Saturday, 1 June 2013

Prior notification process rolled out

A correspondent contacted me yesterday to tell me that he had been in touch with Liverpool City Council to ask about the new PD rights for larger domestic extensions, which have now come into effect. The officer with whom he spoke was extremely helpful and was clearly up to speed on the new procedures. He explained that it would only be necessary to send in a simple plan, a description of the works and the addresses of surrounding neighbours. On the other hand, it appears that Liverpool (and maybe other councils) could be tempted to refuse a prior notification application outright if any neighbours object. The tight 42-day deadline might give LPAs little alternative in many cases. Summary dismissal of prior notification applications in these circumstances might seem somewhat high-handed and arguably unlawful, but the available remedies (an appeal, with the possibility of an award of costs, or a full application) would preclude any other legal challenge, although I suppose there might possibly be scope for a complaint of maladministration so far as the wasted expense of the prior approval application itself is concerned.

There does seem to be some confusion in this authority as to the detail to be shown on or omitted from the submitted plan, but the planning officer very sensibly observed that the more details that are provided, the less likely a neighbour is to object, as they will know where windows and doors are, etc. This chimes in with my view that the more information you give your neighbours beforehand, the better the chance of avoiding an unwanted objection. The obvious advice must be – Don’t take your neighbours by surprise.

Liverpool have helpfully provide a very well written guide to the new rules, and also an application form, which although it is not mandatory (as the planning officer was at pains to point out) is recommended in order to help submissions. This all seems eminently sensible, and Liverpool City Council is to be congratulated on this very user-friendly approach, which must have been developed by the council’s officers at quite short notice. It is a refreshing change, when one so often comes across unhelpful and downright incompetent officers in too many other authorities around the country.

My correspondent did query one point, having been told by the planning officer that the materials used in the extension must match the materials used in the construction of the original house. In fact, the officer was absolutely correct in making this point. Paragraph A.3 in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the GPDO (as revised in October 2008), which applies to all domestic extensions, not just those previously authorised by the GPDO, provides in Condition (a) that the materials used in any exterior work (other than materials used in the construction of a conservatory) must be of a similar appearance to those used in the construction of the exterior of the existing house.

After hearing of Liverpool’s commendable initiative, I learnt that the Planning Portal will shortly be publishing a ‘Notification of a proposed larger home extension’ to support the new permitted development regime. This will be available for download from the Planning Portal. What is proposed is a simple downloadable PDF designed to gather the information required by the new rules, with links to the LPA finder on the Portal and their ‘Buy A Map’ service to help with the provision of the requisite site plan. This may be followed by something a bit more sophisticated later.



  1. Can you tell me whether the appeal for a refusal under this new system would be by Householder fast-track? Because once PINS get their validation back down to one or two weeks, it may be quicker to appeal than to go through the full application (probably with objections and a planning committee hearing) process.

  2. In answer to Andy Rogers, it is certainly my understanding that an appeal against a refusal under this prior notification procedure would be by the fast-track method for householder appeals.

  3. Thanks for your totally uncessary comment about unhelpful and downright incompetent officers in local authorities. I have to inform you the feeling is mutual, there are far too many incompetent and useless practioners in the private sector to.

  4. I admit that I have come across one or two below par ‘planning consultants’ (usually when I have had to pick up the pieces for a client after the ‘planning consultant’ has made a mess of things) but they are rarely chartered town planners. However, in my dealings with a large number of authorities around the country and with a large number of private sector planning professionals in the course of my work, I have to say that the calibre of people working in the private sector is far higher than those in LPAs on the whole. The commercial pressures alone are enough to ensure this. There are some good people in local government, and it is a pleasure to work with them, but there are far too many also-rans.