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How long does a planning application take?

How long does a planning application take?

Do you have a home extension in mind? Alongside the budget and the ideas, the timeline is one of the most important considerations. Many factors influence the length of a project and the factor clients tend to worry about the most is planning permission. One of the most common questions the team at 50 Degrees North are asked is, ‘How long does a planning application take?’


This article breaks down some of the factors that influence the timeline for applying for planning permission. It also highlights other key elements that impact timing, which you may not have thought of.



Variables that impact home extension timelines



Client-imposed variables


Time is a critical factor when it comes to home extension projects. From the client’s side, there are certain things that affect project timelines. Think about whether you have any particular time constraints. Ask yourself the following questions:


  • When would you like to be on-site?


  • Do you have a particular start date in mind – for the building works or the project generally? Sometimes this is influenced by family needs, a baby’s due date, or having work done within a certain financial year


  • Are there any hard stop dates? This might be because you’re starting a new job, or you have a child starting school, for example



A word of warning about timelines


If you’ve heard rumours about project timelines, from the planning stage to building timelines, it would be good to share those with your architect. Ninety per cent of the time, clients underestimate timelines, not only in terms how long the building works take but how long it takes to get onto site in the first place. We don’t say this to scare you, simply to let you know that it’s better to take advice from professionals.



The stages of a residential extension


Stage 1: Preparation
Ahead of the build, there is a lot of preparation to be done. At this stage we will: carry out site surveys; draw existing plans, sections and elevations; develop the brief with the client; draw proposals and issue revisions; meet and develop the design, and discuss the next stages.


Stage 2: The Planning Application
This is when your architect: prepares drawings for planning submission; prepares planning documents; commissions any consultants if required; liaises with the planning department and makes changes if requested; advises client on progress.


Stage 3: Building Regulations and Tendering Work
At this stage in the process your architect will: meet with you and discuss detailed design; commission an engineer; commission sub-consultants; draw and issue Building Control level drawings, spec and SOW; facilitate tender discussions/provide builder shortlist; issue tender information.


Stage 4: The Building Stage
This is where the project starts to take physical shape. At this point your architect will: hold a pre-start meeting on-site; carry out site meetings; develop details; draw interior elements; liaise with your builder; solve problems & ensure Building Control sign off.



Underlining the entire process, there’s the time-cost-quality triangle to consider. If you have a particular quality of build in mind, or a particular budget, it can make it difficult to maintain a timeline.


For instance, you might choose a builder for the quality of their work; a high-quality finish isn’t cheap and may not be the fastest option if speed is your main concern. You might choose a builder because you’re familiar with them, though maybe they are not available when you would like. Again, this will impact on the overall timeline.



What to be aware of with home improvement timelines


No matter what the project, our advice is to never, ever rush to site. It’s better to take your time. Do things thoroughly in the beginning and there’s less chance of running into problems down the line.


We understand it’s frustrating! We’ve been involved in hundreds of these projects and we know that it’s tempting to get stuck in straight away. In our experience, it’s much better to spend time in the preparation than in the fixing of problems caused by premature arrival on site.



Timelines for different home extension and renovation projects


The size and complexity of the project will impact timelines as well as the building works. Below we’ve outlined typical timelines for each kind of project. These are a guide only; your architect can discuss the finer details with you.


Be aware that these timelines refer to the length of time to getting on-site. They do not include building timelines:


  • Typical residential extension or refurb – five to six months


  • Larger residential extension or refurb – from six to nine months


  • A complex project, involving basements or a back-to-brick refurb – 6 to 12 months before getting on-site


  • New build – up to a year to get on site


How will my architect help manage timings?


Your architect will help you define a brief. They’ll go through the scope and feasibility of the work. Essentially, your architect will help you get these things right at the start, to reduce the risk of wasting time once you get onto site.


Practicality vs. inspiration: the architect’s role


Whether they’re guiding you through different options or giving you the lowdown on timelines, an architect’s job is to balance the practicalities with the inspiration.


Your architect will help you to pin down everything from your initial ideas to your budget, in order to define a brief. All of these contributing factors add up to a timeline. There’s a saying that money is the most used building material. The same could be said for time! Through their knowledge, skill and pragmatism an architect helps keep the project on the straight and narrow, while upholding the client’s vision.



Can an architect guarantee my project will finish exactly on time?


The short answer is, no. Even with the most meticulous planning, once you arrive on-site, all kinds of unforeseen things can crop up. A good architect will prepare you for the worst. Of course, they hope it doesn’t happen, although it’s good to be aware of the implications in case it does.


It’s why we at 50 Degrees North firmly believe that it’s better to plan and prepare beforehand so that you can make effective decisions. You’ll feel equipped to deal with what’s possibly going to come up thanks to our thorough approach. If you rush on to site, it’s usually a case of learning through a baptism of fire. Of course, nobody can eliminate every unforeseen circumstance – either at the planning or the building stage. Being aware of these things makes them easier to deal with.


Make a start on your home extension or renovation project, contact us for an initial conversation. We might not be able to give you an accurate timeline immediately. We can promise that we’ll listen to your goals, your vision and support you as you bring your dream to life.