Currently, we are having issues getting a planning permission agreed with the council. It’s worth noting this is after not one but two revisions by the case officer.
At the 11th hour the line manager then comes along to recommend for refusal. The reasons – we do not know. Why do we not know? Because we cannot get any communication from the manager. They are a law unto themselves.
This unfortunately is not an isolated incident, it’s indicative that the planning system is subjective and whimsical. It is in the hands of unaccountable employees, often those who you are dealing with are simply passing through.
There is something called permitted development which serves to short circuit this incompetent process. It is set by Central government and therefore overrides the whims of local planning officers. The only way the council can override this is if they apply for an Article 4, which takes years. They also need to present the case, and it is applicable to certain locations, not a blanket rule for the borough as a whole.
The point here is planning is an uncertainty. Therefore, you should not enter a project with this as your main exit. It may never happen. We know this from hard experience.
A project should have several exits. Ideally, when we look at something it needs to either come under the umbrella of permitted development, or be generating income from day one. If not, then we walk. This means we do substantially less deals; but the right ones, and are not stuck with lemons.
The above development was within this criterion and has a good cash flow. There is further scope which has been gained through permitted development, which has been fully exploited. The planning aspect was a bonus, and not the main crux of the deal. So, whether we get it or not the deal makes good strong financial sense. Though of course it’s worth pursuing; even if it means a refusal and then going on to appeal. The appeal process is supposed to strip the whim and emotion out of the application, and look at it impartially purely from the viewpoint of planning policy.
Despite the rant regarding planning, we will be aiming to get further planning on the top of this building as well. The building has a pitched roof, and therefore the skyline will not be changed by popping one side of the roof out into a mansard. This hopefully will be a more straight forward process, but let’s see.
Because the project is cash flow positive we can wait out the planning process. The planning then becomes a ‘nice to have’ rather than a ‘must have’. This is the point.