Achieving planning permission can be an uphill struggle for developers. You have probably visualised the project and built it in your mind, before you’ve even signed the deeds to the bare land. Even then, applying for planning permission and managing to get to those magical words ‘Decision Notice’ is hardly the end of the battle for some developers. Facilitating and bringing those plans and promises to life is often nothing more than a dream, which is why so many planning decisions go unimplemented. Lets go through planning permission rules for developments.
Getting the Council on side
When granting planning permission, councils consider environmental implications, safety issues, area specific necessities, and the impact of other nearby projects, to name a few. A good developer will understand the importance of all the moving parts and strive to create a masterpiece, not only in its presentation and in bringing their own vision to life, but in fulfilling the societal need.
We’ve all seen final piece projects which deviate from the permissions granted. Sometimes this is due to a lack of funding; sometimes an oversight; and sometimes, a lack of intention to ever stick to the rules. Buyers are left wondering: “what happened?” and “Can anything be changed now?” but are usually long past the point that anyone would bother trying to enforce a change. Developments are not necessarily routinely scrutinised post-completion for evidence that they have complied with every point in the planning permission.
How far is too far for developers that breach planning obligations?
A recent case between Greenwich Council and Comer Homes, however, suggests a potential turn in this way of thinking. The developer, Comer Homes, was granted planning permission in 2012 to build 204 apartments and accompanying facilities; a building to be named Mast Quay. Completion of the build earlier this year saw, what the council considered to be, so many material deviations from the planning permission that they did not even consider it possible to rectify the issues through the developer making amendments to the building, and instead have ordered for the entire project to be torn down. The council listed 26 breaches of the planning, mentioning in particular, the lack of play park, balconies lacking accessibility for wheelchair users, and the omission of floor to ceiling windows overlooking the Thames (as were promised at the design stage).
Mast Quay is situated in an area that the council acknowledges is affected by the housing crisis and they are still adamant that it is more important to make the point that planning decisions are implemented for a reason and should be adhered to. Could some or all of the 26 breaches have been rectified as a compromise for the sake of keeping 204 more homes? Perhaps the council are becoming tired of compromising, and we wonder if other councils will follow suit. In any event, Comer Homes is due to appeal the demolition decision over the coming months.
Is it worth the crippling bill to bend the rules so far that you break them? As we have seen, you cannot rely on the notion that you will be given the chance to make rectifications, or even that no one will ever notice.
When should developers call Moore Barlow?
Whether you are a budding developer considering taking on your first project and need advice; are working your way through a planning application and need help gathering information for future buyers; or are already well established in your field and looking for support with ongoing ventures, our team of commercial property lawyers can help. Even if you are unsure of your next steps, we can help steer you in the right direction so please get in touch.