11 Jun 2019

Casting a light on the shadow of planning permission

A self-build project in the stunning countryside of North East England has benefitted from Isover’s Metac, chosen for its excellent thermal and acoustic properties, as well as being the perfect fit for the architectural design of the property.


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Designing a self-build should be an enjoyable process that takes people one step closer to their dream home. However, finding a suitable plot and applying for planning permission can sometimes feel like a jump into the great unknown. The stress of aligning the vision of the perfect home with local planning policies can quickly become a challenge. But could there be a solution?

There are multiple considerations that councils must take into account when they receive a planning application. Second to the principle of development itself, the structure is the most obvious aspect to be assessed, including size, layout and height. However, there are other issues that often get forgotten during the design process. For example, in certain towns and villages, a specific aesthetic must be adhered to in order to ensure that the house complements its surroundings.

There are many elements to think about when applying for self-build planning permission. Lots of things happen in a set sequence, meaning that if one is rejected, then the process can end up grinding to a halt. To avoid this, self-builders should aim to be aware of the guidelines they need to follow – having knowledge of the three main categories that rejection can come under can save a lot of time and money.

The first category relates to the principle of development; is the proposal located in an area where new housing will be acceptable, such as within an existing settlement or a designated development area, or is it a replacement property? Additionally, is the area near to potential environmental issues such as flooding, contamination or noise?

The second relates to the impact on heritage and the natural environment – tree conservation areas and existing wildlife, quite rightfully, have priority over houses, so the proposed plot must not negatively impact these.

Thirdly, it is important to review the proximity to immediate neighbours, including considerations such as property overshadowing, overlooking, and effects on amenity and privacy, as well as highways.

For self-building to become mainstream, the uncertainty associated with the planning process must be lessened. With this in mind, an innovative solution has been created at Graven Hill, a self and custom build development site in Bicester.

This location has the principle of development agreed on certain parts of the site through an outline planning permission. The local planning authority has confirmed a Local Development Order setting out guidelines which self-build houses must meet, such as the total size of the home and the maximum height, in order to avoid the necessity of planning permission. These requirements are set out in a ‘plot passport’ for each self-build plot.

As long as the plot passport requirements are met, permission can be granted in 28 days, significantly faster than the eight weeks it can take for conventional applications. A pre-application advice service is also offered, allowing self-builders to discuss any queries or concerns they may have before the application process begins, providing them with further reassurance, and reducing the application time further.

Self-building is a concept which should be encouraged across the UK. As well as giving people control over their immediate environment, self-building provides individualism in house design, and cheaper housing for more people. The existence of Graven Hill proves that the tools are already there to help more people to take the self-build plunge, creating forever homes instead of stepping stones.

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