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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 January 2005, 00:44 GMT
Surviving the planning system
Judo match
The planning system can seem a bit of a struggle
The planning process can be a minefield for new businesses.

You may, for example, have bought what you thought was the perfect location for your company, only for one of your neighbours to lodge an immediate challenge.

Russell Lawson from the Federation of Small Businesses Wales looks at how best to avoid any planning pitfalls.

Jason Clarke, England
I am currently in the process of seeking suitable rural premises for the multi-sports coaching company that I run.

The plan is to take out a mortgage to buy a property, which I will use as my residence and business premises.

I'm looking for a property that will enable me to convert the redundant buildings, for example a cattle shed, into an indoor sports room.

Firstly, what information sources should I be using to find a suitable property? Secondly, what grants would be available for such a project, if any?

And thirdly, would planning officers look favourably on such a project, as I would be changing the use of buildings and land from agricultural to recreational use?

Russell Lawson, Federation of Small Businesses Wales
If you are thinking about diversifying into non-agricultural activities, you may well need planning permission for changing the use of land and buildings.

You will also need planning permission if your plans involve significant building works.

Friesian cow
Some authorities may wish to protect traditional farming practices

In March 2001, national planning policy guidance was updated to make clear to local planning authorities that:

  • They should take a positive approach to well-conceived farm diversification proposals for business purposes that are consistent in their scale with their rural location; and that,

  • Farm diversification proposals should not be rejected where they would give rise to only modest additional traffic and would not have significant impact on minor roads.

    At this early stage, the thing that you really should do is to talk about your ideas with your local planning authority.

    As well as offering general advice, the authority will be able to send you copies of the planning application form and any guidance notes, advise you about the timetable for dealing with your application and explain the requirements for publicising your application.

    Be prepared to outline to the authority what you are proposing to do. You should ask about relevant development plan policies and any special land designations that may apply to the development site.

    Ask if the authority foresees any difficulties with your proposal.

    It can be useful to meet a planning officer for an informal discussion before you proceed. In many cases this can save time and trouble later.

    If you are planning a large development, ask the authority whether a formal Environmental Impact Assessment might be required.

    If you meet a planning officer before submitting a planning application, you might usefully:

  • Describe your proposals and show the officer any plans you have made.

  • Discuss its benefits and possible problems, and the extent to which the authority might impose conditions on any permission.

  • Ask if the officer can give an indication of the chances of obtaining planning permission and, if they are poor, how you might improve your chances.

  • Ask what additional information may be required.

  • Find out the likely timetable for deciding your application, including future planning committee meetings at which you may be able to attend and speak.

  • Check about the requirements for site notices and other publicity.

  • Ask if there are any grants available for this project.

    Remember, however, that planning officers cannot pre-judge the decision on your application. It is the local planning authority which will decide each application on its merits.

    Once your proposal is finalised and submitted to the local planning authority, the public, and certain other bodies, can express views on it. These will be taken into account by the authority in reaching its decision.

    To ask Russell Lawson a question about how best to market your small business, use the email form below.

    Alternatively you can email another member of our small business and entrepreneurship panel of experts by clicking on one of the links on the right.

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