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Interest rates remain high, property price rises show little sign of slowing. The construction pipeline is expected to increase throughout 2024. As a result, many building and property owners are seeking planning permission. This is often to extend, develop and make more space, or make better use of their existing space. Commercial developers are pressing ahead with projects. Demand for housing space, as well as re-purposing of existing buildings post-COVID continues.

Many developments need permission from your local authority before they can go ahead. So how do surveyors fit into the process? How can you ensure success and avoid making mistakes in the planning process?

Do You Need Permission?

Firstly, establish if you need approval.

The government has been quite generous in recent years with the definition of ‘permitted development’. Many changes and extensions are classed as ‘permitted development’. As a result, they don’t need permission. Some may still require notification to the authority even if permission is not required. So, it’s a good idea to take advice on where your project sits in the system.

Permitted development is something of a minefield, and subject to a range of different criteria. These include the position of the project relative to the building, materials used, purpose of the development, and various other matters. The good news is that this is what surveyors are trained to understand. A surveyor can guide and advise you on what is or isn’t permitted in your area.


If you establish that permission is necessary, you’ll need to consider whether you need a pre-application meeting or not. This process allows you to discuss plans with a planning officer without going through the full planning process. It gives you an indication of whether your proposal is likely to succeed at planning or not.

Pre-application advice also helps you to avoid the possible costs and time of submitting a formal application only to have it rejected. At which point you may find yourself back at the beginning of the entire process!

Full Planning Permission

A full planning application requires the submission of several documents, drawings and paperwork. The submission is reviewed by planning officers and your local authority, then is either approved or rejected.

Not all councils are the same, so it pays to work with someone who knows what your local authority will (or won’t) accept. Chawton Hill have experience with many authorities throughout the South East, so can help ensure the best chance of success.

You may also find, subject to the complexity of your project, an architect will be helpful. They can ensure designs are acceptable to the authority and will pass approval.

Like surveyors, Architects spend many years learning what does and doesn’t work on the design of buildings. While Architects are not legally required, they can be very helpful in speeding up the process and ensuring both a practical and visually attractive design. Again, Chawton Hill has relationships with architects we can recommend, should you need one.

What are the Risks?

Of course, the ultimate risk of not going through the process properly is that your application may be rejected. This may not be catastrophic, but it will be time-consuming and annoying.

In the worst-case scenario, if you have a project completed without the right planning permission, it may be retrospectively denied. You may end up having to demolish anything you’ve built. Then you will need to re-instate the property back to its original condition. As you can imagine, that is a problem. There are plenty of examples of that happening, some famous incidents include this pub, and this one.

Like most things in life, you can do all this yourself. But often, obtaining professional advice can help to make things quicker and easier, and a lot less stressful. If you have a project you’re thinking of starting, get in touch with us today, we’ll be happy to have an initial chat.