Racing Against the Clock: Securing Prior Approval Before New Planning Restrictions

Developers and planning consultants often face tight deadlines and obstacles when seeking prior approvals in areas where new planning restrictions are imminent. We encountered this challenge first-hand while working to obtain approval in the London Borough of Hackney shortly before a restrictive Article 4 Direction was set to be confirmed.

In this blog post, we’ll walk through the case study from start to finish, highlighting the potential pitfalls and how our team overcame them with proactive communication and quick problem-solving. We’ll also share several takeaways that can help professionals secure approvals in the narrow window before planning powers are curtailed.

The backdrop: Priority office area facing new limits

The site comprised two office suites in an existing building located in a Priority Office Area per Hackney’s Local Plan. However, the Plan policies had not yet been bolstered by an Article 4 Direction. The Council made a new Direction in February 2022, but it would not take effect until February 2023.

This 12-month lag presented a prime opportunity to submit a prior approval application before the new rules restricted this. But it also imposed a firm deadline we had to beat to gain approval under the existing rules.

Meticulous attention to detail on all plans

Unlike full planning applications, prior approvals have strict requirements about what drawings must show. With the clock ticking, we knew we had to get the site plan, floor plans and elevations precise on the first try.

The drawings clearly delineated the scope of the application using a defined red line, while also meeting all the National Validation Requirements. We left no room for back-and-forth with the Council about ambiguities. This level of detail is critical when you have a one-shot window.

Overcoming the Section 106 Agreement hurdle

As the application progressed, the Council required a Section 106 Agreement to restrict future residents’ parking permits. We suddenly faced a major hold-up. The legal team demanded all parties with an interest in the site sign the deed – not just the applicant.

With the timeline to confirm the Article 4 Direction approaching, we had to act fast. We suggested a “Grampian-style” condition allowing us to submit the Section 106 after approval. This creative solution prevented the agreement from delaying us past the deadline.

Final hours approval before restrictions took effect

Thanks to close tracking of the timeline and quick problem-solving, we secured approval just before the Article 4 Direction was confirmed. Had we missed this window, the prior approval application would have been refused.

Key takeaways when facing the planning clock

– Scrutinise upcoming policy changes closely and be ready to act quickly when opportunities emerge. Timing is everything.

– Leave no detail to chance in application materials – holdups can be fatal. Follow all rules meticulously.

– Maintain a constant dialogue with the planning authority to anticipate and address issues. Don’t let them go silent.

– Know when to use creative solutions like “Grampian conditions” to keep momentum going.

– If legal agreements are required, get the involved parties on board proactively. Avoid last-minute scrambles.

With the right preparation and responsiveness, securing approvals before the clock runs out is possible. But it requires diligence and thinking on one’s feet. Hopefully, this real-world case study and tips will assist professionals facing similar time-sensitive challenges. Let us know if you have any other questions.

DRK Planning Ltd is a multi-disciplinary planning and development consultancy practice founded by David Kemp. With more than 20 years of experience in planning consultancy. DRK Planning provides a diverse range of expertise, adding value to owners and businesses through a wide range of property services.

If you have an enquiry about Permitted Development Rights – email info@drkplanning.co.uk we’re happy to discuss your project in an initial brief introductory call.