Demystifying the planning and design process – Part 2

Planning Design Process

The planning design process can be a complex journey for those that haven’t carried out a building project before. Our approachable and experienced design team is comprised of architects, architectural assistants, designers and technicians, offer a comprehensive architecture service from concept through to completion, and will guide you through your project.

David Symons, our Senior Architect explains the typical Planning Design process you can expect to follow when working with us. In this second part of our guide to the planning design process, he explains how we typically think about the design process along the lines of the nationally recognised RIBA Plan of Work, and details stages 1 to 3.

The Planning Design process – Part 2

Stage 1 – Preparation and Briefing – Why do you need an Architect?

If we all agree following our initial conversations that the project has potential moving forward, and that you would benefit from an Architect’s help – we will set out our understanding of your project brief within our fee estimate letter.

  • Planning Feasibility Study

If planning risks are high, before progressing with any detailed design work we will always recommend carrying out a formal Planning Feasibility Study. This study will look at the planning policy case for the principal of your project and give you certainty before moving forward. This will involve a detailed planning policy and history search with a summary report provided, often including sketch design options for the level of development we believe will be possible on the site.

  • Pre-Application Advice

If possible at this stage we will source Pre-Application Planning Advice from your Local Council. Unfortunately, not all councils currently offer this service due to staffing and workload issues. However our team have extensive knowledge about the policies and procedures of individual councils and the approach taken by planning officers and Councillors, and will be able to advise.

  • Sourcing Site Information

At this stage we will also set out any Third-Party Information that is required to fully understand your project including; Topographic Site Surveys, Measured Building Surveys, Ecology Surveys, Tree Surveys or any other specific surveys applicable to your site. If needed, we will gather quotes for you from our network of trusted consultants so that you can directly appoint any of the relevant companies.

We can carry out a planning feasibility study without any third-party information, meaning we can avoid any additional costs to obtain these surveys until you have some certainty that your project can be achieved.

Stage 2 – Concept Design – What ideas can an Architect offer?

With the administration taken care of, this is the stage of the project where we all get to unleash our creativity, put pen to paper and begin to bring your ideas to life. We will produce sketch floor plans, often with multiple options, to set out the layout and flow of your home. We will think about questions like; Where is the best light? What rooms need a close relationship? Which rooms should feel public and open? Which rooms should feel cosy and private?

At this stage we can also start to produce indicative 3D sketch visuals to set out the external size and shape of the design. These will typically be black and white line drawings with shadow and light, we can also begin to think about window and door locations and opening sizes. We will think about questions like; What is the style and character of the existing house or local area? What are you personal design tastes, contemporary, traditional etc.

Once we have established your preferred internal and external design concept, depending on the planning context we can;

  • Reach out for pre-application planning advice (if possible, and we haven’t already)
  • Submit an Outline Planning Application (if appropriate)
  • Or proceed to Stage 3 and develop the design in more detail.

Stage 3 – Developed Design – What knowledge and expertise can an Architect offer?

Once we have worked together to establish a design concept, we will move forward to producing a detailed set of design information ready for Planning Submission. This is where we bring our technical design knowledge and expertise to the table. We will produce a full set of Floor Plan and Elevation Drawings that will realise your design concept in relation to Planning and Building Constraints.

We will review the design against the Building Regulations to make sure the design can meet the requirements of Fire Safety, Sustainability and other relevant technical matters. We will ensure the design is practical and buildable so that any planning permission can be achieved on site.

At this stage we can develop the 3D visuals to produce a full set of colour images that give an indication of what your project will look like when built. We can provide you with still images and show you around the model virtually in 3D.

Once you are happy with the final design, we will guide you through the planning process to achieve an approval.

Depending on the planning constraints of the site, our Planning and Heritage colleagues will assist with negotiating with planning officers and contending with any potential issues, objections or even in the worst-case planning refusals.

We understand that every project is unique and can follow its own path, and hope that this step by step guide gives you a clear framework for your own Planning Design process when working with us.

For more information, or for a no obligation consultation to discuss your project or property please contact us on 01332 347371 or email

Further information on the planning and design process and RIBA Stages 4 to 7 will be published in a subsequent installment.

Images: Bespoke New Home, Darley Dale, Matlock

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