Discharging Planning Conditions: A Step-by-Step Guide
Congratulations on obtaining planning permission for your project! This is a significant milestone, but before you can start building, there are some crucial steps you need to take. One of these is discharging planning conditions. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through the process of discharging planning conditions, ensuring a smooth transition from planning permission to the construction phase of your project.
Understanding Planning Conditions
Planning conditions are requirements imposed by the local planning authority that you must adhere to when using your planning permission. These conditions may include restrictions, obligations, or specifications related to various aspects of your project. The conditions are outlined in the letter confirming your planning consent, which typically starts with the phrase "Subject to the following [number] conditions..."
The number of planning conditions you receive can vary depending on the complexity and detail of your planning application. The most common condition is the time limit, usually set at three years. Another common condition is the requirement to fulfil everything stated in your planning application. Failure to comply with these conditions can lead to serious consequences, including the possibility of having to demolish what you have built.
The Politics of Planning Conditions
Planning conditions can sometimes be a source of political tension. The government has expressed concerns that local planning authorities may use conditions to create unnecessary obstacles for developers. The government's guidance advises planning authorities to limit the use of conditions to only what is necessary, relevant, enforceable, and reasonable.
While these guidelines are primarily aimed at major developments, it is essential to be aware of them when dealing with your own planning conditions. If you believe that any of your conditions are unfair, unreasonable, or unlawful, you have the option to appeal or request an amendment.
Discharging Pre-Commencement Planning Conditions
Before you can start building, you must discharge the pre-commencement planning conditions. These conditions typically relate to the specific details of your project, such as materials, paving, drainage, trees, and parking. Discharging these conditions requires you to submit an "Application for approval of details reserved by condition" to the local council.
The application form, which can usually be found on the council's website, allows you to list all the conditions you wish to discharge and provide the necessary details of how you have fulfilled them. It is advisable to be well-organised and submit all the details for pre-build conditions in one form to streamline the process.
Fees and Evidence Required
When discharging planning conditions, a fee is usually required, except for listed building conditions. The fee is charged per application for approval, rather than per condition. To minimise costs and administrative burdens, it is recommended to include all the pre-commencement conditions in a single application.
To support your application, you may need to provide evidence or documentation related to the specific conditions. For example, if you stated in your planning application that you would use traditional roof tiles, you would need to provide details of the specific roof tiles you intend to use, including samples if necessary.
Timescales and Decision Process
The planning authority is expected to make a decision on your application for the discharge of planning conditions within eight weeks of receiving it. If they fail to reach a decision within 12 weeks, you are entitled to a refund of your fee. It is important to note that these timescales may vary depending on the size and complexity of your project.
Other Types of Planning Conditions
In addition to pre-commencement conditions, there are other types of planning conditions that may apply to your project. These include conditions that need to be met during construction, conditions that need to be met before occupying the building, conditions related to the use of the building, and conditions related to changes in the building.
Conditions that need to be met during construction are increasingly being deferred until after the foundation stage, allowing you to commence construction while finalising certain details. Conditions that need to be met before occupying the building often require you to obtain approval before using the completed structure.
Conditions related to the use of the building may dictate specific restrictions or requirements, such as limiting the building's use to certain purposes or prohibiting certain activities. Conditions related to changes in the building may involve limitations on alterations or additions that can be made without further planning permission.
Deemed Discharge and Section 73 Applications
If you have complied with all pre-commencement conditions but have not received a decision from the council, you can serve a notice of "deemed discharge" of planning conditions. This official notice informs the council that you have fulfilled the conditions and intend to proceed as if you had obtained approval for the application.
Deemed discharge can only be applied to certain planning conditions and is subject to specific exclusions, such as flood risks, environmental impact assessments, contaminated land, Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and Section 106 agreements.
If you wish to amend or remove planning conditions, you can submit a Section 73 application. This application allows you to request changes to the conditions imposed by the planning authority. However, it is important to note that only the conditions will be considered, and your planning permission will not be at risk. The application fee for a Section 73 application is £234.
Appeals and Non-Compliance
If you believe that the planning conditions imposed are unfair, unreasonable, or unlawful, you have the option to appeal against them. Appeals must be made within 12 weeks (for householders) or six months of the original planning permission approval. The appeal process is handled by the Planning Inspectorate, but it can take several months, during which you cannot commence construction.
Non-compliance with planning conditions can have serious consequences. If you start work without discharging pre-commencement conditions, your planning permission may become invalid. Local authorities have the power to inspect construction sites and enforce planning conditions. Failure to comply can result in enforcement notices, temporary stop notices, or even criminal charges.
Discharging planning conditions is a crucial step in the process of turning planning permission into a successful construction project. By understanding the requirements, adhering to the guidelines, and fulfilling the necessary conditions, you can avoid unnecessary delays, legal issues, and potential setbacks. Remember to stay organised, submit all relevant information, and seek professional assistance if needed. With careful planning and attention to detail, you can ensure a smooth transition from obtaining planning permission to the commencement of your construction project.