Achieving Planning Permission

Project initiation

We started the planning process in September 2010 by selecting an architect capable of producing a design that met our architectural requirements (as discussed in the Architectural Style and Floor Plans page of this blog) and guiding us through the local authority planning process. The local authority for planning considerations is Wokingham Borough Council (WBC) who have designated the specific area in which we live as an Area of Special Landscape Importance (ASLI). We knew at once that gaining planning permission for the extensive redevelopment to achieve the property that we had in mind would not be easy. Balanced against this, the plot of land that we occupy is about 3.5 acres in extent and is quite secluded and private so that any reasonable development that we wished to pursue would have minimal impact on the landscape or neighbours. To this end we were keen to minimise any footprint increase by constraining the elevations of the replacement dwelling to be more or less within the elevation dimensions of the current dwelling. The fact that the current house is essentially T-shaped and we were replacing it with a rectangular design, to the same overall dimensions, however results in the substantial increase in living space that we desired. Moreover when we discussed the potential project with our neighbours they were encouraging and supportive of our outline ideas.

We selected Adam Architects mainly on the basis discussed in the Architectural Style and Floor Plans page of this blog however by a happy coincidence Nigel Anderson, our lead architect, had designed the redevelopment of a large house into a number of high specification apartments less than half a mile away from us. The experience that he gained through that development enabled him to advise on what documentation and plans we would need to submit to satisfy WBC’s planning department. Notwithstanding his experience with WBC he advised us to engage a planning consultant to guide us through the complex process. Ms Deirdre Wells of the Red Kite Development Consultancy ( ) was recommended to us  by neighbours who were labouring through the same planning quagmire that we were. Deirdre is an extremely experienced planning consultant who previously headed up the planning department of Wokingham Borough  Council and subsequently, in successive roles, led the planning departments of the counties of Berkshire and Hampshire.  More recently she had acted as a planning advisor to The Rt. Hon. John Prescott MP when he was UK Secretary of State for the Environment and Regions. As such she is a heavy hitter, well versed in planning legislation and policy at national and regional level. We were glad to have her on our side!

The First Planning Application

After several months of detailed discussions with the architects  we arrived at a design that satisfied our needs and we thought would have a chance of gaining approval. However we also had to submit the following documentation which can be down-loaded from the blog library:

We also submitted detailed site plans, floor plans and elevations drawings of the existing and proposed new buildings. The amount of work required to submit this amount of documentation meant engaging specialist consultants to make the various assessments and write the reports and was extremely time consuming. Consequently we were not able to submit a planning application until June 2012, some 20 months after our initial discussions with the architects.

The refusal

You can imagine our disappointment when in December 2012 we received a refusal  from WBC of our planning application. The reason of the refusal was;

“By virtue of the significant cumulative increase in the volume, bulk, mass and spread of development on the site within a countryside location, the proposed extension (sic) is considered to have an unacceptable impact upon the openness and rural character of the rural countryside and ASLI. This is considered contrary to the NPPF, Policy CP11 of the Core Strategy and the Borough Design Guide.”

        The officer’s report gave further detail, and accepted that in many respects, including the principle of development, the application was acceptable, but was refused solely because of the perceived adverse impact of the amount of development and its consequent intrusive effect on the Countryside and the Area of Special Landscape Importance (ASLI). The main objection seemed to focus on the additional extent of the house caused by adding an adjoining single storey extension to the building for an indoor swimming pool to replace the existing outdoor pool. The officer’s report included a recommendation to move the swimming pool to the basement of the proposed development.

Resubmission of a Revised Scheme to WBC Planning Department 

                      We therefore followed the advice of the Case Officer by positioning the replacement swimming pool in a basement level, at considerable additional cost to the project but significantly reducing the previously proposed spread of development on the site. The dimensions of the main house above ground level were also reduced slightly. The time taken to consider all these aspects and prepare the documentation again meant that we did not submit a modified planning application until March 2013. This time after deliberating for yet another six months, mainly because a  different planning officer had been assigned to the case, the local authority approved the application in September 2013, three years after initiating the project! Floor plans and elevation drawings of the finally approved replacement house can be viewed on the Architectural Style and Floor Plans page of the blog.

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