Life as a Graduate Planner – Diary Entry 4

In this blog, Joe talks us through what he’s been working on and how he feels his skills have been developing over his time with us. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to  know Joe and watching his skills bloom over the last several months.

My confidence levels have grown

Every day I am becoming more competent as a planner and developing my skills further with each new application that I work through. Whilst not all of the annexe applications I have worked on have been approved, the majority of these have been, which is something I am very proud of. I am especially pleased with a small number of applications that took additional levels of time and consideration, as these faced some challenges and setbacks that may have led to planning permission being refused.

Working on a wide variety of projects

A project I had in South Somerset for an annexe and mobile home had become significantly delayed due to the large backlog of applications that the council were having to work through. When delays such as this happen, it is important to try and receive updates from the council so that the client is not keep waiting unnecessarily and does not become stressed or anxious, as we want them to have a stress-free experience during the planning process. I reassured the client when I could and tried my very best to get regular updates from the council, so I could feed this back to the client. Whilst an update was not always possible or provided, the ones that I did receive helped to keep the client calm and ensure them that everything was in hand.

After nearly 5 months of delays, both applications were eventually approved by the council, which was fantastic news to be able to inform the client with. This meant we had another happy customer who would benefit from having their own granny annexe and be able to embrace multigenerational living, something we strive for at NAPC.

Providing solutions and problem solving

Another slightly more complicated application I faced for a granny annexe and mobile home was located within Wiltshire. This site was located within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB), which meant that getting planning permission would inevitably be more difficult, as AONB’s is protected land which aims to protect the land to conserve and enhance its natural beauty. As an 88sqm annexe, concerns were raised by residents and also the local parish council, who objected to the application based on its size, design, materials, and proposed location. There was also concerns that the approval of planning permission for this annexe would set a precedent for future applications within the area.

The case officer for the application alerted me to these issues and asked if I was able to respond to these. As quite a few objections had been made, and a lot of these were worried about some of the same issues, I decided to write a responsive statement which addressed these concerns and suggested potential compromises to the application, so that the application could still be granted planning permission, but also satisfy the concerns of the neighbors and parish council.

This statement outlined the issued that were concerned and was broken down into sections that addressed each issue individually. I reassured the neighbors and parish council that the annexe would not harm the visual amenity of the village or AONB due to the proposed materials; we would be happy to condition additional screening to ensure both the applicant’s and neighbor’s privacy was maintained; a condition for no additional lights could be used to prevent additional light pollution; the annexe would always be used as an ancillary outbuilding, subordinate to the main dwelling; and finally, the idea of setting a precedent would not apply in the future, as planning applications should be judged on their own merit for the specific site and planning policy that applies to that application, and that application only.

After nearly being taken to planning committee, the parish council and borough council were satisfied that the annexe would not be an inappropriate development, and planning permission was ultimately granted, subject to some conditions, which were raised in the objections. I was extremely pleased that I had been able to respond to these objections and prevent the application from being refused or taken to planning committee, which would have caused even further delays for both ourselves and for the application. It was a great feeling being able to inform another client that planning permission had been approved and their project would be able to go ahead.

Receiving commendations

The issues faced with some applications, such as those above, has allowed me to continuously develop and grow as a graduate planner, and I have been commended for my work by my colleagues, which is wonderful to hear. In the short space of the 6 months I have now been here at NAPC, I am extremely proud of how far I have already come with my career, and I am looking forward to continuing here and developing my skills as a planner. I am also now a Licentiate member of the RTPI, meaning I can now start working towards my chartership, and in time, become a fully charted town planner, which would be absolutely fantastic for me and my career.


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