Getting involved with garden projects where there is an aspect of planning involved can be a time consuming but usually an interesting aspect of being a Garden Designer. I spend a good number of hours trawling through the ‘not so intuitive’ Planning Portal, set up by government to make the process far more transparent. One can search by planning number – trying recalling multiple 6-8 digit number/letter combos I dare you – by address which is not always as straightforward as it seems house names and numbers are not interchangeable and what a human would consider one address , i.e. The Crotchety Barn, 11 Grouch Street…. is likely to show up as an entirely different Grouch Street. That said in the age of Google Search one knows to look for multiple possibilities or face the incomplete consequences.
A basic rule of thumb and certainly in the opening gambit with new clients is to find out about the area in which their home is situated, from a planning regulations point of view of course. Is the house in a conservation area? is the house and/or garden listed? is their home in a SSI? Are there TPO’s on any of the trees? Many, most, clients know this information which makes quick work of those points but not all do. Each affects a potential garden design in different ways and each requires communication with various planning related bodies to ensure rules and regulations are followed and designs approved. Local Conservation Officers, Tree Officers, Planning departments, Highways agency teams are all on a designers speed dial.
It’s sometimes a surprise for clients to discover that though they own the house and garden it is not always theirs to do with as they please. If you live in a conservation area you cannot simply cut down trees down, or indeed even prune them. This also applies to larger shrubs and hedges over 20m long, put in before 1983 (>30 years old) can be protected too. Erecting any kind of permanent structure over 2m in the rear of the property usually requires planning consent as does a decking platform over 300mm and front fences above 1m….Access onto main roads require visual splays of varying width and angle and preservation of protected wildlife can make discovering them slightly less delightful. I recall finding my first ever Great Crested newt in a pond we were about to move….whoops
Of course more awkward than finding protected wildlife on a first visit is noting the Japanese knotweed lurking by the back fence……