The Planning System

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Many people are bored by planning until there is a planning application to build in the vicinity of their homes. Then they discover that their county or city has a planning register where they can search for the new proposal and read the supporting documents.

It is best to look at the application form first since it obliges the developer to give details of exactly what is proposed. The Design and Access Statement is generally user-friendly, but it will speak up for the development, often skating over the points which will impact on neighbours. It is therefore important to look at the drawings, which are usually more exact.

Neighbours are generally worried by the proximity of new development, which can involve overlooking, overshadowing and the potential for unwanted noise.

The Council's planning register will provide a facility for online comments, which can comprise objections, comments in support of the application, or comments neither in support nor objecting. Your personal details will not be revealed, though these comments will be available for all to see.

Each application will have a case officer whose job is to consult different Council departments and to write a report. The report will analyse whether the new proposal is compatible with the policies in the Council's Local Plan and will summarise the comments for and against the application.

Before writing objections it is always a good idea to familiarise yourself with these local policies as well as those in the National Planning Policy Framework. An objection informed on the basis of planning policies, such as Protection of Amenity, is likely to be valid. Protection of a private view is not a valid consideration, though long views in and out of a conservation area from public vantage points do qualify as valid.

The opportunity to comment is usually open for three weeks from when the application is registered. Applications with five or more objections usually go before the planning committee, especially if your local ward councillor asks for this to happen. The case officer's report will contain a recommendation of whether to grant or refuse the application. Planning committees consist of up to a dozen ward councillors, which allows elected representatives to make decisions. They do not have to follow the case officer's recommendation, though in most cases they do.

If an application is approved, objectors do not have the right of appeal, though if it is refused, the developer can appeal against refusal. The appeal process involves planning inspectors who represent the government. If the appeal is dismissed, then the developer or appellant pays the cost of the appeal. However, if it is upheld, then the Council (i.e. the rate-payers) foots the bill.

-----© Ted Power