Question: If my mother-in-law moves in with us next year we will need to extend the front of our house to create a new en suite bedroom. I have been told we will require planning permission. Doesn't that take ages? Is there any way to speed things up?
Councils are supposed to determine all non-major planning applications within eight weeks, but to speed this process up further, the Government is considering a proposal to allow applications to be processed by an "approved provider", which might mean the job can get done more quickly.
Legislation could be in place before the summer, though pilot schemes will be set up at first to test the system. Approved providers could include private companies or even other councils.
Once the scheme is in place, in theory it should be possible to have an application processed within four to five weeks, taking into account that this will include a statutory three-week consultation period and up to two weeks to allow your council to consider the approved provider's recommendation — be it their approval or refusal.
The Government contends that competition within the planning process could lead to improved efficiency in the handling of applications.
If approved providers are available to you by the time you need to get your planning permission, there are still issues you should consider, such as the complexity of the project you are seeking permission for, and the general performance of your local council planning department.
Among planning information given online, Table P132 is available to download from gov.uk showing the proportion of non-major applications that were determined last year within the required eight-week period by all local planning authorities. If your council has a poor score, perhaps you should consider using an alternative provider to speed up the process.
In your case the complexity issue might be important. Obviously, more complex applications can take longer to determine — especially by planning authorities with a poor competency record. However, going to an approved provider might not be the best approach for you.
With your application, the fact that the new bedroom will require an extension at the front of the house could raise conservation, highways or land contamination issues. This might mean the approved provider will have to access information and advice from several different departments in your local council.
This information should be forthcoming within a set time frame regardless of who is responsible for handling your application. However, it is likely to flow more easily between internal council departments, given informal relationships and the absence of data protection controls. Your council may also have a better understanding of the geography and politics within your district.
An approved provider recommendation to accept or refuse your application may be rejected by your council if it doesn't take into account all relevant information. Such a misunderstanding would almost certainly cause delay for your project.
On the other hand, where you have a straightforward application there is no reason why it could not be processed more expediently, within five weeks, by an approved provider.
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