It is all in the planning!

Here at DfL we take pride in being able to solve our clients problems. However, as lighting consultants it is our worst nightmare when trying to help a client discharge a lighting related planning condition that is unachievable. What makes them unachievable? Here are some of the most common problems that present themselves when lighting consultants such as ourselves are not involved in a project when the planning approval is granted.

The Problem

The first common issue that may arise is unrealistic limitations on light spill and an incorrect interpretation of obtrusive light guidance (GN01). In some cases, the Local Planning Authority or LPA will reference the obtrusive light guidance, but incorrectly interpret the light spill criteria, often applying it to the horizontal light spill on the ground. Instead, this should be used to assess light spill onto the windows of residential dwellings. This presents a problem when submitting design information to discharge the conditions because the condition has been incorrectly applied to lighting aspect of the development.

What is the LPA?

LPA’s have a duty to ensure lighting from developments does not affect the environment through to light pollution or become a statutory nuisance. Where limited lighting details have been submitted with the planning application, the LPA are likely to impose conditions that limited the hours of operation for exterior lighting or illuminated advertisements. Commonly, these timings do not suit the development and are in most cases not necessary. However, as the LPA were not provided with confidence that lighting proposals would not affect the environment or become a statutory nuisance early in the decision-making process. This could be easily overcome by providing detailed or outline information regarding the proposed lighting levels, hours of usage and how lighting would comply with standards and guidance.

In extreme cases, where no lighting information has been submitted with a planning application, the LPA could impose a condition that does not allow external lighting to be installed. This can be problematic during the detailed design and construction phase of the project if lighting is required, as additional input and services from professionals such as planning consultants are required to submit an application to vary the particular condition. These conditions and scenarios are often preventable if lighting aspirations are clearly articulated to LPA’s with the planning application.

The Solution

In most cases, the scenarios discussed above can be avoided by providing a lighting strategy with the planning application. This is an important document because it outlines to the LPA how lighting will be designed, managed and importantly how it will comply with relevant standards or guidance. Lighting strategies are often more valuable than the lighting design itself, as it provides the key lighting performance criteria to ensure lighting has a low potential of affecting the environment or becoming a statutory nuisance.  Furthermore, it will support the development in the long term and often set out how lighting should be maintained. Reducing the potential for obtrusive light or light nuisance developing as a result of poor design and inappropriate specification in the future. Where the timings and operation methods of lighting are important to the project, these can be included within the lighting strategy, which will reduce the potential of problematic time restrictions being secured by condition.

The Key to Success?

The key to success when submitting a planning application where the development will require lighting is to provide the LPA with a lighting strategy that clearly states how lighting will be designed and managed. This will help reduce the potential for onerous and restrictive planning conditions for lighting that does not support the requirements of the development.

Ensure that lighting is considered as a key element of your development at the planning stage to save time and complications during the detailed design and construction phase. The success of the project is all in the planning!