The Cost of Speed

I am often asked to act in a hurry! In today’s modern world where everything is at an instant the planning system has, shall we say, failed to react to the need for speed and efficiency.

The planning system still has one Palaeolithic component, namely us! Us humans love to take our time and hate being pressured. Hence the planning system as it presently is is bogged down with applications taking 12-16 weeks at best.

In addition to this the UK System is struggling with the effect of Covid-19. Local Authority Planners are pack animal’s at heart and hate operating in isolation so more time must be taken to talk things through with a ‘manager’. The upshot is that a planning application that is timed for 8 weeks may well take 16!

The other thing about rushing an application is something may be missed or done in haste or simply we are being asked to pick up the pieces of an inappropriate strategy. Let me give you a couple of examples.

The urgent application

When I give talks to property developers I give a very simple equation.
Prior Approval = Approval BEFORE you start work or change the use.
This is because part (W) of the General Permitted Development Order states at para 11:

(11) The development must not begin before the occurrence of one of the following—
(a)the receipt by the applicant from the local planning authority of a written notice of their determination that such prior approval is not required;
(b)the receipt by the applicant from the local planning authority of a written notice giving their prior approval; or
(c)the expiry of 56 days following the date on which the application under sub-paragraph (2) was received by the local planning authority without the authority notifying the applicant as to whether prior approval is given or refused.

Class W of Part 3 of Schedule 2 GPDO 2015

I am frequently amazed therefore how many people ask me whether they can start work prior to receiving prior approval. My answer is always the same.

They must not carry out ‘development’ in accordance with the act.
The definition of development is set out at Section 55(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act and States:

55 Meaning of “development” and “new development”.
(1)Subject to the following provisions of this section, in this Act, except where the context otherwise requires, “development,” means the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land.
F1[(1A) For the purposes of this Act “ building operations ” includes—
(a)demolition of buildings;
(c)structural alterations of or additions to buildings; and
(d)other operations normally undertaken by a person carrying on business as a builder.]
(2)The following operations or uses of land shall not be taken for the purposes of this Act to involve development of the land—
(a)the carrying out for the maintenance, improvement or other alteration of any building of works which—
(i)affect only the interior of the building, or
(ii)do not materially affect the external appearance of the building,and are not works for making good war damage or works begun after 5th December 1968 for the alteration of a building by providing additional space in it underground;

Town and Country Planning Act 1990

Whilst this is only part of Section 55 it is a case that if you transgress these rules to say, carrying out the material change of use, then you may not enjoy the prior approval route.

The CIL Trap.

Applicants who want things done fast often fall into the CIL Trap.
I had an applicant who, presenting a building which had been vacant for 15 years, wanted an application for prior approval right away.
The exemptions to CIL can be found here ( however the biggest one of all is the 6 Months usage in 36 Months Rule.

That is if the building has been used for 6 months in the last 36 you may get a 100% exemption on the CIL generated by the floor area of the existing building.

This particular client did not want to say, rent the building to someone like Regus and gain a rental income for 6 months and then apply after the 6 month exemption period had passed.

The applicant was in a rush and chose to pay the CIL

The maths looked like this:
600sqm per floor over 12 floors = 7200 sqm or 72,000 sqft
Wait with rental income of £10 per sqft = £720,000.00 per annum
CIL at £105 sqm = -£756.000.00

In this case a little bit of patience would have been profitable.

In conclusion, like any major decision, a planning application should be well thought out and part of a clear build programme which takes into account the true time taken to make said application and the costs therein.

by Jon McDermott