GUIDE TO PLANNING APPLICATIONS
Planning applications form part of the town and country planning system in England.
They are applications made to a local planning authority seeking planning permission to undertake development – i.e. building works or material change of use of buildings or land.
The following is an introduction to planning applications – follow links in red for further info.
THE PLANNING SYSTEM IN ENGLAND
The planning system in England is made up (broadly) of two key functions at the local level:
- Development Management and Control: where a local authority receives, processes, and determines planning applications (i.e. grants or refuses planning permission) and carries out related tasks such as enforcement (i.e. taking action to control unauthorised development);
- Planning Policy / Plan-making: where a local authority prepares a Local Plan setting out policies and allocating sites to guide new development. Parish or town councils or neighbourhood forums prepare Neighbourhood Plans. A strategic authority or group of authorities prepares Spatial Development Strategies or Joint Strategic Plans.
Links shown above will take you to our guides on planning policy and plan-making in England.
DEVELOPMENT MANAGEMENT / CONTROL
When a person or organisation wants to undertake a ‘development’ – e.g. constructing a building or changing the use of a building or land, planning permission is normally required and other consents may also be needed. The first thing to do if you have a project in mind is to establish whether planning permission is required.
WHEN A PLANNING APPLICATION IS NOT REQUIRED FOR DEVELOMPENT
There are instances where planning applications are not needed for development, e.g.
- Where a Local Development Order has been made, except where European protected sites would be at risk of significant effects; and
- Where proposals are Permitted Development (such as building a conservatory, erecting a fence ). We have an extensive guide to permitted development rights and the rules that apply to each type of project.
Depending on the type of development you wish to carry out, you may need prior approval from the local authority even under PD rights, and you will also need to abide by all other non-planning legislation and requirements as applicable – e.g. building regulations.
In places such as Conservation Areas, or National Parks, permitted development rights are restricted.
TYPES OF PLANNING APPLICATION
There are numerous types of application that can be made under the town and country planning system in England and each has to be used in the correct circumstances:
- Outline planning applications
- Reserved Matters applications
- Full planning applications
- Householder planning applications
- Listed Building Consent applications
- Conservation Area Consent applications
- Advertisement Consent applications
- Applications for Certificates of Lawfulness
- Prior Approval applications
- Applications to vary or discharge matters reserved by planning conditions
- Tree works applications (Tree Preservation Orders)
Some projects will require more than one of the above applications to be made (for example works affecting a Listed Building may require both planning permission and Listed Building Consent.
WHO DECIDES PLANNING APPLICATIONS?
For most types of development, planning applications are submitted to a local council (usually a borough or district council, or a unitary authority), known as the Local Planning Authority (LPA) who determine whether planning permission can be granted or not.
Applications for certain types of development (such as large infrastructure, minerals/waste proposals, education proposals, among others) are determined by the Secretary of State or a strategic planning authority (such as a County Council or the Greater London Authority) instead.
HOW ARE PLANNING APPLICATIONS DECIDED?
LPAs must follow detailed rules set by a mix of legislation, policy, and guidance when it receives a planning application before it can reach a decision. They system is quite complex and not always easy for non-planners to understand.
Planning application proposals are assessed against planning policies and local and wider impacts are considered before a decision is made.
The planning system is ‘plan-led’, so decisions are made in accordance with development plan policies, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
PLANNING APPLICATION PROCESS
Once a planning application is made, and any additional information required to assess impacts has been submitted and considered, planning officers have to weigh up the different arguments as to why a proposed development should or shouldn’t go ahead.
Depending on the type of development, planning officers must seek the opinion of statutory consultees (such as Natural England or the Environment Agency).
In the context of the presumption in favour of sustainable development enshrined in the NPPF and a requirement that any proposals that are in accordance with the development plan being approved without delay, the planning officer will reach a view on whether any negative impacts are likely to outweigh the benefits of a development.
That being the case, the planning officer will recommend that the application be refused. Otherwise the officer will then suggest conditions to be attached to any approval before referring their recommendation to their line manager or planning committee for decision.
The planning officer will make their recommendation to the elected planning committee (for larger and more controversial applications) or to an officer with responsibility for delegated decisions (e.g. for smaller, less controversial applications).
For larger or more controversial applications, the committee then votes to grant or refuse planning permission. In some instances, the committee may decide against officer advice. They may also postpone the decision or defer back to officers to issue a decision once further additional information has been received (such as where there has been a holding objection from a statutory consultee that has since been withdrawn).
APPEALS AGAINST REFUSAL OF A PLANNING APPLICATION
Having received a refusal, a developer can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate for a second opinion. Applicants can also appeal on the grounds of non-determination where a local authority has not issued a decision within the necessary timescales. A planning inspector will make the decision in this instance, subject to a hearing or inquiry if needed.
PUBLIC INVOLVEMENT IN PLANNING APPLICATIONS
There are opportunities for the public, business and other consultees or stakeholders to express support or objection to a planning application where there is good reason, such as proposals which are not in line with local or national planning policies or which will have unacceptable impacts upon the local area or neighbours. The council must consider all representations before coming to their final decision.
CONTESTING A PLANNING DECISION – JUDICIAL REVIEW
Communities and other individuals (third parties) are not able to appeal against planning permissions when granted.
Only if there have been discrepancies in the decision-making process when assessed against statute can a legal challenge be taken to the High Court by way of Judicial Review. This can incur significant costs so is not to be considered lightly.
THINKING OF MAKING A PLANNING APPLICATION?
FOLLOW THESE STEPS …
Having established that planning permission is required, the next course of action is to prepare a planning application and submit it to the local planning authority.
There is plenty to think about and to get right in order to ensure that an application is given the best possible chance of success:
- Pre-Application – Who should be consulted before the application is submitted?
- What type of planning application is required?
- What will the planning application fee be?
- How to apply? What documents, reports and supporting evidence will be needed to accompany the application?
- What is the application process? How long will it take to receive a decision?
- How will planning policies and material considerations affect the decision?
ARE YOU AFFECTED BY A PLANNING APPLICATION?
Those who live close to or will affected by a proposed development may wish to comment on or object to a planning application.
WATCH OUT FOR …
Applicants need to be aware of the potential hidden costs associated with developing land and property, in the form of ‘developer contributions’ that may become due.
These can be enforced either by way of a Section 106 legal agreement or through the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).
TownPlanning.info has an extensive catalogue of articles and guides which help explain the town planning system in England.
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