Opinion

The Basic’s

The common failing of many application processes is a failure to understand the basics of the planning game. These are the Starting Position, The Appropriate Process and the End Game.

Like any good game of chess the basics are an important fundamental of the question of ‘how do I win the game’ and are adapted for each opponent you face. In Cricket a bowler changes his or her plan of attack dependent on the batsman facing them and this is no different for making a planning application.

Therefore ‘The Basics’ are the pathway to victory in any particular planning case.

To give this a practical example let me talk about a recent case that i was exposed to as a classic exploration of understanding the basics.

The Starting Position:

The development site was a house within the borough of Bromley. The developer wanted to use the property as a 12 person HMO and took advice from his architect to just apply for this! whilst the application was going through the developer carried out the change of use to a 12 person HMO!

So the Starting position was a 3 bedroom (max 5 person) house.

The Appropriate Process:

The developer just applied for planning permission for the addition of 7 people in a house that the planners thought was designed for 5 people. Planning permission was refused on noise, disturbance and parking grounds. This was clearly not the appropriate process as the jump between 5 and 12 people is massive in the eyes of a planner!

Bromley however does not control house to HMO. The appropriate process in this case would have been to change the use from a house to a 6 bedroom HMO under PD first! This would change the starting position from an uplift of 7 persons to an uplift of 6 persons. From this the developer could have applied for raises in the level of occupancy demonstrating at every stage that his HMO did not generate noise as existing. This 6 to 8, 8 to 10 and finally 10 to 12 once they had demonstrated to the council that the use was otherwise acceptable.

The End Game:

This is obvious from the case study – a 12 bedroom HMO. Unfortunately the handling of this case left the applicant with a painful appeal decision and enforcement notice to deal with which forced him to start from square 1 and the council enforced against the unauthorised large HMO use and required the building to be put back into a family home. This is not the end game the applicant intended but a good example of why understanding the basic’s is so critical!

by Jon McDermott