Having worked on over 200 planning applications across London, here's a few useful things you should know about it.
1. There's many types of planning application
For most property owners doing extension work to their property, so long as it's not in a conservation area or other designated areas, it can be done under a "householder planning application". If it's a relatively small piece of work and sits within specific rules, work can be done to a property without having to seek formal planning approval. This is called "permitted development." Finally, if the proposal is contentious and / or is in a conservation area and / or listed, it may be preferable to submit a full planning application. You can speak with one of our Architects about your project in more detail to ensure you choose the right application type.
2. You can speak with your council before submitting an application
Certain areas in local authorities have a reputation for making planning approval difficult. That is just the unfortunate nature of this complex business. However, there are ways of dealing with this if you know what you're doing.
In my experience, a little bit of research into a council's nature goes a long way. By searching a database of planning applications you can see what types have received approval and which have been rejected. Based on this research, if it looks like you might have a fight on your hands, I would always suggest submitting for pre-application advice. This is a paid-for service that every council offers residents, to assess the likelihood of receiving approval for a certain project type. By doing this, you will not only understand the councils policies surrounding a difficult project but also engender trust and build a relationship with a councillor early on. This approach is generally more advisable when dealing with difficult sites and proposals.
3. The decision process for all application types is the same
It doesn't matter which type of application you are submitting, Permitted Development, Householder Planning or Full Planning, all have the same process and statutory timelines from submission to approval.
Any planning application is broken down into 2 distinct stages:
Validation (21 days)Once the drawings have been submitted online, and you have paid the councils fees, your application goes through a process called validation. During this period a validation officer reviews the submitted documents and assesses that the information provided is 'correct'. This will mean at the very least you have submitted a: location plan; existing and proposed drawings; block plans and the application forms. Sometimes during this process the officer will request additional information before validating the application.
Determination (8 weeks)
When the application is validated it goes onto a process called determination. At the outset of this process you will be given a determination date, which is when you can expect to have a result (approved / rejected) by.
The determination period is when your assigned case officer will assess your proposed development against the policies in your local development framework. Usually, the case officer will have something to say about the proposal (they'd be out of a job if they didn't!). As such you can expect some negotiation from them during this period, such as eave heights, distance from neighbours boundaries etc. If the council is willing to negotiate and you're happy with the suggestions, this process is generally very straightforward, and in 95% of applications this is the case.
Once you have received approval, you can move on to obtaining building regulations approval.