Low on aesthetic merit but essential for growing cut flowers, a polytunnel was top of the list of things to get sorted for Puggs Meadow. If you’re thinking of putting one up here are the things I’ve discovered about the process so far:
1. If it’s non-commercial, chances are you won’t need planning permission – Northern Polytunnels is good for general guidelines.
2. Councils vary over whether they require full planning permission for polytunnels; some just need prior notification. Simple though that sounds, it still involves much form filling. You can pay someone else to go through this process for you – I was quoted £250, so thought I’d give it a bash myself.
3. The planning path is a bit like the Hansel and Gretel route to the gingerbread house – post breadcrumb disappearance. First-hand advice is invaluable, I owe many thanks to Claire Brown at Plant Passion for hers.
4. DON’T even attempt to apply using the Government Planning Portal. Were he still about, Dante would have added another circle of hell to his Inferno just to include this. It’s much better to take the forms to the council planning office and get them to explain exactly what you need in person/check you’ve done it right before you submit.
5. For both prior notification and permission proper, you will need to provide a site map and one giving the exact position of the polytunnel within the site. You can buy maps sites such as Get Mapping for £33, which allow you to draw your outlines (pretty fiddly until you get the hang of it) onto an OS map centred on your postcode.
6. There also need to be front and side scale elevation drawings (yes, I know, it’s a polytunnel and we all know what one of them looks like but still…). At this point, unless you have a scale rule and a couple of days of your life to fritter, speak nicely to the company you’re buying the tunnel from and they may well do this bit for you – kind Paul Sneyd at Haygrove rescued me after I’d buried my desk in a litter of scrumpled up attempts and blurted Rotring pen ink all over the final version.
7. Once you’ve submitted the forms in quadruplicate, your application gets validated, passed round various bodies in case anyone has an objection and, all being equal, you should get your permission in about six weeks….
8. …Or not. On the advice of the council, I submitted prior notification. Someone then looked at the rule book and found that because we have LESS than 11 acres we did then in fact have to go for full permission. So through the whole process we went again, six weeks later into the growing season.
9. Just because the Government Portal and indeed the council officer you run through the application with say that a 1:2500 scale site map is just fine, doesn’t mean it is with the Validation department. They would rather 1:500, which means a whole new map…
10. Councils usually take a couple of days between submission and validation. Three weeks down the line, I wait with bated breath.