Planning Permission Tips UK - Landscaping Schemes - Do They Add Value-Is It The Chicken Or The Egg?


Have you noticed how everything looks great at the moment - in the garden and parks I mean. Everything seems in bloom, full of colour and life. This is a great time of year for biking as well but that's another story.

Can you remember last years new development along your street that now seems a little more integrated into the landscape or street scene?

Planting....Its all about planting and using plants and trees to soften new buildings into their environment. In the seventies and eighties this was a very low priority for residential development schemes & even today, poorly landscaped developments look just that unless their new owners have had a sympathetic hand.

Landscaping normally falls into two distinct categories - hard and soft. The hard stuff is the walling, paving, steps and edges for example and the soft is the planting from mixed shrubs to exotic trees.

It is the interrelationship between these two elements that can often make or break a scheme especially at the Planning application stage. You see most Planning Authorities are now wising up to how important this aspect of urban design is & how it can have an effect on people's future living and environment.

Look though any councils empire list of departments (Planners are the worst for this) and you are guaranteed to find terms like 'urban design team' for example. The old terms of parks & trees department has now virtually disappeared with all this new rebranding jargon from the States...somebody please tell me how on earth we let the good ol'e 'personnel dept' be reinvented for 'human resources'? New fangled 'management speak' has a lot to answer for in my opinion.

Anyway, these newly invented departments are now having greater influence on what is finally approved so don't treat them lightly. Some are even teamed up with the local crime prevention who also advice on the best type of spiky bush to grow under windows to prevent Mr. swag from entering your property.

As a guide, most residential extension schemes may not require any additional planting or landscaping to be indicated on the scheme plans to ensure approval unless you have a potentially dominant or overbearing wall due to the ground slope for example that would have its impact reduced & softened by some clever planting or adjustment to the surrounding ground levels.

Speculative residential development will most certainly benefit from a bit of thought put into a separate landscaping scheme at the Planning application stage - it also helps the drawings to look very 'pretty' as well. The degree of detail will vary from council to council & from scheme to scheme. Fortunately, most Planners will accept an 'illustrative' scheme without too much reference to exact species or surface materials as this can be reserved or conditioned for later approval.

However, many will indicate that you may wish to engage further supplementary experts to get involved such as 'landscape architects' even for an outline application but this really isn't necessary unless the scheme is in a very sensitive landscaped area. Once you have your planning permission it doesn't seem that hard to part with some extra money for these extra 'expert?' fees but until then just try & indicate what you feel looks nice & will enhance the drawings with the aim of softening the building into the natural environment.

Often, many councils will actually work with you & make suggestions for landscaping especially if you are Joe public rather than an Agent. For us Design Agents it can be very frustrating having to consider Planting at an early stage of the design especially if the scheme is speculative and who wants to spend time & money deciding what trees to plant for a site when there are far more important 'first principal' design issues to consider such as siting, scale, roof lines, window orientation and distances etc. of the main building.

In my opinion, Landscaping is very much the 'chicken' for most developments when the 'egg' is to get right the basic design of of the built structure first. Most councils urban design teams with their new army 'jobsworth' strips on their shoulders from the rebranding exercise from the Parks Dept. would see things differently and this is to be expected. So if you encounter this with your scheme do not be resistant and try to include for such hard and soft landscaping elements where you can otherwise the scheme may not be supported by the Councils Planning Officer.

Our 'Maximum Build Planning Guide' explains further the issues on landscaping and trees and how they can affect development approval when extending your home for planning permission.

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