The Vagaries of Town Planning

Planning enforcement

New Hope for Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire

No two days are the same in the world of planning, and we were particularly pleased when Apex Planning Consultants’ owner, Paul Smith, was asked to make a presentation to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).  Paul’s presentation included:

  •  the ability to change the use of offices to residential, using permitted development rights
  • the new permitted development rights, allowing the change of use from agricultural use to residential use
  • the potential opportunities and constraints for future development in Milton Keynes

The evening took place at the Jury’s Inn Hotel in Milton Keynes, where almost 50 people – including local consultants and commercial agents, from small and large companies, as well as some other planning consultants – came along. It was the best-attended event the local branch of RICS has staged to date.

As well as Paul’s presentation, we also asked Bob Wilson from the Milton Keynes Planning Policy Team to talk about planning from a pubic sector perspective. And, to complete the line-up, Jay Mehta from Howes Percival LLP was asked to talk about planning case law, legislation and the community infrastructure levy (CIL).

Change of Use in Aldershot, Surrey

A little further afield, we have been working on a case for the change of use from retail (Class A1) to hot food takeaway (Class A5) in Aldershot, on a small parade of shops. Our first task was to work with the commercial agent to show that there was no demand for the property to be retained as a shop, before assessing the Borough Council’s Local Plan policies to ascertain whether the change of use was acceptable in principle. We also looked at parking provision and the property’s external appearance, suggesting changes to the frontage to make it fit in with the surrounding properties.

Of course, the main areas of concern for takeaway shops are noise and smell – so we ensured that the ventilation duct system and its filtration, odour and noise controls conformed with the Council environmental health officer and DEFRA guidelines.  Because there was some local objection, the case went to the Planning Committee, where we made a presentation in support of the proposal. The application was approved unanimously and in that public forum, the Chair, rather unusually, orally congratulated us on the quality of the application and the attention given to high-quality materials and ventilation. A job well done!

Listed Building Consent, St John’s Wood, London

The world of planning rarely offers instant results and we have also been working on a long-running planning and listed building proposal in St John’s Wood. We got good news in January when we received word that the proposal had finally been accepted.

The building in question is a Grade II listed villa near to the famous Abbey Road Studios where the Beatles used to record. Unauthorised works – pipework, new roof, external stairs and railings to name but a few – had been carried out already and the client’s previous agent had had no luck in trying to resolve the matter.

We brought in a new architect and heritage consultant and together we had pre-application talks with Westminster Council to find out which parts of the works were most and least contentious. This was a long drawn-out process that eventually resulted in us managing to lessen the number of issues that were a problem.

We had to make multiple planning applications so that the less contentious issues could be worked on, ensuring any problematical ones did not hold everything else up.  The result was that we managed to get planning and listed building consent for all of the work, albeit with a few minor concessions, which saved the client thousands of pounds by not having to undo all of the previously unauthorised works.

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