Before most building activities (including demolition) can be started, planning permission is needed. Planning laws are interpreted in governmental Planning Policy Statements (PPSs, formerly PPGs) applying to England only, with similar guidelines applying separately to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. PPSsand the Planning acts, together with local authority structure plans and design guides, set the framework for what is acceptable. Applications are administered by local authority planning officers who advise and recommend to laycouncillors who actually decide upon approval or refusal, within adopted local and national policies – at least in theory. Appeals against refusal or unacceptable conditions can be made to the government.
Planning is usually dealt with in two stages. Outline planning considers land use and its affect on infrastructure, the surrounding area and environment. Notional drawings of the development may be included but it is unlikely that any materials or products will be decided at this stage. Detailed Planning is of more interest to us, as it considers the design of the project and all external finishes including paving and landscaping. As part of the planning process, consultative organisations such as the Royal Fine Arts Commission and English Heritage may comment on applications and other pressure groups - local, environmental or historical - and individuals can have their views taken into account. In particular, the government’s advisory body the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has considerable influence on both policy and the determination of more important planning applications.
Although they do not specify, planning officers can have a substantial influence on the choice of materials during negotiations with architects. Similarly, consultative and pressure groups can have an impact, particularly when they push an overall policy on a national basis. For architectural and external products and materials, all those involved with the planning process can have an impact on specification and should be treated carefully to ensure a positive influence. However, there is a growing trend for planning policy to cover other criteria such as sustainability and accessibility, so having an impact on non architectural products as well.