Proper advice might have prevented falling into planning trap
Q Over two years ago, we found a perfect plot on the edge of a North Yorkshire market town. The existing bungalow was in a poor state of repair and too small for our requirements so we appointed a plan drawer to prepare some designs and meet with a planning officer to discuss extending the property. We were led to believe that our ideas would be acceptable and although a planning application was necessary, it would be a formality. We received a subsequent refusal and have spent almost £10,000 on fees both for the original drawings and a subsequent appeal that we also lost. Although the property is on the market, prices in this area have dropped significantly and we
are now living in conditions that are far too small for a growing family. Is there any cause of redress against the local authority?
A Unfortunately you made two fundamental errors. Firstly, employing a plan drawer rather than an architect for what sounds to be a sensitive if not ambitious project was a mistake. No architect can ever guarantee to a client that they can obtain a planning permission. This decision is taken by third parties and where applications are “major” or contentious; a committee of elected councillors are responsible. It is impossible to second guess how a group of people will vote when they are being lobbied by their constituents and fellow members.
Some plan drawers may not be aware of the nuances of the planning system and are not therefore the best people to provide advice.
Personally, I prefer clients to attend pre-application meetings so they can hear first hand the views of the officer and get a better idea of the whole process.
Secondly, you should have been told that any advice or comments given at this preliminary meeting were without prejudice. For the reasons stated above this has to be the case.
Effectively, this removes any cause of redress. Although I may be stating the obvious it was foolhardy to make such a significant purchase, without at the very least, making detailed planning consent a condition of sale.
You do not give the reasons for refusal. If the local authority object to the principle of any development then there may be very little you can do. However, if it is a question of design or scale then an imaginative architect might be able to come up with a solution that is more acceptable.
I suggest you contact the Royal Institute of British Architects who have a clients’ advisory service. They can put you in touch with some local architects who have the relevant experience. The regional office is RIBA Yorkshire, The Studio, 32 The Calls, and Leeds, LS2 7EW. tel 0113 389 9870.
Jonathon Wingfield is managing director of Acanthus WSM Architects Ltd and Woodhall Planning and Conservation, Leeds.