Focus on ... Planning

Many of my blog posts refer to planning applications submitted to a council but how does planning work?

The following is a brief introduction, excerpting information from Planning Portal's guide to the planning system, to try and help explain the process and most importantly how you can take part in the process to share your view on proposals both big and small.

Planning control is the process of managing the development of land and buildings. The purposes of this process are to save what is best of our heritage and improve the infrastructure upon which we depend for a civilised existence.

Your local planning authority is responsible for deciding whether a development - anything from an extension on a house to a new shopping centre - should go ahead.

Planning Permission

Planning permission is where the local planning authority (LPA) decides a proposed development can go ahead.

Some minor building works, known as permitted development, don't need planning permission as the effect on neighbours or the surrounding environment is likely to be small - e.g. a boundary wall to a certain height.
Most new buildings, significant change to the use of a building or piece of land or major alterations to existing buildings need planning permission.

Some areas have special protection against certain developments for example, to protect an attractive landscape in a national park or protect monuments or historical buildings of interest or of architectural interest.

Sometimes large proposals or controversial applications of national importance are 'called in' to be decided by the First Secretary of State instead of the LPA.

How to comment on planning applications
Some developers will launch a public consultation on their proposal for a new development to gauge public opinion before they submit their planning application.  This is common in large developments such as Paradise Circus.
Once the LPA has received the formal planning application it will display public notices and/or write to homes and business near the proposed site to ask for comments.  Most LPAs publish details on the internet, for example Birmingham City Council uses it's Planning Online site, 

The details of the proposal, including architectural drawings, can be viewed at the LPA offices.  Where the planning details are on the internet you may be able to view architectural drawings online.

The LPA will set a time period in which you are able to submit your comments, or 'representations', on the application.  You must submit your comments before this deadline for the LPA to consider them.  LPAs also consult organisations such as English Heritage or Civic groups where they have expertise before reaching their decisions.

Most planning applications are decided within eight weeks, unless they are unusually large or complex - in which case the time limit is extended to 13 weeks

The planning application will be decided at a planning committee meeting where the elected members of the local planning authority will vote on the application.  You can attend a committee meeting and in many cases speak briefly to ensure the committee is aware of your views before they vote.

The planning application will be considered and determined with regard to National and Regional Planning Guidance, Unitary Development Plans, Local Plans and any supplementary planning guidance.  Objections and support for the application can only be considered by the LPA if they are about 'material planning considerations'.

London Borough of Richmond Upon Thames Environment and Planning have provided a helpful, though not exhaustative, list of the most common material planning considerations.

•Loss of light or overshadowing

•Overlooking/loss of privacy

•Visual amenity (but not loss of private view)

•Adequacy of parking/loading/turning

•Highway safety

•Traffic generation

•Noise and disturbance resulting from use

•Hazardous materials


•Loss of trees

•Effect on listed building and conservation area

•Layout and density of building

•Design, appearance and materials


•Road access

•Local, strategic, regional and national planning policies

•Government circulars, orders and statutory instruments

•Disabled persons' access

•Compensation and awards of costs against the Council at public enquiries

•Proposals in the Development Plan

•Previous planning decisions (including appeal decisions)

•Nature conservation


What happens next?

If permission is granted, unless the permission says otherwise, the applicant has three years from the date it is granted to begin development.

If work hasn't started before then an application to extend permission before it expires can be made or if it has expired then permission will usually need to be reapplied for.

Planning permission that is granted often has planning conditions attached which limit and control the way permission may be implemented.

Conditions may be imposed on the grant of planning permission for regulating development or use of any land under the control of the applicant, requiring the carrying out of works on any such land, the removal of any buildings or works authorised by the permission, or the discontinuance of any use of land so authorised, at the end of a specified period, and the carrying out of any works required for the reinstatement of land at the end of that period.


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