Richard Sloman from Godalming-based architects Nye Saunders offers some sound advice

Are you hoping to build a new house, extend and refresh your existing one or develop a plot of land? If so, it is important to appoint an architect that doesn’t just have the ability to produce amazing designs, but also has the necessary knowledge to successfully obtain permission to build your dream project.

Attention to detail - Nye Saunders designed property

Attention to detail in a Nye Saunders designed property

So, how do you establish, without spending too much money, if you’re likely to gain planning permission? A good architect or town planner will be able to give you an honest assessment of whether what you are hoping to do is within the realms of possibility or a complete non-starter. For a fee, most Local Planning Authorities run a Pre-app service where they give basic advice on whether the proposals comply with their planning policies, and what extra information might be required to support an application. It sounds obvious but the more detailed the information you can provide the more detailed the response will be – providing little or poor information will often lead to the planning officer jumping to incorrect conclusions and providing a more negative response – not very helpful!

Is planning permission always required?

No, it can often be possible to carry out work without the need for planning permission under permitted development rights. This could be a topic for a separate article, but essentially extensions to a house such as attic conversions and extensions can often be carried out under permitted development (PD). Agricultural barns can also generally be converted into dwellings, and office blocks into flats, all under permitted development. The process should be a tick box exercise – if the proposals meet the PD requirements, they are permitted – as simple as that! A good architect will know the PD rules inside out and be able to advise on what can and cannot be done under them.

However, if permission cannot be achieved under PD, then planning permission will be required. This can be a time-consuming process but if you have sought pre-application advice you should at least know whether consent is possible. Whether you get planning consent or not is determined by how your design complies with planning policies, at national, local and increasingly, neighbourhood level.

For design or planning detail - an expert pair of eyes is key

For both design detail or planning detail – an expert pair of eyes is key to your project

However, a high quality and well presented design can sometimes overcome minor policy objections. A common misconception is that planning works on precedent – it doesn’t. Just because your neighbour has done something that does not mean you can automatically do the same. Each property and site will have subtly different constraints so they will be considered individually, possibly with different results.

What if my property is listed?

If you have a listed building, or a site in a conservation area, it is worth appointing an architect who specialises in heritage projects and has a good relationship with the local Conservation Officer. It is a common miscon-ception that you can’t do anything with a listed building, but that is generally not the case, and provided the designs are appropriate, quite a lot can be achieved. Again, your architect can advise you what you will and will not be allowed to alter.

While you are going through the planning process you may encounter technical issues that require additional investigation such as flood risk assessments or ecology surveys, and an expert pair of eyes early in the process will help to ensure that you are prepared for these and avoid them having a detrimental effect on your application. The most successful projects are those that are not only based on beautiful and clever design techniques but are also carefully planned and considered from the outset. Working with an architect that is not only creative but also very experienced and knowledgeable when it comes to planning can save you a lot of time, money and stress.

Nye Saunders are located at 3 Church Street, Godalming, Surrey GU7 1EQ

Tel: 01483 418600

This article appears in the spring edition of Premier Magazine