A bird in hand or two in the bush?

We currently have a client whose project has planning for three flats on the ground floor of a two storey building; this was obtained using the permitted development rules.  Work has not started as there is a bigger agenda to this development.  The plan is to extend the roof by two floors upwards, and add a 1st and 2nd floor extension to the rear; so, another couple of flats.

The issue is if the flats are progressed in isolation, and then the planning comes through, some structural alterations will be required to accommodate the extensions.  Possibly a basement as well to accommodate the bin storage and cycle facilities, which will be a requirement if the further applications are granted.

The problem is even the most straight forward planning takes time; it’s whimsical and unpredictable.  For example, the work has been on hold whilst the rear permission is in progress.  During this time, there have been two revisions to the plans as per the case officer’s guidance.  Then, the case officer was changed and the planning was declined.  Despite being revised twice at the request of the planning officer.  Welcome to planning.

The conundrum is then whether they push on with the current plans with the risk of redoing some of the works if the planning comes through, or continue to wait.

In the interim build costs and interest rates have both risen, resulting in a higher cost to the project.

The most likely conclusion seems to be to build two of the flats for now, have them rented out, leave the third in case the basement permission comes through.

This is the difference between planning and permitted development.  Councils actually hate permitted development as it leaves the permission outside of their control.  The only way they can gain back control is to apply for an Article 4 by making a case to the central government which takes time.

The saving grace is there is sufficient income coming in from the project, it was not entered into on the basis of planning alone.

This issue calls into question investment strategy in general.  Should one purchase a site with the sole purpose of planning alone?  In the past we have done so, and generally speaking most of the planning applied for has been obtained.  However, the focus now is to use PD rights, and reduce the uncertainty associated with full planning.  The only planning to be relied upon is the ‘slam dunk’ type of planning permissions.

We’re exploring how to handle the rejected planning.  We can either withdraw the application, and then go a for a pre-app in order to iron out the reasons why it would have been refused.  Or, wait for the refusal so we know exactly what the report will say and then go for an appeal.  The latter will take a longer time period, but then it is outside of the remit of the council and can be examined purely on the basis of planning policy alone.

The essence is this adds both time and uncertainty into the equation, which is never good for any investment.

Suresh Vagjiani

Suresh Vagjiani
Suresh Vagjiani
Articles: 819