While obtaining your property may be a very simple exercise, it is more likely to be protracted and to involve considerable negotiations. As part of that process you may need to contact a variety of people with an official interest in what you are doing. Various pieces of legislation and official bodies may have to be consulted to ensure that you will be able to use the property for your business. Other activities will also require the approval of these groups. Building an extension to your current property and, in some cases, internal building or restructuring work may require approval.
Planning controls have become a highly emotive issue in the last few years. However, the problems they pose can normally be overcome if certain general principles are followed. Two very useful publications prepared by the Department of the Environment are available free from all local planning departments. The first, ‘Planning Permission — A Guide for Industry’, gives a detailed account of how to obtain planning permission, and the second, ‘The Small Firm and the Planners’, answers questions specifically relevant to small businesses.
It is quite possible to submit a planning application without hiring a specialist adviser. The local authority planners are there to help and in many cases some guidance from them will be all that is needed to secure a successful application. If, however, you feel nervous of the form-filling and bureaucracy you can ask your solicitor to deal with them. If you are required to submit a number of scale drawings and plans of the property you may need an architect or surveyor to prepare them. Only in really complex cases will it be worth hiring a planning consultant. Names and addresses of consultants can be obtained from Yellow Pages or from the Royal Town Planning Institute, 26 Portland Place, London WIN 4BE. Equally rarely, legal advice may be needed and there are legal practices which specialize in planning law. In all cases, shop around as there is considerable variation in the fees charged. In the overwhelming majority of cases you will not need a battery of experts. Like many tasks which are unfamiliar, gaining planning permission may appear daunting at first sight but generally speaking, it is relatively straightforward.