The UK planning process is renowned for being awkward and time consuming. Much has been written in the media about improvements that are required.

It is important to understand the vested interests of all stakeholders in the planning process. The Planners themselves work for Councils. Elected Councillors represent the public interests. So for example, if you want to build a house on a “Greenfield” site just outside a village boundary, the Councillor who represents the public, the local Planning Department will probably refuse planning permission. This is in part because of likely local public opposition and in part because the plan is not consistent with the Local Plan and Area Planning Strategy.

Do your homework - see the Local Plan and read the Area Planning/Housing Strategy.

If you are considering doing any new development work, it is best to go to the Council offices or public library and see the Local Plan. This outlines the local areas assigned for potential future development and those where no development is either needed or allowed, and you should be able to buy a copy of this for a few pounds. You should also read the Area Planning and /or Housing Strategy or similar such publicly available planning documentation. This will set out what goals and actions the Planning Department has in mind in the coming years.

The Planning Stages and how these affect property values

There are three types of planning stage. A plot without planning permission, a plot with Outline Planning Permission (OPP), and a plot with Detailed Planning Permission (DPP). A Greenfield site may only be worth a few thousand pounds without planning permission, but worth a six-figure sum with OPP. Clearly for an investor that can transfer a plot without planning permission into one with OPP or DPP, financial gains can be substantial.

What is Outline Planning Permission?  What is Detailed Planning Permission?

OPP is a brief description of the type of property that will have permission – for example, one detached two bedroomed dwelling. Before starting building, you will need DPP – this includes detailed plans and drawings, details of what the building will be made of, dimensions, number of bedrooms etc. You might apply for DPP for a 2/3 story house with a bedroom in the roof area, but the planners refuse this idea and want it only to be 1 storey with dormer bedroom. Getting DPP will likely need some negotiation on the details and overall concept. The chance of getting DPP approved after OPP is very high, but the chance of getting exactly the plans you want during DPP is fairly low. Before presenting your architect's detailed plans, make sure you comply with building regulations on things like “right to light” for neighbours, building materials, and access.

Red Flags

Beware of “get-rich-quick” schemes that for instance advertise farm land with potential for planning permission – very few Greenfield sites are given planning permission for construction of dwellings so such a purchase would be very speculative. Theoretically if you believe a plot which costs 10,000 pounds has a 20% chance of getting planning permission, and it could then sell as a plot with DPP for 120,000 pounds, this makes economic sense to purchase. However, you will not be able to borrow money against the plot, and will incur costs to get your OPP, and it will take up a significant chunk of your time. Lastly, If you do not get OPP, be humble and accept the ruling – don’t “burn your bridges” – you never know if you will be applying again to the same Planning Department. If you want control of such decisions, property development may not be for you