New audit reveals the London councils that like to say 'yes' to planning permission proposals

An audit of planning proposals has uncovered a dramatic postcode lottery across the capital, with some councils rejecting two-thirds of applications, while others granted 92 per cent of proposals in the past year.

If you want planning permission for your home improvement, you’re better off in Wandsworth, Kensington and Chelsea, where up to 92 per cent of applications are approved. 

An audit of the outcome of planning proposals in the past year has uncovered a dramatic postcode lottery in the capital, with some councils rejecting two out of three applications. 

Redbridge, Bromley, Newham, Croydon, Hillingdon, Greenwich and Harrow councils all turned down more than half of the applications they received last year. In Enfield, north London, just 37 per cent were granted.

The figures will be worrying for anyone hoping to upgrade their property, including Robbie Williams. The former Take That star is awaiting a verdict on plans to remodel his £17.5 million property in Holland Park, after revising his original proposal following objections from his neighbour, the Led Zeppelin legend Jimmy Page, who believes building work may have a knock-on effect on his Grade I-listed home. 

But the verdict may swing in Williams’s favour, as the audit shows Kensington and Chelsea council has a track record of approving 81 per cent of applications. 

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Wandsworth council approves 92 per cent of applications, while Southwark, Camden and Tower Hamlets councils give the green light on more than 80 per cent, according to the study by planning consultancy Daniel Watney LLP.

Nick Willson, director of Nick Willson Architects, says Londoners must share some of the blame for rejected plans as they fail to include enough information and detail with their applications. But he adds that he believes some councillors are simply against modern design. 

“Planning permission for one house we had was thrown out due to proposals for a flat roof — the councillor said she didn’t like flat roofs and would reject all schemes with flat roofs,” he says. 
Kristin Cross, director of Satellite Architects, says some applicants are doomed because their proposals breach local or national planning rules, and adds that researching these guidelines is dull but essential. 

Another major reason for refusal is objection from neighbours. Last month 71-year-old Zipporah Lisle-Mainwaring painted her west London townhouse with red and white stripes to express her frustration after neighbours scuppered plans to demolish the property and rebuild it with a double-decker basement.
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Neighbours of a £15 million townhouse in one of the most exclusive areas of London have branded the property an ‘eyesore’ after it was painted with bright red and white stripes.The move followed a neighbourhood row over objections to knock it down and replace it with a five-storey mansion complete with a controversial ‘super basement’. Read full story here

Viki Lander, creative director of Ensoul Interior Architecture, says the solution is to involve neighbours from the start. “It is crucial to present your plans to them before submitting to planning,” she adds.
“Explain what you plan to do and why. People really are understanding and can even be major advocates once they know that you are trying to get more living space for kids that are on the way.” 

Another way to get neighbours on side is to offer to pay for their windows and cars to be cleaned of building dust regularly, she suggests, and to tweak plans to take into account specific problems.

However, Russell Curtis, director of RCKa Architects, says the real issue is underfunding. “Most planning departments are overworked and under-resourced, so junior, less-experienced case officers tend to be assigned smaller domestic schemes,” he says. “It is often easier for them to refuse an application instead of taking time to understand it and reaching an informed decision within the statutory eight-week determination period.”


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