Getting planning permission for any kind of project can be a long and laborious process, and sometimes even cost you money. To make matters worse, you can also find yourself being denied such permissions if you don’t know your stuff.

Whether you’re planning an extension to your own home, a new build or the refurbishment of a buy-to-let investment property, take note of these top tips to increase your chances of success.

Know your policy

There are existing policies both locally and nationally that you need to be aware of and the best place to start to find these are on your local authority website. The planning pages can be tricky to find, but I would suggest looking for a Building Control section or search by services offered. These should give you an insight into what’s important in your region and whether there are any strategies in place against which your application will be tested. There are usually high-level policy documents such as a Core Strategy and more specific guidance documents such as Design Guidance which have varying levels of detail about what the council require.

If you’re converting a family home into a House in Multiple Occupation (HMO), you need to find out whether there is an Article 4 Direction in force. If so, what areas does it cover and what are the specifics of the policy requirements for the number of HMOs in the area?

It is also worth checking through previous planning applications to see how the local policies are applied. What do they approve as an appropriate development and do they emphasise parking, sustainability, neighbourhood amenities or house size in the decisions?

Use planning jargon

If your application is an easy read for the Planning Officer, then it’s less likely to throw up any questions around clarity and can speed up the process, so phrasing is really important. Using buzz words such as sustainability, street scene and access will make a huge difference to how your application will be perceived. You also need to be specific – a large extension is not as good as saying you’re going to do a 4 metre good quality design extension.

Don’t lie – it’s no good saying there will be no disturbance to neighbours. You can guarantee this will be challenged at every opportunity so you should say there will be minimal disturbance with no impact on neighbourhood amenity where applicable.

Get the right maps

Every single planning application, whether it’s a certificate of lawful use or a full planning application for 300 houses, will need a site plan and a block plan. Go to the planning portal and download your maps – all councils charge approximately the same. Make sure you draw in red around the whole plot, not the building. Do not use any other colour – green, blue, black or even pink – they won’t be accepted.

Also check if there are any previous planning applications on the site. If the permitted development rights have not changed, you may be able to use the existing plans.

Speed up validation

It’s important to note that the eight week timescale does not start on the date you submit the planning application, but the date that the Planning Officer validates it.  Planning departments aren’t the most tech-savvy, so it’s always worth saving your word documents in the 1997-2003 format or they won’t upload to the Portal.

Also name your file uploads clearly. If you don’t, the Planning Officer has to open it, look at it, and re-save it. It can be frustrating for them, especially if they have to do it numerous times. Give it a description rather than a reference. So ‘rear elevation A3’ and the address, not ‘drawing 123’.

Talk to people

Talk to your neighbours, local councillors and Planning Officer. By introducing yourself and explaining your intentions, you could save time having to deal with peoples’ concerns later down the line.

View more articles by Alison Broderick