Council Planning Departments can get a bad rap. They tend to be seen as slow, unresponsive, and just not very helpful!
As a Planning Consultant I have a lot of interaction with Local Planning Authorities. and can see that Planning Officers have a difficult job. They have to balance the needs of planning applicants against those of local communities and a whole raft of legislation, rules and regulations. Add to that years of government cuts to council funding, leading to Planning departments being under-resourced, and a neverending conveyor belt of applications, and you can see the potential for problems.
Introducing the Helpful Planning Officer!
it was therefore very refreshing recently to find myself dealing with a Planning Officer, who made the whole process relatively straightforward and painless. As part of my service, I always aim to forge a good relationship with the Planning Officer I’m working with, in order to achieve the desired outcome for my client. However, this Planning Office went beyond my expectations! They were approachable and responded to queries quickly while also helping us make the application as acceptable to Planning Committee as possible. This meant that the applicant, the architect and myself felt comfortable with the process and had confidence in the end result.
You could say that perhaps the application was destined to be successful anyway, so the Planning Officer was only doing their job and had no reason to make the application process difficult. However, this was not the case, as the application was quite complex and the Planning Officer asked a number of searching questions. This was in contrast to other experiences I have had where a lack of questioning, and therefore a lack of information, leads to a refusal, without any option to discuss a way forward. In my opinion it’s much better to be able to amend a proposal, rather than revise and resubmit, thereby saving time and money for both the Council and the applicant.
Planning Application Approved
This particular application was in fact a tricky one. It was for two holiday lets within the Green Belt in Surrey and outside of any settlement area. The Council’s Planning Committee however considered that the ‘very special circumstances’ were acceptable, despite a number of local objections.
Having covered off potential issues with our helpful Planning Officer beforehand our application was almost watertight and “sailed through” the process.
Working With – Not Against – Your Planning Officer is Best!
To summarise, working together towards a goal always beats working against each other. The helpful and open approach of this particular Planning Officer helped to secure a successful outcome for all parties. I would love for this cooperative approach to become the norm, so that all Planning Applications are dealt with speedily and effectively in an amicable, stress free environment.