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A Prior Approval

Since 30 May 2013, new government planning rules has meant that the conversion of offices to houses or flats does not require conventional planning permission. The new rules fall under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order 2015 which, for a period of three years, allows the change of use of a building and any land within its curtilage from a Class B1a (office) use to a Class C3 (dwelling houses).  

Prior to commencing with a change of use, the applicant must notify the local planning authority and provide a written description of the proposed development along with relevant plans and applicant contact details. This application allows the local planning authority to determine whether the prior approval of the authority will be required to assess:

  • Contamination risks on the site

  • Flooding risks on the site

  • Transport and highways impacts of the development

Where potential risks are identified, the local planning authority may require the applicant to submit further information in relation to potential contamination, flooding and transport and highway impacts before granting prior approval.

Similar permitted development requirements are expected for a conversion of an agricultural building/ barn into a residential property.

How can Lustre Consulting help?

At Lustre Consulting, we are experienced in advising our clients and their agents as to whether further information is likely to be required in relation to contamination and flooding risks. This enables our clients to submit compliant information with the initial application, thereby avoiding delays and potential refusals at a later stage. In order to assess the contamination and flooding risks on a site, we will, in most cases, prepare a Phase 1 Desk Study and Flood Risk Assessment to support the prior approval application.

All our Phase 1 Desk Studies are carried out in accordance with current guidance such as the recommended approach set out in the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and Environment Agency’s Model Procedures for the Management of Land Contamination (CLR11) including:

  • A site walkover by a professional consultant to assess the current condition and interview people most familiar with the site, with a building interior PID survey undertaken at the same time.

  • Review of historical OS maps dating back to the mid-1800s, review of available site plans and aerial photographs.

  • Identification of known pollution incidents, landfill sites and discharge consents using publically available information.

  • Review of the environmental setting including geology, hydrogeology and hydrology.

  • Development of a conceptual site model and qualitative risk assessment.

  • Preparation of a report ready for submission to the local planning authority to support the prior approval application.

Our Phase 1 Desk Studies regularly receive positive feedback from clients and local authorities. We pride ourselves on providing a comprehensive conceptual model and risk assessment focusing on the change of use with clear and concise recommendations helping to move the development forward.

Our Flood Risk Assessments are also carried out in line with current guidance such as NPPF and the accompanying technical guidance.  In most instances, a Prior Approval application will require a Level 1 Flood Risk Assessment (Screening Assessment) and Level 2 Flood Risk Assessment (Scoping Study), with the possibility of a Level 3 Detailed Assessment subject to the initial risks and situation of the site relative to the Flood Zone.

We also work closely with experienced consultants who can help with assessing the Transport and Highway impacts and provide recommended referrals if required. 

Points to consider...

Some important points to consider when commissioning a Phase 1 Desk Study and Flood Risk Assessment to support a prior approval application:

  • Is the site still operational?

  • Is there anyone available to speak to who is familiar with the site and its previous use? 

  • For delivery of our Phase 1 report we will usually require at least 1 to 2 weeks from receipt of formal instruction. However, it is possible turnaround a report within 3 to 4 days if it is urgent.

  • It should be noted that the Environment Agency have a 21 day statutory response time for any information requests. Therefore, this protraction in time is accounted for in our Flood Risk Assessment reports and they may take up to 6 weeks to complete.