Planning a new build or extension is not for the faint hearted hotelier. Aside from the initial investment, the logistics of proposing a plan that gets full approval from councillors and officials takes a lot of thought and careful consideration. Gareth Hughes from Keystone Law explains how best to approach a new project to ensure everyone is on side.
In terms of a planning application the main considerations for hoteliers when it comes to a new build or extension have to be the suite of planning policies laid down both by central and local Government.
Firstly, developers will have to have regard to the Government’s own national planning policy framework (the NPPF) which indicates what it would wish to see in terms of development and the encouragement of that development.
More importantly, in London, regard will have to be had to the Mayor of London’s “London Plan” which sets out the strategic planning objectives for the whole of Greater London and where the Mayor would prefer certain types of development to take place.
It would be sensible to plan a hotel development in an area where it was desired by the strategic plan for London and more particularly by the local plans or core strategies of the individual planning authorities themselves.
Full regard will have to be had to the planning authorities desire to locate specific types of use (in this case the hotel use) within particular areas of its borough or town. Further regard will have to be had to whether the hotel is to be built within a conservation area in which case special requirements will operate in terms of the design of the building to ensure that is consistent with other buildings in the area. If an extension or change to an existing building is proposed regard will also have to be had to whether it is a listed building in which case, often, more rigorous policies will apply in terms of what can be done to that building.
The pre-application advice is always crucial in such large developments (which include most hotel developments). This is now a well laid down procedure where, prior to a planning application, developers are able to meet with Planning Officers locally and discuss through in detail the proposals for the site. This involves the payment of a not inconsiderable sum in most cases. However it means that a developer will obtain advice from the council’s planning team as to the status of any application within their planning policies and if such a development would be favoured. If it is favoured then the officers will give advice on how to frame such an application taking into account all the other relevant planning policies which will include design and access, heritage, accessibility, light and sunlight, amenity, noise issues, the designing out of crime, transport and construction.
It is also advisable to bring in a licensing lawyer at an early stage so they can advise on the licensing implications in respect of the sale and supply of alcohol, the provision of late night refreshment and the provision of public entertainment such as music and dancing and indoor sporting events. It is crucial that any conditions attached to a planning permission do not curtail any activities for which the operator of the hotel will require a premises licence under the Licensing Act 2003.
Insofar as the council being on side with plans is concerned it is always advisable as indicated above to take pre-application advice from Planning Officers but it will assist if meetings are held between high level members of the planning team and local councillors as well as in some cases members of the Planning Committee and the authority in question.
It is advisable to carry out extensive consultation with local residents and other stakeholders well before any application is submitted to gauge their views on such a development. This will usually involve public meetings perhaps near to the site so that members of the public, councillors and police as well as others can look at artists’ designs of how the building will eventually look on completion and any models. Local residents will be particularly interested in hearing about noise management plans for the building and transport management plans. They will be keen to hear of the developer’s view on dispersal of sometimes significant numbers of people from the premises late at night perhaps having attended an event or dinner dance. It is crucial that as many residents as possible are brought on board at an early stage to avoid significant objections once an application is lodged.
In the event of a refusal of the application consideration will need to be given to an appeal to the planning inspectorate which could sometimes take upwards of six months on a full planning enquiry and which can be costly and expensive. An alternative may be to reframe the planning application to allow it more success on a second application.