Planning Application Refused
I had kept an eye on my application via the Local Council's Planning website. If any comments are made, the documents are scanned and uploaded straight away. I noticed that the Parish Council had made no objection, nor had any neighbours. However, despite my changes to the plan, the Conservation Team wrote a very damming letter, strongly advising the planners to refuse.
In retrospect, and having learnt a little more about planning, I should have considered withdrawing the application, expecting that it would be refused. However, I let it run its course without contacting the planners. Six weeks later it was duly refused. They cited many references found within the Local Plan. Naturally, some were vague and open to interpretation. I disagreed with their conclusion so had to decide what course to take. Planning permission refused next step.
To Appeal or not to Appeal
I was hopping mad but knew that whatever my next course of action turned out to be, I had to take it in a cool manner and address the issues for refusal. Rarely does a hot headed and hasty decision prove wise. I had to give myself time to cool down so that my response was not purely emotional.
A typical emotional response might be:
How can you refuse my bedroom extension when you let Mr Biggins at number 25 erect a thirty foot radio aerial that the whole village hates!
Such arguments carry no weight. I must address the reasons cited for their refusal. I took another look at the refusal letter, which I had resisted the urge to burn or rip to shreds. The reasons for refusal were laid out and made reference to The Local Plan criteria. I went back and read the relevant sections. They seemed somewhat vague and woolly, and open to interpretation, but I realised it was important to take them on board. However I chose to proceed, I knew I must address the refusal issues. Friends were furious on my behalf too, citing what they considered to be carbuncles that had amazingly been given permission. Of course, I could use references to neighbouring properties when complaining, but only if they addressed the same issue as in my refusal. It may sound obvious but I have been told by a planner that an emotional response is the more common, and rarely changes anything.
I looked into the possibility of taking my case to appeal. The case would be taken up by an independent body, The Planning Inspectorate. Their website guides you through the process and options. If an appeal is put in, they will revue the case, send one of their planners on a site visit and hear arguments from both sides. This is most commonly done by letter, though there are other options. But, as stated on their site, the planning inspector would be making his decision on the basis of the Council's Local Plan so I mustn't be fooled into false confidence just because my mates down the pub think my extension will be lovely and they're totally on song about the Biggins' aerial fiasco. They're my mates, they're going to support me whatever. The inspector, on the other hand, will not turn round and say "you're right, if that bloody Biggins bloke can erect such an ugly aerial, I don't see why you shouldn't be allowed to build a three storey extension and clad it with sea shells, go for it, my son".Painful though it may be, I really did have to forget Mr Biggins' thirty foot aerial because it wasn't specifically relevant! (I should say that Mr Biggins and his aerial are purely fictional, any similarity to a real Mr Biggins, dead or alive, or a real aerial, erect or otherwise, are purely coincidental :)
Going to appeal may seem like the obvious route. I was angry and disagreed with the decision. How much does it cost to appeal a planning decision, I wondered. Fortunately, appeal is free but is not a quick option and according to the Planning Inspectorate website the planning application appeal success rate is only around 30% of decisions are overturned. So seven times out of ten, the inspector agrees with the planners! The planning appeal time limits is 6 months from the date of decision.
Going to appeal was not my only option. I called my Ward Councillor (Check your Local Council website, you may have no idea who your local representative is, but you will have one, and he / she is there to support you). I found him very sympathetic and, having supported many other parishioners in this situation, he had a better idea of how to proceed. He reminded me that for the £150 I'd paid, I'm allowed two applications. If a compromise could be reached I could reapply at no cost. He wisely suggested, therefore, that I call the planning office and ask for a meeting to listen to their concerns and planning permission refused reasons and 'calmly' make my case, to see if there was a compromise that all parties would accept. Doing so would not prevent me from going to appeal if the meeting proved fruitless.
I decided I had little to lose from trying to discuss the issue with the planners. I felt there were precious few design alternatives that would meet my brief, their concerns and not be an eyesore but decided discussion was the right route. I did spend some time working to see if I could find a way to redesign, and was actually surprised how the extra pressure forced my imagination. I roughed out a couple of ideas that, though not wildly different, might meet with approval if I was suitably charming when I met the planner.