Series following homeowners as they try to build extensions. Planners have pretty much seen it all, but very occasionally an application takes them by surprise.
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Across the country, behind closed doors, we British are building.
We're building up, down and out to improve our homes.
It's really going to mean a lot to get the planning permission through
so we can actually go forward.
But before we build, we need permission.
Permission from the planners -
a bunch of people dedicated to
protecting our public spaces and neighbourhoods.
I have got to say that I've got major concerns.
So, if you've ever wanted a bigger kitchen,
an extra bedroom or an en-suite bathroom, stand by.
It's time to Plan It, Build It.
Up and down the land, people have ambitions to extend their homes
or start their own businesses
but taking the first steps towards fulfilling your dream is always daunting,
especially if your dream requires planning permission.
Planners across the country receive tens of thousands
of applications every month and nothing surprises them.
They've seen every type of application
imaginable from the deeply controversial to the
downright bizarre and every case is judged on its individual merits.
However unusual the application,
planners must put aside all personal feelings.
They have to stick to policy.
We do have established policies that have been through public
consultation and they are the framework for what we do.
All we're doing is implementing the very well-structured
and very well-practised policies that have evolved over a number of years.
Today is all about the more unusual applications that
land on our planners' desks.
Can ordinary people with a vision, no matter how strange or
contentious, get their plans approved?
The planners will meet two people with a passion for pooches...
I've always wanted to take my dog swimming,
but there's not really anywhere around here that you can do that.
It is a slightly unusual use, particularly in an industrial area.
..and a couple who decided to build where no-one else would dare.
This is my land, right?
And if they don't pass it, I will be REALLY annoyed.
The constraints are just absolutely massive.
Two unusual situations and two sets of people making risky investments.
Will their gambles pay off? And could they end up quids-in?
Planners have a huge range of powers.
They decide on everything from home improvements to tree works,
billboards, satellite dishes, shop signs and business usage.
And when it comes to businesses,
there's no end to the range of ideas we Brits come up with.
We get really varied planning applications
and that's part of the beauty of the job is that everything's varied,
you don't know what you're going to get next and you get some really odd
ideas and you think, "Why on earth do they want to do it like that?"
This is Dorrington Road Trading Estate.
Not one of the most salubrious postcodes in the city of Lincoln,
but nonetheless a vital part of the city's economic past,
present and future.
The estate is made up of light industrial units
occupied by small businesses.
Renting one of these units will set you back roughly £5,000 a year
and how you choose to use the unit must be cleared with
Lincoln's planning department.
Dog lovers Millie and Matt Smith are presenting Lincoln Council
with an extremely unusual business idea.
I've always wanted to take my dog swimming,
but there's not really anywhere around here that you can do that.
So we, sort of, saw a gap in the market and just went for it.
Millie and Matt Smith want to turn one of the Dorrington Road business
units into a dog swimming pool or, more specifically,
a dog hydrotherapy centre.
It's basically the treatment of different ailments
and different illnesses that dogs may have,
but instead of with medication, it's in water,
so it's dogs swimming in water
in different ways so that it can help, like, arthritis
and things like that.
Our original idea was to have it in our back garden,
but then we quickly decided that the size of pool we really needed,
there wasn't enough space to put it in the back garden.
So then we started looking at leasing properties.
That's when I started to look into the planning consents and we found
that canine hydrotherapy didn't sit into any of the planning classes.
This is the proposals map which is part of our local plan which is
kind of the blueprint for the city, if you like.
Kieran Manning is one of Lincoln's planners
responsible for zoning areas to retain balance across the city.
The different colours represent different allocations,
so this colour, for example, is residential,
we have open space in green
and it's a starting point in terms of suggesting where
developments of a certain kind would be most appropriate.
It's Kieran who'll be considering Millie and Matt's application.
Today, the application we're looking at is on Farrier Road
just off Sadler Road which is right down in the south of the city
here close to our city boundary.
What we'll be looking at today will be
the type of operation that it will be, the scale of the operation,
how many members of staff they have,
how many dogs they'll have on the premises at any one time
so it's a question of just having that
assessment on an individual basis.
Even though it doesn't necessarily conform with the local plan,
there are other material things that could suggest that it's acceptable.
To make their doggy swim centre a reality,
Matt and Millie are desperate for the necessary planning permission.
They do have some financial support from friends and family but
have put in a huge amount of time and effort to realise their dream.
It's an eight-week planning application
we have gone through on one occasion already where we found a unit
we wanted, put in the planning but then three weeks down the line,
someone else has put in an offer for the same unit
and they're able to move in straight away so we've lost that building.
We're hopeful that it's going to get through.
We've not heard any comments back or objections to it
so we're fingers crossed everything will be OK.
The cost of starting their business isn't cheap.
The refurbishment will set them back 30 grand and the pool itself
is 13,000 but they hope to start making a profit within six months.
There's a lot riding on the decision.
It would just, sort of, break our hearts and, you know,
our families supported us so it'd hurt them quite a lot as well.
They've got a lot in this as well.
I think if we get a no, then we'll tackle it when we get to that
point and there's appeals processes that we can go through.
At the end of the day, I was sitting at home doing nothing,
kind of going, "What can I do with my life?"
I find it hard to be around people sometimes so it was...
I need something to hold on to and I need to do this for myself.
Matt and Millie's dream for their dog business rests on what Kieran
sees when he inspects the site.
If he thinks the business isn't right for the area,
permission could be refused.
Planners are duty bound to protect people
and wildlife from over-development but very occasionally, planners
get applications from people who want to build on wild, untamed land.
We got an application here, this is to build a new dwelling
and, as you can probably guess from the surroundings,
we're in the rural part of Coventry which is all designated green belt.
Coventry is Britain's 12th largest city
and it has a proud industrial history.
It was the centre of the cloth trade,
then it pioneered clock and watch production.
Most early bicycles were made here
and car manufacture is a major part of the city's history.
But despite Coventry's industrial heritage,
it's actually surrounded by beautiful countryside
and this countryside, much of it referred to as Ancient Arden
landscape, is designated green belt.
Planner Richard Sykes is dealing with a very unusual application.
It's for a new house, built from scratch on very overgrown,
Ancient Arden green belt.
This sort of case is actually very rare.
I mean we don't normally tend to get applications in for building
new houses in rural areas of the city like this
and this is particularly, I think, a one-off
and the only justification being that there was previously
a house on there which has since disappeared and fallen down.
Getting the green light to build on green belt is extremely rare
and often controversial.
Planners are duty bound to protect these areas, especially
when there's a lot of history bound up in the countryside
and its ancient buildings.
There's a lot of care
and attention being given to the particular design of it.
With the roof pitches which are 40, 45-degree roof pitches,
some of the detail around the fenestration
and the style of the dwelling,
that's very much in keeping with the Ancient Arden landscape
which is effectively your traditional Warwickshire houses.
Celine Cassidy and Ian Brown paid £190,000 for a derelict house
standing on eight acres back in 2001.
They have applied for and got planning permission to build on
the site on two separate occasions, but the applications have lapsed.
This time, they're determined to push ahead with their dream.
We sat on it for five years before we did anything with it
because it was more of an investment than anything.
So then went into planning with it, started on it, put it back on hold.
Got planning again, the second time.
Really sort of didn't have the time to follow it through.
But now, we feel it's time, you know, that we need to
pull our fingers out and do something about it, basically.
That's as it came in because the house was standing there.
We're standing just about here. So we're looking down the drive now.
The basic build itself, to build the house
and put the roof on it is not really that dear,
but we reckon we could probably build for about 300,000.
With a build of this size, the costs can be enormous.
But the couple have some innovative ideas to save themselves
money in the long term.
Got a guy that I've used before
up in Staffordshire
and this guy,
Peter, he'll come out
and do a deep bore of about 280ft
and he will bore us a water main in with a pumping system.
The initial cost of the water's £6,000, done and dusted,
so basically you're going to pay that initially,
but pay for nothing in the future.
And also, do a water conservation sort of project where we keep
all our waste water and then recycle it as such,
or use it to go back into the land.
So yeah, totally environmentally friendly, really.
Yeah, and that's what we want, isn't it?
-Yeah, in this day and age. That's what's needed.
For the Browns, building on this land is far from simple,
especially if there's potential for upsetting the local wildlife.
The great crested newt is protected
and if there is one that lives in the pond,
or his family or whatever,
they want you to protect the build from him getting
into the footings or the concrete, or getting crushed by big machines.
So they will ask you to cut plywood boards, sink them into the
ground, surround the build,
so little newt can't get into the build.
Newts aside, Ian and Celine are banking on this third application.
Not just because they want to build their perfect home,
but also because it's financially critical.
Everything's riding on this planning application now, the renewal,
because if you imagine that this land with
a house on it could be worth £1 million,
without the planning permission would be worth £80,000.
it's not just simply a case of renewing the previous permission.
There may be things that have changed
since we last looked at the application in 2010.
In this case, the design is the same,
but nature doesn't stand still.
So the whole ecological situation may have changed.
We know what we want.
It's just fingers crossed with planning, basically.
It's like being in hospital, waiting for an operation,
on what, you don't you know what's wrong with you,
until the consultant comes round eventually
because you're at death's door and tells you.
Celine and Ian's hopes of finally building on their green-belt land
will rest with Richard.
If he thinks their new plans are out of place or will harm local
wildlife, he will refuse their application.
Back in Lincoln, Keiran and junior planner Craig Everton have
arrived to conduct the Smiths' crucial site inspection.
The report they write will determine whether Matt and Millie
get the planning permission
they vitally need to open their dog hydrotherapy centre.
-So, this is the unit then?
-This is the unit, yes.
We just need to have a bit of a look round,
look at the adjoining units, have a
bit of a recce of the parking situation, access, that sort of
thing and then we'll probably have a quick chat with you, if that's OK.
Is that OK?
Keiran and Craig must be certain that the business won't have a
detrimental impact on neighbouring businesses.
And this includes the Smiths' plans for customer parking.
-Parking looks to be a bit of an issue.
It looks pretty well parked.
Not much additional capacity there.
There is obviously some space at the front of the unit,
the front of the unit itself.
We've got the location of the air source heat pump here then.
it's not in a prominent location on the side of the building there.
I think in itself, the visual impact of that is negligible.
-I think it's probably time we spoke with the applicants.
We've just had a quick look at the surrounding area,
assessed the physical impact of the development,
in terms of the air source heat pump, which we're comfortable with.
-It's really the issues relating to the use itself now.
-So we've just got a couple of questions for you.
Obviously, the details submitted with the application are it's
-hydrotherapy for dogs.
In essence, we need to know a little bit more, in terms
of how the business is proposed to operate.
It's things like, er, how many customers you're going to have in
in a typical day. I know it's difficult to give an exact figure on that.
Well, we know the maximum is 14.
Because the way it works is, they'll be half-hour sessions
and it's the same programme every single day.
So half-hour sessions with a ten-minute gap in-between
and a break for lunch and an evening break, as well.
So that's split up throughout the whole day.
So there'll be a maximum of 14 people in any one day.
Is this venture new to you,
or is it something you've done before, elsewhere?
-Or is this a start-up, in effect?
-This is a start-up.
OK. OK. Obviously, I've gone through the issues that we have.
We need to go away, mull that over a little bit, consider that,
and you should get a decision probably within the next week or so.
-Realistically. All right? Nice to meet you.
The air source heat pump's the only physical alteration to the building.
It's concealed down the side of the unit.
It doesn't really have much of a visual impact.
Obviously, we're concerned about the impact, potentially,
of customers on provision of parking.
Um... It is quite tight.
Um, that's something we'll to need to go away and carefully consider.
I thought they might have an issue with the external unit.
I thought that was the biggest change to the unit,
but they seem quite happy with that.
And the issues they had with parking,
which I didn't think we were going to have,
I'm a bit more nervous about the decision than I was
before we came here, now, to be honest.
The issues I thought they'd have an issue, they didn't,
and vice versa.
In Coventry, planner Richard Sykes is knee-deep in countryside.
He's dealing with an unusual application from a couple
with a vision to build a house from scratch.
Remember, the Browns are hoping to build on green-belt land,
something almost unheard of.
They bought the land for £190,000
and hope that a previous development on the site
means they'll get the green light.
-Have you ever been on-site before?
-I haven't, no.
So this will be good for you to show me around
and let me have a look at what the main features are.
We've brought you some print-offs.
Obviously, over ten years, nobody knows what was here.
But the application we're looking at today is just the straight
-renewal of the one that we've had in before.
-And then we're going to go back in and amend it.
-We'd like to amend it.
The Browns have been through two applications before,
and the pressure and difficulties of building on the land
might JUST have pushed Celine too far.
What really gets my goat is the fact that this is my land, right?
People walk through here, they burnt the house down, yeah?
That was on there previously, yeah?
I've got drunks...camping on there.
I've got children drinking.
I've got the police phoning me.
Yeah? So, I'm trying to change all this,
put a nice house on it, that can't be seen from anywhere.
I've got Planning that is saying, "Oh, no, you can't have this,
"you can't have that." This, that and the other.
So, you know, what does Planning want me to do?
Would they like me to leave it like this?
I could take the gates away, yeah?
Which... I had a set of gates there - they got stolen. Yeah?
And let the Gypsies come on, and I can make...a tenner a caravan.
Do you know what I mean?
So, I'm really, really annoyed by Planning.
And if they don't pass it, and if they don't pass my amendment,
I will be REALLY annoyed.
Developments in the green belt...
We very rarely get applications for new developments in the green belt.
It's one of the areas in Coventry and around the country
where the constraints are just absolutely massive.
This could be a hammer blow
for the Browns' hopes of getting planning approval.
-Do you want to have a walk around?
-Yes, if we can have a look, that would be great.
-And thanks for coming out and showing me around.
-Yeah, no problem.
So, did you say there were any parts of the original footings
that you can see now?
Yes, this was a part of the back wall.
-This would be roughly about the corner, here, I would've said.
-Of the original house.
-Of the original house.
And that's about in the middle of the house there.
One of our many roles is to be protective of the green belt.
-Oh, of course!
-It's such a massive asset to Coventry.
You wouldn't want to spoil it.
The trees that were protected,
-I mean, some of them are relatively close to the house.
And if they've grown roots, etc, that might have a slight bearing.
That's right. We might have to move the house backwards, or whatever.
-Yes. Or make sure that you put a...
-..the right tree protection plan in.
-That's not a problem.
No, that's OK. That's fine.
But it's not just trees.
The council's ecologist must also report on the wildlife
and, of course, the great crested newts.
So, what time period are we thinking
before we'll hear from yourself or...
I'm hopeful it's probably going to be within the next couple of weeks.
I've just got make sure that we've got everything ironed out
with the ecologist and they're aware of all the reports that have come in, have had time to digest them.
So the middle of the month, basically.
Yes, I think that's the date we're looking at.
The public notification period should have expired by then as well.
Yes, it will have. Yeah. OK. Well, that's fine. Thanks very much.
-OK, nice meeting you and thanks for your time, as well.
I think you can get much, much more out of people
if you try and build up some rapport
and just try and stay cool and calm with them.
Let them have their say.
Because there's certainly things
with taking on a project of this scale that are not going
to be straightforward, and will be a bit frustrating.
We expect that from people.
And we just have to deal with that and try and keep everything on
-It's nice to find someone who's interested along with you.
And that can actually see what you've got in mind.
Obviously, after passing some photos across, then it gives somebody
a much better idea of what we've got in mind, doesn't it, really?
They've taken on a massive project here,
but they obviously come across as people
who care about the environment,
and want to get it right. And it'll take a huge part of their life.
It's really refreshing to see their enthusiasm coming over, as well.
Yes, I shan't stick the pins in the doll any more! Yes.
A very congenial gentleman and hope to work with him again.
I have no problem with Planning.
But obviously everybody has to work with the rules
and regulations, don't they? And that's it.
It will now be a nerve-racking wait to find out if Celine
and Ian can build their out-of-the-ordinary home
in its extraordinary location.
Over in Lincoln, the Smiths have had to wait three weeks
for the public consultation period to pass on their doggy hydrotherapy application.
And the wait is finally over.
Today is the day that Matt goes to pick up the decision.
So, yeah, he's just gone off to the County Hall now to pick it up
and then he'll come back and we can open it together. Erm...
A bit apprehensive. Excited, obviously.
We just want it to be a positive result.
-Hi, I'm Matt Smith from AquaMutts to pick up a planning application.
-Planning application, oh, decision?
-Yes, that's it.
-Oh, OK, right.
Do you want to come to the window?
The all-important decision is in the envelope.
And although Matt is desperate to open it,
he'll wait till he's home with Millie.
-All right, thank you.
-Open it, open it, open it!
-Come on, it's your business - you open it.
Oh, my God. We got it!
Give the dog a bone, it's a "Yes!" for the Smiths!
The planners decided that their doggie swim centre
wouldn't have an adverse impact on neighbouring businesses.
Before it was like, IF the planning comes through, and IF this happens.
Whereas now, it's WHEN.
So, it's definitely a reality.
Fast forward four months and Matt
and Millie finally have the keys to their unit.
They roped in Matt's dad to help with the construction, and will
soon be able to welcome their first four-legged client.
We unpack all the bits first, stick them in the corner,
and then we'll build the framework up and once we've got the framework,
we can position that where we want it in the room
and then we can put the liner in and the underlay.
I've got some confidence in Matthew
cos he was very good with Lego as a child,
so I'm sure he'll figure out how all the bits go together.
Yeah, it'll be fine.
The pool measures 5m by 3m.
-So, next bit.
Let's put the framework together.
It'll be big enough for Millie to swim with her canine customers,
helping dogs recover from injuries
and encouraging water-shy pooches to paddle in a safe environment.
Over in Coventry, Richard is about to issue his decision.
So, since the site visits, what I've done is come back to the
office and obviously checked a lot of the history of the application.
Now, we don't get a huge amount of applications
in the green belt that are actually successful
because the green belt is an area
where are quite considerable constraints on new development.
It's just a case of waiting at the minute, which is very nerve racking,
because we can't move on until, obviously,
we get the go-ahead from Planning.
In most cases, it would be inappropriate to have a
new house in the green belt, unless there were very special circumstances.
It means so much to us, obviously, this was my dream home.
So, if we didn't get it, well, me more so than Ian,
cos this is my dream project with him,
I would be totally gutted.
Celine and Ian are about to find out if they will get permission
to build their million-pound home on green-belt land.
'Good afternoon, Planning. Richard Sykes.'
-Oh, hi there, Richard. It's Celine Cassidy.
'I guess you're phoning up about your application.'
That's right, Richard. Entirely right. Have you heard anything?
'Yeah, now what's happened, we've got all of the consultation responses back
'from the ecologist, and everyone else that we needed,
-'so permission is going to be granted.'
-It's a yes!
Oh, that's absolutely brilliant!
The ecologist didn't consider the newts an issue
and Richard decided that the precedent of the previous building
was sufficient to allow this piece of green-belt development.
-OK, thank you, Richard, very much.
-'OK. Take care.'
Thank you, bye. Bye.
Yippee! That's fantastic! Oh, brilliant news.
Worth all that emotion and time waiting,
And... That's great.
Stand by for a soaking.
In Lincoln, the construction of Matt and Millie's dog pool is finished.
They can finally begin to realise their dream.
It was more than a year ago that we thought of this.
And to stand here now, looking at it all is just really overwhelming.
And when you've got other dogs in here that aren't yours,
that aren't used to swimming, it's just like...
Whoa! I'm really here, I'm really doing this, sort of thing.
And it's just... Just amazing, really.
There's a good boy. Silly boy.
We're not in this to make huge amounts of money.
It's basically so that Millie has got a job that she loves.
She can spend all the time she likes with Bruno.
Most businesses or jobs have, you can't take your dog to work,
whereas here, she can.
It's always been my passion to work with dogs. It does feel amazing.
He's a water dog and I'm a water baby, so we both love it here.
Don't want to get out at the end of the 30 minutes!
Thanks for that. Just where I was working!
Matt and Millie have planned it, built it.
They have successfully negotiated planning to achieve their dream
and hope to make a profit of 40 grand per year.
The Browns hope to start work later in the year.
They estimate their home will be worth over a million pounds,
a shrewd return on land they bought for just 190,000.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
Planners have pretty much seen it all, but occasionally an application lands on their desk that takes them by surprise. In this episode, one young couple wants permission to set up a dog hydrotherapy centre, and another couple wants to build where no-one else would dare.
Both applications have significant financial repercussions. The dog hydrotherapy centre is an investment that could yield real returns, and the couple building their dream house could end up with a million-pound finished property. There are problems in the form of a great crested newt and a lapsed application, but both couples prove that when it comes to planning, persistence pays.