Knowledge is power – and all the more so when you’re considering a planning application! As part of any property purchase, standard due diligence is key to ensuring your intended development has the best chance of success. In addition to having the right team around you, familiarising yourself with useful resources can be a great way of learning more and reducing risk. That’s why we’ve summarised four free online tools below to help you get to know a potential investment area and assess the likelihood of planning approval.

Census 2021 Interactive Map

The Office for National Statistics has created an interactive map covering England and Wales to present the 2021 Census Data. This reflects surveyed data across six key themes: Population, Education, Identity, Housing, Health, and Work.

This helps inform Local Authority Planning frameworks, making it highly relevant for planning applications. For example, understanding whether there is an identified issue with underoccupancy in an area may help support a proposal for a House in Multiple Occupation; similarly, referring to the levels of economic activity and general nature of work in an area could justify specific types of commercial development. Of course, the data could also work against a proposal so it’s important to undertake comparative studies before investing on the basis planning would be approved for a change of use. For instance, where there is an identified care need arguing a case for the loss of care facilities may prove challenging, therefore requiring evidence that the level of service accessible to the local population would not be compromised upon approval.

As always, it is important to review relevant planning policies with the right support and expertise to ensure that your proposal would be compliant with the local development framework for the best chance as a positive outcome.

The Green Infrastructure Framework

February 2023 saw the launch of Natural England’s highly detailed Green Infrastructure map, with the government championing it as “aimed at planners and developers, the Green Infrastructure Framework will help increase the amount of green cover to 40% in urban residential areas”.

Green Infrastructure (GI) is defined by the National Planning Policy Framework 2021 as “a network of multi-functional green and blue spaces and other natural features, urban and rural, which is capable of delivering a wide range of environmental, economic, health and wellbeing benefits for nature, climate, local and wider communities and prosperity”.

In addition to layers such as population density and deprivation, the map impressively presents accessibility and proximity to GI. Like the Census Data, this could be useful as supporting evidence to argue the case for more housing development in a specific location. For example, referring to the map if a proposal is sited such that occupants would benefit from good quality GI nearby. This is particularly poignant in light of the government’s newly published Environmental Improvement Plan 2023, which includes the “new and ambitious commitment that everyone should live within 15 minutes-walk of a green or blue space from their home”.

Planning Application Statistics

The government publishes quarterly summaries of planning application statistics across England. This can provide interesting insights into regional success rates and the trends across different types of applications, so setting a reminder to review these documents as published can help give you an indication of how applications are preforming!

The most recently published July to September 2022 report includes stats like the below:

  • There were “granted 85,700 decisions, down 14% from the same quarter in 2021; this is equivalent to 87% of decisions, down two percentage points from the same quarter of 2021”;
  • “Decided 55,600 householder development applications, down 18% on a year earlier. This accounted for 57% of all decisions, down from 61% a year earlier”; and
  • “82% of minor applications were decided within eight weeks or the agreed time, up two percentage points from a year earlier”. However, do note that the ‘agreed time’ includes agreed extensions of time, so this could actually be significantly after the statutory determination timeframes…

The Interactive House: Planning Portal

The Planning Portal not only serves as the platform for submitting planning applications but also has a wealth of information freely available. In addition to summarising Building Regulation requirements, the Portal goes into great detail on Permitted Development Rights PDRs).

PDRs allow for certain development without the need for planning permission. Householder PDRs specifically refer to those that relate to the extension and improvement of homes, with The Interactive House available as a tool to see how this applies across Detached Houses, Terraced Houses and Shop & Flats. By clicking on the properties more information is provided as to when planning may not be required and under what conditions.

Although this can be hugely helpful in understanding value-add potential, remember that despite meeting PDR criteria as outlined by The Interactive House you may still not be able to develop without planning permission. This could be because the rights have been removed on a particular site due to specific planning constraints or conditions. Therefore, it is important not to assume something would be PDR without consulting with the Local Authority or planning expert to reduce potential enforcement risk later down the line.

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Written by: Mahsa Khaneghah (@urbanistonamission)