I live on a corner lot close to the town center and have a large side garden which I barely use.
My house is far too big for me and I would like to build a small bungalow on the side and move into it.
What are my chances of getting planning permission?
What are my chances of getting planning permission to build a small bungalow in the large garden of my existing house that I could move into?
Myra Butterworth, MailOnline property expert, replies: It seems there has never been a better time to apply for planning permission to build your own home.
This is largely due to pressure on the government to increase the extremely small housing stock currently available.
But you will need to follow some basic planning rules if you want to make sure your application goes smoothly.
We speak with an urban planner to get his point of view on the best way to approach the request for urban planning.
Martin Gaine, approved urban planner, answers: You’re in luck. We are in the midst of a housing crisis – every year we build just over half of the new houses we need – and the government is committed to protecting the countryside and the green belt from development, which means we need to integrate more new homes into the existing housing area under construction.
National land-use planning policy is explicit on this – our existing towns, villages and villages need to accommodate more ‘filler’ or ‘windfall’ development.
Homes on corner sites like yours are considered sustainable because they use existing infrastructure, are well located for jobs, shops and transportation, and they don’t concrete over green fields.
However, not all sites are suitable for new homes. You should first have a planning consultant check your property’s ‘planning constraints’ – development may not be possible in a flood zone, in a conservation area or if there are protected trees on the plot, for example.
Your planning consultant will also review the council’s planning policies to determine the specific requirements in your area – the local council may require new accommodation to be a certain distance from neighbors’ windows or may insist on a garden size or a minimum number of parking spaces.
If your planning consultant is giving a hand, the next step is to get the services of a good architect.
Invest time and energy in this part of the process – if you don’t get the design right, your application will be denied. Cheap architects are a false economy because you could ruin your land by getting avoidable planning rejections.
When I worked in local councils I was frustrated with how many good plots were being abandoned by poor design and weak enforcement.
The best architects are local – they understand the region and the quirks of the planners – so get recommendations and research other apps that have been approved in your area to see which companies get consents.
Planners aren’t an imaginative bunch and generally don’t like a contemporary approach – so play it safe and match the other houses on your street.
Use the same materials and try to make your new house the same size and shape as its neighbors and stick to the construction line (the new house should line up with the rest of the row).
The holy grail is to design a house that feels like part of the original layout of the street, rather than something awkwardly shoehorned in later.
Not all neighbors are NIMBYs, but few are excited for whole new homes to appear on the other side of the fence. Bring a bottle of wine and a copy of the plans and explain exactly what you are offering.
Neighbors are often just anxious about long and disruptive construction work or worried that you’ll cut down their favorite tree – you can avoid unnecessary planning objections by reassuring them.
Don’t leave the management of your planning application entirely to your architect – contact your case manager once it’s been submitted, ask if they have any questions or concerns and encourage them to come and visit the site so you can explain exactly what you’re offering (and top them with tea and cookies).
It’s not about “selling” your project to the planner – he knows what he can approve and what he shouldn’t – it’s about building a relationship so that he picks up the phone, makes Helpful suggestions if your design isn’t quite right and give advice if the worst happens and your application is denied.
Self-construction is in fashion. The ‘right to build’ legislation commits councils to supporting self-builders through the planning system and if you are building a house for your own use you do not pay developers’ tax (the infrastructure levy communities, CIL).
The government has also announced ‘Help to Build’, a loan scheme to help self-builders obtain mortgages to build their own homes. Now is the perfect time to landscape your garden, and if I were you, I wouldn’t hesitate.
Martin Gaine is a licensed planner and author of “How to Get Planning Permission – Insider’s Secrets”.