Monday, 26 February 2007

Wicklow County Council pre-planning

The debate this week in the Wicklow People over the quality of planning applications is an old one. The quality of planning applications - or lack thereof - has long been a bone of contention among planners, both in the public and in the private sectors. How to improve planning applications requires clients to only hire Irish Planning Institute or RIAI members.

The Wicklow People article follows up on recent moves to regulate those who undertake planning applications. This debate raises a number of issues, but from a planner's perspective, the most important is that those who wish to make a planning application obntain advice before they do so. This advice needs to cover:

1.Whether the proposed development has any chance of obtaining planning permission. Remember, an agent may really want your work and will tell you what you want to hear to get it.
2. Who is the best agent to hire for any given planning application? For example, if it is for engineering works requiring planning permission use an engineer. An architect is not always the only possible agent. Get the best agent for your job. If you need advice contact a planning consultant such as bps (0404-66060)
3. Review the cost of a range of agents and remember that the lowest cost agent is the lowest cost for a reason.

But, in the end, the person who needs a planning application must choose the agent which best meets their needs and more often than not this will involve taking cost into account, with some architects simply too expensive for many people.

It is the issue of cost which is at the root of the concerns of Des O'Brien and Padraig Smith in this week's Wicklow People. The fact is that many people choose the cheapest option for making their planning application, which can often mean hiring an unqualified person who may be undertaking a 'nixer' to work on your behalf. This person may have limited experience and no insurance or professional qualifications. Padraig and Des are right that if such agents were not used the quality of planning applications would rise, but they do not detail why they think it is that people use those who produce poor planning applications.

I entirely understand these reasons. But it is a clear case of caveat Emptor - buyer beware - as such agents who work for low cost and produce poor quality work are unlikely to turn any work away. In other words, they will encourage you to make a plannign application in order that they can make money from the work. A professional architect or planner (members of the RIAI or Irish Planning Institute)will tell you whether it is worth spending any money at all.

As planning consultants, bps suggests that those who need a planning application made contact us prior to help answer the above questions. We'll advise on:

1. Whether planning permission is required.
2. The chances of obtaining planning permission given the planning policies for any given site. If you have no chance, we tell you.
3. The best options for having your planning application produced.

We answer all of the pre-preplanning questions, so that it is often not necessary to ask Wicklow or any other County Council for a pre-planning meeting. Just give us a call on 0404-66060.

The wider issue of the number of applications which are invalidated or refused is a much longer debate. It is about how Planning Authority's interact with the public and with those who produce plans and planning applications. This issue continues to be debated at national planning policy level.

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