HOW ARE PLANNING APPLICATION DECISIONS MADE?
THE PLANNING APPLICATION DECISION-MAKING PROCESS
VALIDATION / REGISTRATION
When a planning application has been submitted by an applicant, the first steps taken by a local planning authority (LPA) will be review the submission to see if the application is valid.
If the submission meets national and local validation requirements, the application will be ‘registered’, added to the statutory register and given a reference number. The application ‘description’ will be confirmed with the applicant.
If there is any required information or documents missing or submitted incorrectly, contact will be made with the applicant to rectify before registration.
CONSULTATION ON A PLANNING APPLICATION
Once registered, a case officer is allocated to the application and a consultation process is started in accordance with statutory and local requirements.
The LPA will publicise the application in the local press and will often post a site notice. They will contact neighbours, statutory bodies, other council departments with details of the application and offer an invitation to comment (usually within 21 days).
All comments received must be considered by an LPA in their decision, (irrespective of whether they arrive within the stated consultation period or not).
PLANNING APPLICATION – CONSIDERATIONS
Planning law requires that applications must be determined in accordance with the development plan for the area, unless material considerations indicate otherwise.
The development plan will consist of adopted planning policies set out in a LPA’s Local Plan, any wider Spatial Development Strategy (e.g. the London Plan) and any Neighbourhood Plan in whose area the site is located.
Key material considerations may include:
- Government planning policies and guidance (e.g. as set out in the National Planning Policy Framework and its supporting Planning Practice Guidance)
- The views and comments of the public and neighbours, along with those of statutory consultees (e.g. Natural England or the Environment Agency) on relevant considerations:
- Overlooking/loss of privacy
- Loss of light or overshadowing
- Highway safety
- Effect on listed building and conservation area
- Layout and density of building
- Design, appearance and materials
- Government policy
- Disabled persons’ access
- Proposals in the Development Plan
- Previous planning decisions (including appeal decisions)
- Nature conservation
However, issues such as loss of view, or negative effect on the value of properties are not material considerations.
PLANNING APPLICATION DECISION
The responsibility for determining planning applications rests with the elected ‘Members’ of the local planning authority.
However, for most applications many LPAs give their planning officers ‘delegated powers’ to take decisions on their behalf.
Large and/or controversial cases are more likely to be determined by the elected members themselves who make up the LPA’s planning committee for the area made up of selected councillors.
Especially large or controversial schemes may require the approval of a local authority’s ‘Full Council’.
In cases where a decision by Members is needed, the application will be presented to the committee with an officer’s recommendation attached which is then voted on in line with the Council’s formal ‘standing orders’.
The members of the committee may decide to visit the site prior to determining the application.
There are set timescales for the determination of applications with the ability for the LPA and applicant to agree an extension where appropriate.
TYPES OF PLANNING DECISION OUTCOME
A planning application can either be approved, approved subject to conditions or a legal agreement, or be refused.
LPAs send a decision notice to the applicant notifying them of the reasons for approving or refusing an application and will post a copy of the decision on the formal register.
APPROVAL – CONDITIONS ON PLANNING PERMISSIONS
If an application is approved, it is likely that there will be certain conditions attached to the planning permission.
Conditions are generally split into three categories:
- requiring action(s) prior to the commencement of development (pre-commencement conditions)
- requiring action(s) prior to occupation or the development opening
- controlling how the development is used once it is completed e.g. hours of use.
In almost all cases, a condition will be applied which sets the time period in which the planning permission must be implemented – usually within 3 years of decision. If an outline permission, the submission of reserved matters is usually required within 2 years.
In addition, some applications may be granted subject to the completion of a legal agreement (Section 106 agreement). These agreements seek to ensure that any adverse impacts of a scheme are mitigated, and community benefits secured either by way of on or off site works or through the payment of financial contributions towards projects (subject to the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Regulations).
Any ‘pre-commencement’ conditions requiring an action to be taken before a permission can be implemented must be agreed with the applicant prior to the decision being finalized.
Paragraph 55 of the National Planning Policy Framework makes clear that planning conditions should be kept to a minimum, and only used where they satisfy the following tests:
- relevant to planning;
- relevant to the development to be permitted;
- precise; and
- reasonable in all other respects
Reasons must be specified for their inclusion.
If an applicant disagrees with any conditions attached to a decision or the decision itself, then an appeal can be made to the Planning Inspectorate. Alternatively, an application can be made to the LPA which seeks to vary or delete the condition.
Typical Planning Conditions
Some conditions a LPA may place on a planning permission will require you to submit further information for approval while others may control how your development can operate.
Typical conditions cover matters such as:
- expiry date of the permission
- hours of operation
- materials to be used
- drainage details
- requiring certain matters to be undertaken prior to the commencement of development e.g. tree or hedgerow planting and mitigation works
- requiring certain matters to be undertaken prior to the occupation of the development e.g. traffic works
- requiring works to be undertaken in strict accordance with specific drawings and plans
- to control a construction period e.g. defining days/hours when work can be carried out.
PLANNING PERMISSION REFUSED
The LPA’s decision on your application is not the final word on the matter. You may wish to amend
the application and resubmit it, or appeal to the Secretary of State if you consider that you have
sound planning reasons to do so.
An amended application must be significantly different from that which was refused (i.e. addressing reasons for refusal), or the LPA may refuse to register or determine the new application.
If you are thinking of resubmitting discuss this with your LPA as you may be able to do so free
of charge within 12 months of the decision on the original application.
APPEALING A PLANNING DECISION
If you are unhappy with the decision or if the application has not been determined within the specific timescales set by the LPA, you have the option of making an appeal to the Secretary of State through the Planning Inspectorate.
Professional advice should be sought if you are to pursue this option as this can be a costly and time-consuming process. Appeals can often take a long time (up to 6 months or longer) to be heard and decided.
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