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Guaranteed planning permission – An offer that’s not as good as it sounds

It sounds like a great prospect - a firm telling you they can definitely get you planning permission. If only life were that simple - here's what can go wrong

10 January 2024
5 minutes read
Estate agent in a two piece navy suit holding two fingers up with his left hand and paperwork on his right hand speaking to a happy and smiling couple that are holding each other around the waist outside of a large and luxurious red brick property

I receive a lot of questions on a regular basis about whether it's possible to guarantee planning permission or not so I thought I'd share my answer in this post.

Let’s jump right in…

The short answer is: No! 

Yes, you read that right...

Guaranteed planning permission sounds fantastic, but in most cases you are setting yourself up to fail.

The best architecture companies in London and in the UK will NOT offer guaranteed planning permission results. Although it’s human nature to want guaranteed results, in the case of planning permission, it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

Why can't anybody guarantee planning permission?

Nobody can guarantee a successful outcome as these decisions rest with the local planning authority, whether you're in London or elsewhere in the UK. There is no such thing as a guarantee that you will get planning permission approval – or that it will be obtained quickly.


The fact is, when engaged to submit an application, your architect should consider any local authority guidelines and statutory requirements so they have the best chance of success. So be wary of anyone claiming they can guarantee planning permission.

This is important: By that definition, anyone offering guaranteed planning permission services can only do so by cheating and lying. I'm not sure I’d want to be working with anyone who was so open about doing both of those things…

Why do some architecture firms 'guarantee' planning permission or offer no-win no-fee planning permission?

No-win no-fee planning permission offers may have already captured your attention.

You might even be attracted by these claims that some architects or architectural designers make to get you in the door. That means that you apparently will not have to pay them unless you win planning permission. Sounds amazing. So wait, what's the catch?

One of these tricks is that they will surreptitiously charge you for expenses, meaning everything from their time to call the council and getting planning records, to their assistants making copies in the office. Needless to say, if your project might take a long time to close, their fees could add up to insane numbers.

Stainless steel metal maths compass laying RIBA chartered architects printed drawings as well as rolled up drawings on the side

A word of caution: These firms also take up projects on a no-win no-fee basis even when they don't believe the planning permission will be successful. They do this simply because they know they can make money on the expenses. So stop thinking that guaranteed planning permission is possible.

Why don't reputable architecture firms guarantee planning permission?

Hiring an architect can be stressful. With prices ranging anywhere from several hundred to tens of thousands of pounds depending on your project, it's difficult to find out whether they will do the real work.

If you’ve hired an architect before and had a bad experience, you have anxiety upon anxiety as you go through the hiring process again. So, in these circumstances, it's perfectly understandable you would be attracted to the idea of a guarantee.

Other service businesses offer guarantees, so why wouldn’t architecture firms?

As the founder of a RIBA-chartered architecture practice, I believe our clients deserve a guarantee, especially for those who are hesitant about the risk involved with planning applications. But the type of guarantee we offer at our practice is Guaranteed Planning Expertise.

We do guarantee that if we can't secure planning permission for your project, nobody else can. In other words, if we can’t secure your planning permission but another firm can for the same design proposal within 12 months, we will give you a full refund.

Now you won't fall for the guaranteed planning permission scam!

In conclusion, reputable architecture companies absolutely do NOT guarantee planning permission results of any kind – the process and the agents involved simply won't let them. Unfortunately, there is no magic Get Planning Permission Now button that we press to obtain your certificate. The work we put in to getting planning permission is the service that you are paying for, not only the piece of paper. You now know the scam behind guaranteed planning permission, so be wary of anyone promising it. Don’t let this ruin your project!

Photograph of a mind the gap markings on a London tube and/or railway platform

The bottom line

What well-established architecture companies and planning consultancy firms can do, however, is pay attention to the specific procedures they need to follow when applying for planning permission. This is what our service involves – our years of knowledge and expertise and our ability to adapt them to your situation. This specialist knowledge will, in turn, help develop your project into something with the best chance for success.

When you use a RIBA Chartered Architect or Chartered Practice you are employing someone who has undertaken seven years of architectural training – no other building professional is trained in design and construction to such a level of expertise.

Guaranteed planning expertise by Urbanist Architecture

At Urbanist Architecture, we maximise your chances by finding the sweet spot between your council’s planning policies and guidelines for your project, and what is right for you. We use a technique that is unique to us.

We don't guarantee planning permission results – however, we only take up projects if we believe they will be successful, and give you a clear and honest idea from the start about what we think your chances are. If you decide to work with us and we decide to work with you, we will be fully committed to your cause and put all the skills and effort at our disposal into getting you planning permission.

How Urbanist Architecture can help you

Urbanist Architecture is a London-based RIBA chartered architecture and planning practice with offices in Greenwich and Belgravia.

Whether it is a house in a conservation area, a small plot in an urban setting or a large plot in a greenfield site, we specialise in crafting creative design and planning strategies to unlock the potential of challenging sites and buildings.

So, are you ready to unlock the hidden potential of your site, get planning permission, and design and build your dream project?

Get in touch today.

Ufuk Bahar, Founder and Managing Director of Urbanist Architecture
AUTHOR

Ufuk Bahar

Urbanist Architecture’s founder and managing director, Ufuk Bahar takes personal charge of some of our larger projects, focusing particularly on Green Belt developments, new-build flats and housing and high-end full refurbishments.

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