do much to stand in the way of something that is almost inevitable.
Usually when starting a project such as this, a Marketing or Valuation Report will have been produced by the bank’s valuers or surveyors and this can be a useful starting point for the marketing evidence on local office demand and the history of marketing of the building, sought by the planners.
Therefore, we started off in May 2019 by obtaining Prior Approval for a change of use to 27 flats, which was granted 56 days later in July 2019.