The London Plan is a statutory document written by the Mayor of London’s office setting out the spacial development strategy for Greater London. Then at a more local level, every council has its own local plan setting out the area’s future spacial strategy for the next 10-15 years to come. It sets out the high-level framework for town planning and building design, including for domestic alterations. The policy detail is then set out in a set supplementary planning documents and guidelines, whose aim is to ensure that a balance is struck between protecting neighbours’ interests, keeping a good quality, maintaining an attractive street scene and meeting applicants’ reasonable expectations for additional living space.
The strength of any planning application is judged on the effectiveness of this balance.
There are 5 main considerations that a local authority Planner will look at when assessing a planning application. In brief, these are the development’s impact upon neighbours; the quality of design, impact on nature and wildlife, environmental impact and other factors.
(1) Impact on neighbours’ amenity.
This means anything in the proposed scheme that impacts their current comfort, convenience or pleasure will be assessed. Most notably, the potential of overshadowing, your neighbours’ right to light and right to privacy.
(2) Quality of design.
The existing aesthetic of a building and/or area should be maintained or enhanced by proposed works. A quality design straddles the line between policy and ambition. It should be suitably scaled, well laid-out and endeavour to protect and enhance the attractiveness of the surrounding environment.
(3) Impact on nature and wildlife.
Some animals (like bats), plants (like trees under a tree preservation order) and habitats (like heathlands) are protected by law animals.
(4) Environmental impact.
Proposed works that may cause adverse noise, dust, smell environmental disturbance could be subject to an environmental impact assessment.
- Other factors
A broad mix of other factors also impact the success of a planning application. In brief, these are:
- Impact on roads and highways;
- Parking and access;
- Rights of way;
- Listed building;
- Designated areas;
- Flood risk;
- Disabled access;
- Sewer adoption and connection;
- Archaeological sites;
- Restrictive covenants pertaining to conditions of ownership;
- Previous decisions made about applications similar to your own.
For residential extensions, impact upon neighbours and quality of design are the most significant.
Planning policies are not set in stone. They are living documents that evolve to keep pace with the area they serve.
There is a heap of factors affecting a planning application and there is no sure-fire mechanical way to revere-engineer the success of a planning application. This is because the context pervading each individual application will determine how much weight a Planner puts on one determining factor over another. It is a judgement call.
It is the job of the Planner to decide whether a proposed scheme on balance meets the criteria for planning approval. It is the job of the Architect to make the Planner’s decision as easy as possible.
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