As we opened the graph from our friends at Realyse charting planning applications the sight that greeted us was shocking. Planning applications have fallen from circa 1300 a week during the month of January 2020 to approaching 0. This severe drop in numbers may be shocking and speaks to a virtual freeze in new development funding but also provides an opportunity to fast track your application if you come prepared. It is important to note that in all of the boroughs we checked, planning applications are still being processed. Using a virtual planning committee the local authority teams are working through the plans as usual and you are still able to submit an application. When we spoke to our friends at REDD a luxury London property developer they had this to say:
‘Despite initial concerns over the impact that Covid-19 might have on our application, the process does not seem to have been affected’
Amelia Bardot – REDD
However, with a major change in the way applications are being processed what does that mean for anyone thinking of submitting an application? Here are three tips for planning during the Coronavirus:
1. Get online.
While it may seem a bit post-apocalyptic outside with the roads being almost empty and a lack of connection with the outside world, the digital world has never been so alive. Knowing that online connection is the only viable solution at the moment means planning websites are being kept up to date so get online and make sure you check your local authority website regularly so that you may see updates on:
+ When they will being having meetings. These should be happening on a fortnightly basis.
+ What information your local council deems critical. Some local councils want specific information that other councils will not deem necessary. Southwark Council requires a dated photograph of a site notice to be emailed to them, for example.
+ How to watch the local committee online. Local authorities are providing information on how to access the virtual viewing gallery for members of the public so that you can watch the proceedings on your computer.
2. Seeing is believing
Site visits during lockdown are prohibited which means that when it comes to your application you need to provide all the necessary information online.
This means that instead of seeing the property in person, you will need to provide high quality imagery. Remember to set the scene, planners have to process many applications a week and each time need to understand the context of the application. With this in mind, it helps to have photos of the area around the site including any key areas for planning consideration like impact on highways. Depending on the size of your scheme one powerful and effective way of showing that is through the use of drone imagery. This high-level view of the site gives a great understanding of the area quickly and efficiently.
Then to complete the scene any mid size development or greater should be using CGI imagery as a matter of course. These can vary in complexity from a full scale 3D model of the building and surrounding area like this:
To a selection of CGI stills like this:
In either case take the time to set the scene for the image. Consider the angle of the shot ensuring it will cover any concerns the planners may have. For example if you are planning a dormer on one elevation of the new house ensure the photo angle will allow that to be seen so planners can assess the impact it will have.
While any one of these mediums would be acceptable, provided you give plenty of copies displaying all the relevant areas of the site, we recommend that you provide more rather than less information. These images, aerial shots, and CGIs will replace their site visit and could make or break your application.
If the planning committee feel that not enough information was provided through your images, they will ask for more, or even reject your application, which would waste time and money for your company.
3. Online presentation
The last thing to think about is how planners will be viewing your information. They may have printed copies of the documents but are also likely to be viewing on a screen. Consider page sizes and aspect ratio’s to ensure everything fits nicely on the screen.
Talk to your consultant team and lay out some ground rules for the presentation of their material so that it all fits together nicely. A well presented document that is easy to read will have a really big impact.
Before you go:
Some quick fire solutions to those itching questions.
I Can’t Pay My CIL/s106 during lockdown
Alex Ground and Katherine Chambers, both work for law firm Russel-Cooke’s planning team, recommend, “Where payments are triggered under CIL or s106, contact the local planning authority and try to agree a deferment.”
I’m worried about applying because I think there will be delays
Although there is a risk of delay, if you provide all the relevant information and, in lieu of a site visit, provide high quality virtual imagery, with applications being in double digits rather than in the thousands, it might be faster than normal rather than slower.
How should I send all my Planning Application Information?
You should upload your application in the usual way through the planning portal.