Local Planners and Planning Applications

Local Planners and Planning Applications

Make immediate contact with the planning officers at your local planning authority (district or borough council). Find out who the personnel are and, in particular, who deals with conservation matters or listed building applications. Most councils have their own conservation officers, and if not, speak to the planning officer.

Not all local authorities have digitised: look at any new development that has been lodged as a formal application online if possible, go to the offices to look at it. If the proposals are particularly obnoxious, it may be the developers and their architects refuse to provide any illustrations of plans suitable for publication. They may say that publication is a breach of copyright. Publishing excerpts from material such as planning applications for the purpose of public information, comment or criticism is not an infringement of copyright; alternatively you could find someone who can make a reasonable accurate sketch of the proposals.

Writing letters of objection

Don't forget that if your concerns have been triggered by a planning application you must formally object to it. Study the application carefully. Pay particular attention to the Design and Access Statement and the Heritage Statement. You have the right to see any letter written in response to the application - they are all public documents.

Note carefully the date by which you have to submit your written comments to the planning department - you have three weeks from the date the application was received by the council, normally stamped on the application. Don't worry too much if you miss the deadline - you can still submit comments, but they will not be included in the planning officer's report to the planning sub committee. If you do miss the date, ring the officer and find out if they will still include it; if not, send it direct to the chair of the planning committee and ask for it to be tabled at the meeting. You may want to send it to all members of the committee anyway, to ensure they are fully aware of your concerns. You can normally find contact details online. Finally, make sure all your supporters get their letters of objection in on time too, especially national bodies.

In the letter itself be sure to state your case clearly and concisely. It is worth summarising it in the first paragraph to ensure it is registered. The merits of the planning proposal, listed building consent or conservation area consent application have to be considered by the council in relation to local and national planning policy. In theory its decision is based on whether or not the application fulfils the requirements of the policy. Therefore, make sure to study these closely. The planning department will have available for your inspection the Local Development Plan, and national planning policy (in particular the NPPF – National Planning Policy Framework). Then set out in your letter how the application infringes this guidance.

The planning meeting

Find out when the applications are to be considered by the planning or development control sub committee. It is well worth trying to arrange a meeting with the planning officer at the earliest opportunity to put your case across face to face. You can attend the sub committee meeting and normally have the right to make a verbal representation. Check with the council what your rights are - often you have three minutes. If so, make sure you prepare your comments in advance - time keeping is often strictly kept (the meetings can go on for hours) and you don't want to be cut off in full flight. Keep it snappy and succinct and stick to the main points.

In addition, record proceedings, either on camera, or just an audio. This is permitted by law, and even encouraged by the government, in pursuit of achieving maximum transparency within the planning process.