Home Truths with Strutt & Parker’s John McLarty

EXG JUL 15 Home Truths

EXG JUL 15 Home Truths - Credit: Archant

Planning expert John McLarty looks at how to win planning permission for residential or commercial developments

In Profile: John McLarty leads the National Planning Department for Strutt & Parker and over the last four years has built up the largest planning practice in Essex, based at Strutt & Parker’s Chelmsford office. John started his planning career at Braintree District Council where he worked on small-scale barn conversions and single dwellings to the development of Great Notley Garden Village, where more than 2,000 homes were created by Countryside Properties.

Getting Planning Permission

With national and local elections out of the way, there is a clear message from central government that house building and development will continue. In the lead up to the general election, all of the parties were arguing for housing growth and there is specific need across Essex. Chelmsford continues to be a successful city and we are now beginning to see significant growth in the urban area at St John’s hospital, the former Anglia Ruskin University Campus and the Marconi Factory, all central urban brownfield sites. The real challenge for Chelmsford City Council is continuing to meet the demands of a growing city, while balancing infrastructure provision to meet the needs of existing and new residents.

The local planning authorities in Essex allow a reasonable scale of replacement dwellings outside the greenbelt, although this becomes more stringent when dealing with Metropolitan green belt in the south of Essex, where the rules are much stricter. The Strutt & Parker planning team act for individuals, landowners and developers with strategic interest throughout Essex where many of these issues are being considered by the local planning authorities.

The key to preparing for a planning application is strong community engagement, be that with a neighbour or a local community. It is important to understand the needs of local residents and the community, and to communicate with them through district and ward councillors well in advance of preparing and submitting planning applications. This early engagement will prove its worth to ensure public and the wider community are well versed in your proposals prior to submission of a planning application. Also, when considering whether or not to make a planning application, having early discussions with your local planning officer prior to making a formal application can be invaluable in order to get a feel as to whether your project will be viewed favourably and to get insight into any ‘road blocks’ you might face.


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Get professional advice. Most planners will offer you a free consultation to discuss your project initially. Professional advice is invaluable prior to making a decision about whether or not to proceed with the planning process and incurring the costs involved in making an application.

Engage with your neighbour and/or your community. Consulting, whether informally or formally, increases stakeholder awareness and buy-in however big or small your project may be.

Be realistic about what is achievable. Having a clear sense of what is and isn’t possible given your location and the current policy framework is invaluable in deciding whether or not to apply for planning permission.

Be patient with the process. Most planning applications can take between eight and 10 weeks from application to decision.


Assume you can build without planning permission. As a number of high profile cases have shown recently, if you go ahead without planning permission, there are severe consequences which may include being unable to sell your home in the future or having to tear down what you have built.

Ignore public concerns. Stakeholders and objections can delay the application process. Addressing their issues at the beginning can save time in the long run.

Fall out with your local planning authority. Keeping them on side, working with you to achieve the best outcome will create a win-win for everyone.

Onslow Green, Essex

This delightful country home has had planning permission for an annexe and is set within beautiful mature grounds. There is also a detached barn and tennis court. Currently it is on the market for £795,000 with Strutt & Parker, Chelmsford. For more information, please contact Sharnie Rogers on 01245 254626.

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