Six things to consider before making a planning application

Obtaining planning permission for new healthcare developments is not always an easy process. However, having acted for clients on planning matters in respect of healthcare developments for over 25 years, we are well placed to guide you through the process.

In our experience, taking the right approach at the beginning and doing your homework beforehand is the best way to achieve results, saving a lot of time and expense in the long run.

These are Aitchison Raffety’s top tips to avoid the pitfalls and maximise the chance of success:-

1. Understand the planning policies and requirements

All planning applications are assessed in relation to their accordance with the local plan, which can comprise of several documents. Policies in emerging local plans can also carry weight depending on the stage reached in their preparation. It is vitally important to consider existing and emerging plan policies as well as the Council’s other supplementary guidance, to ensure that all requirements are addressed. Any proposals that are contrary to the development plan need to be fully justified and that’s when it can be most important to seek professional advice.

2. Take professional advice

While some planning issues are fairly straightforward, most applications involve arguments as to the interpretation of planning policies, and sometimes whether particular policies flagged up by the Council are actually relevant at all. All local authorities have areas where new development is more tightly controlled than others, including Conservation Areas and the Green Belt for example. If not handled properly, with appropriate evidence provided in support, these designations can affect development opportunities and having a planning consultant on your side can make the difference between a scheme being refused or approved.

3. Make use of the pre-application process

Early engagement with the Local Planning Authority can often be invaluable to the success of a project. Pre-application submissions can be used to gain support from the Local Planning Authority, as well as guidance on any specialist reports or information that will need to be submitted with the formal application. It can also be a good time to discuss and agree any financial contributions or other requirements that may apply to a scheme which could affect its viability.

4. Consult with your neighbours and the local community

Engaging with local communities and anyone who could be affected by the proposal is very important. This is particularly useful for schemes proposing changes to healthcare provision, as demonstrating local support and highlighting the benefits of a scheme can be successfully used in negotiating a consent. Early consultation also provides an opportunity for issues to be addressed and changes made to a scheme to gain support.

5. Know what you can do without planning permission

The construction of new premises will always need planning permission, but many changes of use can now be undertaken without the need for planning consent. Health Centres and clinics now fall within Use Class E and it is possible to undertake a change of use to or from a wide variety of other uses without requiring a formal planning permission, including offices, shops and gyms. The ability to change the use of a building without planning permission is often used to help negotiate a consent.

6. Provide robust supporting information

For all applications we would prepare a detailed Planning Statement which demonstrates how the scheme complies with relevant local and national policies and guidance and sets out the arguments why it is acceptable in planning terms. We would provide advice on the information required to effectively support a planning application and the need for any specialist reports.

For further information and to discuss any development projects please contact James Holmes, Director and Head of Planning,  01442 291785  james.holmes@argroup.co.uk