Does a 100% success rate with planning applications mean that the architect is any good?

Like it or not, applying for planning permission is a bit of a gamble as to whether permission will be granted or not. However, some architectural practices boast that they have a 100% success rate with planning applications as a way of demonstrating their track record, but is this “approved each time” approach beneficial to the client and good design? On the face of it achieving 100% success with planning applications, something that is a bit of a risk, appears to be excellent, but the real question has to be; how is that success achieved?

Safe design

If the approach taken to secure that 100% approval record is down to only creating “safe” non controversial designs that do not push the boundaries of what is possible and achievable, then that would not be in the interest of clients seeking an unusual design.


Withdrawal of application

If an architectural practice encourages the withdrawal of planning applications that receive objections from neighbours or the planning office as a way of avoiding  a rejection, only to reapply with a diluted or compromised scheme, then that again would not be in the best interest of the client. The early withdrawal of an application to avoid a refusal in this way, indicates self doubt and suggests lack of true commitment and belief in the original proposal.

Pre application advice

The approach of seeking the advice of the local planning authority on every domestic application as a way of hedging their bets and improving the chances of planning permission is a route I would not advocate for professional designers. Seeking pre-application advice should be reserved for projects that appear tricky from the outset, or are on listed buildings or within Conservation areas.   The planning system and design as a whole is very subjective in its nature. Yes, there are prescriptive rules that must be adhered to, but when it comes to good design and issues of scale, character and bulk that is more difficult to quantify. Before asking a planning officer to comment on a radical or unusual design at an early stage, you need to be aware of the implications. If the planning officer should take a dislike to the scheme, would you be prepared to modify the proposal or abandon the idea before it even saw the light of day in favour of a more conservative design?

The acid test

The acid test of any planning application is to let it run its course, see what objections there are if any, and let a decision be taken by the local authority. The decision may be by  planning officers’ under delegated powers or may be out of their hands and taken by a committee of elected councillors. Sometimes they get the decision right, sometimes they get it wrong. Not all planning decisions stand up to scrutiny, our website features two properties that were refused by local planning authorities on design grounds, that went on to gain approval on appeal.

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