I have managed to depart from blogs related to football for the past couple of weeks, but with two months of the season remaining my opportunities are decreasing (well OK, we have a world cup which may deserve a mention). As the end of the season draws near the Premier League table is starting to stabilise. There have been an unusually high number of teams this season considered genuine title contenders and as things stand the race to the title looks like being the most exciting for some time. However, at the other end of the table excitement is replaced with worry as only five points separate the bottom seven teams.

There is a cliché rolled out at this time of the year by some managers of teams that find themselves at the bottom of the table in the ‘relegation dog-fight’:

“We have to treat every game like a cup final”

Dramatic: maybe, unrealistic: not really. The value of staying in the top flight of English football is worth tens of millions of pounds to those clubs. Relegation comes with a series of parachute payments to make the drop in income more manageable, but ultimately teams can find themselves in free-fall. Struggling to make it back for a number of years, if ever, the value and impact of relegation is significant.

Value and impact are something that we come across every day in planning. In a post NPPF world planners are not supposed to act as an anchor to growth. Councils should be positive about new development and help to shape the future through negotiations and suggestions. Far too often this is not the case and what those making negative decisions fail to realise is that for a lot of people these applications reflect their cup final. A refused planning application delays proceedings and, if it is necessary to go through the appeals process, adds time and cost. For some national builders this is accepted and consumed within their business model, but for the small scale developer and man on the street these costs and delays can be financially crippling.

We always caveat any appeal with a client by saying that there are no guarantees of the outcome and this is also true of planning applications. Very rarely do we come across an application that we know is going to ‘sail’ through to an approval without any effort, because the simplest applications can run into unforeseen difficulties. The key is anticipation.

Every application needs to first be looked at through the eyes of the planner at the Council and the next-door neighbour! The planner at the Council will be basing their decision upon the adopted policies of the local authority and experience goes a long way into anticipating how these could be interpreted badly. It is then important to look at ways of overcoming any potential problems, this could be through tackling it straight on and arguing the case and sometimes a bit of trickery can find loopholes and ways around a conflict. The neighbour to a certain extent is an unknown quantity, their objections still need to have policy grounding, but very heartfelt sob-stories can also ‘throw a spanner in the works’. My advice to homeowners would be to speak to your neighbours first about any plans you may have, see if they are happy and expel any fears they may have. Less objections ultimately reduces this unknown factor in the equation.

It is my view that each application should be prepared like an appeal. Think of your planning application as your one shot, your cup final. That way you have a much better chance of success first time round – saving time and expense. What you don’t want to be is complacent and approach it without any real determination or purpose from the outset. That is how you can find yourselves at the bottom of the table with nothing but an old cliché.