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frequently asked questions


What services do you provide?

We provide architectural, planning consultancy and project management services based on the RIBA plan of work stages.

How much are your fees?

As all projects are unique including the clients requirements and the specific site – we don’t have a standard fee structure for every project. After our initial enquiry meeting we calculate the hours needed for each work stage to achieve your desired outcome. We take an initial deposit on appointment, and each stage is invoiced on the completion of each work stage. Our fees are in-line with the RIBA fee range 5-8% of the construction budget for full Architectural services. Project management services are calculated depending how involved you need us to be.

What is the process to discuss our project?

Get in touch through our enquiry form, email or by giving us a call – we will ask you to provide us some information about your project including the site address, what you want to achieve and your budget. We will then meet you at your site or property to discuss your project in further detail.

Is the first meeting chargeable?

No. Our first meeting is free of charge.

How do we appoint you?

After our first meeting we provide you with our fee proposal for our services. An E-sign will be issued and once signed you are booked into our upcoming workload.

When can you start on our project?

This is dependent on our current workload at the time of our appointment. This can vary between 1 and 3 months lead time to commence a new project.

Who works on our project?

As we are a small team who provide a personal bespoke service, you benefit from our full team working on every project together collaboratively. This means that you get the experience and knowledge of 2 directors, and an associate working on your project from day 1.

Who is our point of contact?

As Zara, Paul and Robyn all work together on every project, you can contact any one of us as we are all fully up-to-date with your project.

I know exactly what I want - will you draw it up?

As we need to ensure planning success which will involve justifying every design decision, our design process ensures that the optimum solution is achieved to work for the site and planning policy. We can only promote or justify schemes designed in-house. What we can do is review your proposal to understand features you want to include, and a new design would be produced influenced by your thoughts.

I have already have a design - will you please obtain planning?

As we need to ensure planning success which will involve justifying every design decision, our design process ensures that the optimum solution is achieved to work for the site and planning policy. We can only promote or justify schemes designed in-house.

I already have planning - will you complete building regulations?

We don’t progress any schemes which have not been produced by ZMA.

We have previously worked with another architect - will you take over?

This depends on the reason for why you are not proceeding with the other architect, and if you are happy to start again as we would not progress any schemes which have not been produced by ZMA.


Do you do pre-applications?

Yes this is part of our staged service. See our process for further detail.

Why do you need to do a pre-application?

Pre-applications are an opportunity to understand how your project will be received by the planning officer prior to the formal submission. It is always advisable when you are proposing schemes which are pushing the boundaries of design, or schemes which conflict with planning policy. See our advice article for further detail.

Is a pre-application confidential?

Yes members of the public will not be notified.

Will I get planning approval on my site / building?

This is the million dollar question! This is based on many different factors and every project is different. In some cases we can let you know the likelihood of approval during our initial enquiry meeting, some sites will require a feasibility study.

When would planning be achieved?

This is dependent on if a pre-application will be submitted and this is dependent on the local authorities workload. However we generally advise that on a sensitive site requiring a pre-application you should plan for planning to be approved within 12 months of our appointment.

How long does the planning process take?

From the point of submitting the application the statutory decision period is 8-12weeks. With a 1-2 week validation period however the validation period varies between local authorities and is based on their current workload. You can therefore expect a decision within 10-14 weeks of submitting.

Can you assess the feasibility of obtaining planning before we complete a full design?

Yes. Initial advice is provided at our enquiry meeting and we offer a feasibility study service for a detailed assessment. Please refer to our process.

Can you assess the feasibility of obtaining planning before we buy a site?

Yes. We offer a feasibility study service. Please refer to our process.

How do you manage the planning process?

We manage all correspondence with the planning department which begins at pre-application stage through to the formal decision. ZMA submit the application on your behalf acting as the agent and we are the point of contact between yourself and the planning officer. We ensure the application has been validated and submit any further requests, we monitor any comments by consultees and members of the public online, whilst responding to any planning-related comments as they occur. We have an open dialogue with the planning officer throughout the decision period to ensure any concerns are addressed. We make any requested changes without delay and issue to the officer within 48 hours to ensure the planning process will not be delayed. If your application is decided at committee, we will speak on your behalf.

Do I also need a planning consultant?

No. ZMA provide all your planning consultancy needs which includes the supporting planning statement, acting as your planning consultant and agent, managing the planning process, the submission and liaising with the planning officer throughout the planning process.

What other consultants do I need?

This is dependant on your site, what you are trying to achieve and the local authority. However please see our advice article.

Do you have a good relationship with local planning departments?

We have worked with over 20 different local authorities predominantly across Lancashire with a number being much further afield. Whilst all local authorities have their own local policies, Planning policy begins at national level where policies have the same guiding principles across the UK. Even if you work with the same local authority you can’t guarantee you will have the same planning officer every time. Therefore the way we manage the planning process is the same regardless of wether we have worked with the local authority before or even with a specific officer. It’s about constant communication, regular monitoring, reacting quickly to requests, and treating the officer with respect as they ultimately make the decision if your project is approved.

What is your success rate for planning approvals?

96% approval rate for 122 planning applications as of September 2023. 80% of all projects are within sensitive sites (AONB, green belt, open countryside, conservation areas, or listed buildings).

Will my planning application be decided at committee?

There are 2 ways your planning application would be decided by committee rather than by the planning officer (delegated powers).

1. The application is called-in by a councillor.

2. The application received over a specific number of objections or comments (this varies between local authority).

We would be aware of this during the application period and register to speak on your behalf.

Who gets informed about my planning application?

When your application is registered and validated a public list is visible online, the planning application and all submitted documents are also visible online and available to download by members of the public. Neighbouring properties will be contacted via letter to register their comments, a site notice will be positioned adjacent to the site to notify any members of the public, any landowners who own any part of the application will be notified, your ward councillor, and relevant statutory consultees such as highways, tree and environment officers, united utilities, heritage, public rights of way, ecologists etc.

What happens if our planning application received objections?

If an application receives objections it doesn’t automatically mean it will be refused. Any objections are reviewed and discussed with the planning officer – if any are planning-related objections and can be addressed, they are addressed with either further explanation, amendments to the scheme, or further justification to explain it is not the case. The planning officer will then confirm if they have been satisfactorily addressed and therefore would not be a reason for refusal.

What happens if our planning application is refused?

Refusal is the last resort for a scheme, we only reach the point of refusal if there was no merit in revising the scheme to achieve support and knowing the scheme would always ultimately be decided at appeal. If your application is refused you can submit an appeal of the decision within 6 months of the decision date.

Our application has been refused with another architect? Would you manage the appeal?

No. We only act as planning consultant on ZMA projects.

How much does a planning appeal cost?

The appeal submission is free of charge however the cost would vary depending on the appeal type. Typically the scale of scheme we work on would only warrant the written appeal procedure which would only incur the cost associated with managing and submitting the submission and producing the statement of case document.


Can you recommend any builders / contractors?

Yes, we work with a number of local contractors who are on our approved tender list. The approved tender list has been compiled by Paul based on 20 years of experience in the construction industry.

Do I need other consultants for the construction stage?

This is dependent on the type of project, we liaise with Structural Engineers, Civil Engineers, Landscape Architects, Lighting Designers, Interior Designers, etc to ensure that all elements of the construction are considered and managed efficiently with an open dialogue between all parties. We also recommend appointing any required consultants as soon as possible, this ensures that the construction period is.

Do you help with tendering / appointing contractors?

Yes, we provide a formal tendering service which involves completing a schedule of work, full set of tender drawings and issuing to at least 3 contractors with an allocated deadline. Once tender returns are received, we then complete a tender review, analyse any cost savings and assist you with selecting a contractor.

Do you monitor the build?

Yes this is a service we provide. During the length of the construction phase we administer the building contract between the client and contractor, acting as your go-between to make sure the build is progressing as agreed within the contract, we review payment notices and sign-off completed work to release payment, and …. this service is through a fixed monthly retainer through the duration of the construction period.

How long will the construction period be?

House extensions can vary between 6-9months, new-builds can vary between 12-18months, with super homes taking 18months and over.

How much will my project cost?

This is dependant on the scale, your chosen specification, the site conditions and the complexity of the design. Projects can range from £1000-1500 per square metre to refurbish and remodel an existing building; from £1500-£2000 per square metre for extensions; and upwards of £2000-3500 per square metre for new-builds.