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Problems with the UK Planning system.

Updated on March 14, 2015

You would think that our planning system would have improved over the years, considering the desperate need to build more houses. A recent application that I applied for though, highlighted what would appear to be a deeply flawed and unjust system.

As many of us in the UK will know, we have a chronic lack of housing available, chiefly down to the undersupply of new houses. This lack of housing was highlighted in the Barker Report in 2004, stating that we need to build 250,000 houses each and every year, just to keep up with demand. To date we have never reached that figure.

Due to this, you would think that the Government would seek to loosen the overly restrictive planning laws. They have done this to a degree by allowing permitted developments, to aid with small extensions and outbuildings etc, but as far as helping to get houses off the ground, the planning system is as restrictive as it ever was.

My own application (yes, it got refused), sought to build a new dwelling at the bottom of our large garden. We were mimicking what our next door neighbours had done, in that we wanted to share one driveway, and use it to serve two properties. This had been allowed next door where a new house was built, around a year ago.

You would therefore assume that we would be able to do the same, but no. It appears that this was an oversight, and that the planners mistakenly let it go through. They will not admit this though, and it will take a formal complaint for me to get investigated, something that won’t exactly endear me to my neighbours.

We therefore withdrew this application, and tried to work with the planners to achieve a logical workaround. They did not like our more than adequate suggestions either, and refused the application of a 4 bed family home, just because of one parking space. Logic and common sense, does obviously not count for much in the planning department.

On top of all this, as many will know, to register the application in the first place, you need a multitude of reports and surveys. Before they will even accept the application, these must be completed, all at a considerable cost.

We had to pay for outline drawings and design and access statements (to be expected), plus a heritage statement, a topographical survey, a tree survey and a highways statement. An easy £3000+ before you even know your fate. On some sites, located in a conservation area for example, it can be a whole lot more.

If we are now to argue for different parking arrangements, before we go to appeal, we will have to shell out over £1000 to get more surveys, and still with no guarantee of success. It appears the planners are more than happy to let you shell out on surveys, without really giving you any indication on whether they will make a difference or not.

Another major element is the time these applications take. By law, once the application is registered, the planners have 8 weeks to give you a decision. This can be extended if both parties agree to this. The problem though, is that they are not registering it for many weeks after it’s received. Our last one took over 6 weeks for them to even acknowledge it, and then only after chasing them. This coupled with all the reports needed beforehand, can turn the whole process into a long and drawn out affair. It’s certainly not for the impatient.

Indeed, we initially applied for a pre planning application late 2012. With all the coming and goings, reports and applications, it has taken until now, March 2015, to finally get to a definite refusal. This gives you some idea of the timescales involved in the process.

With all this in mind, we need a drastic change to our planning system. Of course I have a motive to slate them, but in reality as mentioned earlier, there must be hundreds of applications, like this, that are held up on minor technicalities. Nobody wants swathes of unsavory or unsafe houses to suddenly spring up around the country, but if we just removed some of the ridiculous red tape, then it can only help ease the current crisis.

Not everybody wants to live on the many like for like housing estates that are the mainstay of the housing industry. It’s time to give families and small developers a break.

That will in turn help everyone in the long run.

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