Why use a planner?

October 30, 2020

Before asking the question ‘ why use a planning consultant?’ it might be better to ask ‘what is a planning consultant?’ as it can be very difficult to grasp.  Put simply a planning consultant obtains planning permission.  However, to get to this point a planning consultant will adopt the role of policy and legislative expert, strategist, project manager and PR advisor.  If a planning consultant is used from the outset it can save time and money in the long run as they can advise on the best approach to achieve the desired outcome. 

If you are considering whether or not you should work with a Planning Consultant, here are some of the key benefits to you and your project.

Legislative and technical expertise

The legislative arena for planning and development is complex and is constantly changing and evolving.   We have to stay on top of this in order to advise our clients properly.  This also means keeping a close eye on case law which helps us to interpret the nuances of planning policy and national planning guidance; all of which can be subject to interpretation.  

The planning process requires input from many specialisms such as ecology, transport planning, flooding and conservation.   We are able to call upon the experience and knowledge of other experts in their field to support our clients’ applications.   We have  a good understanding of the interaction between planning and these wider specialisms and can advise on planning strategies or signpost to appropriate technical colleagues.

Proven approach

Whilst there is lots of guidance on planning policy and processes, applying these to your proposal can be complex. Sites are subject to local and national requirements, many of which are open to interpretation and can be contradictory. Our planners take a strategic approach, considering all aspects early on to clearly outline planning outcomes and a route map to achieve the best outcome. 

Local knowledge

Planning is rarely clear-cut with local context affecting how policy is applied so it is vital to understand the local area. We regularly develop and implement planning strategies for our local clients which means we are very familiar with the Local Plans for all North West authorities.  Understanding the local development priorities, challenges and opportunities can be extremely important, particularly if an application is controversial.  Local knowledge can help us to prepare a plan of action before an application is submitted. This can sometimes take the form of public engagement with neighbours or communities.  

Local authority relationships

When possible, we engage with local planning authorities at the earliest stage to gather pre-application advice and identify any potential risks to development.  We have worked across the North West authorities throughout our planning careers and have developed good working relationships with officers.  Negotiation and compromise between planning consultants and planning officers often forms part of the planning process; an effective relationship is one based on professionalism, understanding and empathy.  These skills take time to develop and a planning consultant can help to shape your application into an acceptable form if you are struggling to reach your desired outcome. 


The planning process can be costly and even more so if it is not well-managed.  A lack of technical knowledge and experience can cause delays. Identifying and mitigating risks at an early stage can help an applicant to budget and formulate a programme.  A planning consultant needs to  fully understand a client brief and can help to manage the planning process around it.  This often involves thinking far in advance including allowing time for the discharge of conditions and making a start on site.  Our team will only ever recommend work that is absolutely necessary to achieve your planning objectives.

To discuss how we can support your planning application, contact deborah@smithlove.co.uk