It’s important to make your objection known to all in a position to influence the outcome. That includes not only the Local Planning Authority, which in the South Hams is South Hams District Council, and the case officer assigned to evaluate the application, but also the District Councillor or Councillors for the constituency in which the site of the application is located, along with as many people who could be be affected by the application as possible.
Similarly, should the application site be within, or will impact on public views out of the AONB, add the AONB Manager to your list. And, if the application is to be determined by the Council’s Development Management Committee, the members of that Committee.
If you live in the parish or town in which the application site is located, you also need to bring pressure to bear on your parish or town councillors. Both are Statutory Consultees, which means the Local Planning Authority is required to ask them for their opinion. Consequently try to do everything you can to ensure they object to the application. That means you, and as many like-minded neighbours as you can enlist, should canvass each councillor individually. Then, as prior to the start of the meeting at which the application is to be discussed parishioners are usually given up to 30 minutes to raise any matters of concern, you and as many of your neighbours as you can muster should attend, and one of you should address the meeting, giving your reasons as to why the council should object.
Hopefully they will be sympathetic to and fully on board with the arguments you put forward. But as we all know there’s strength in numbers and most politicians, even parish councillors, usually want to be re-elected. So they have a propensity, even if only unconsciously, to try and please the majority. In other words, the more of you that can be seen to be objecting, the merrier.
In addition, there are a number of other statutory consultees whose opinions the LPA will canvass where relevant, such as Devon County Highways, Natural England, the Environment Agency, the Forestry Commission and Historic England – a full list can be found here. It is safe to say the individual in that organisation delegated to write their response will probably live some distance from the site and be far from familiar with it. So if you think there might be anything material of which they should be aware, you should write and tell them.
Again, in order to raise awareness, you could consider posting posters or notices around the parish, putting leaflets through letterboxes and on car windscreens, and posting something on the village Facebook page, if one exists, with the aim of soliciting support and encouraging others to object. If there is no Facebook page, or even if there is, you could always set up your own for the purpose, as was done for the campaign against the Lock’s Hill development.
You could also try generating coverage for your campaign in the local paper, possibly by writing a letter to the editor for publication or by staging a photograph of you and your fellow protesters at the entrance to the site. If there are enough of you, local television news might even take an interest, but be sure to tell them of what you are intending to do first.
Making contact with your District Councillor or Councillors, if you have more than the one, is also vital. They should not be allowed to feel comfortable approving the application under delegated powers, behind closed doors. Instead, you need to persuade them the application is sufficiently contentious that, rather than approve it themselves, they should refer it to the Development Management Committee for determination. And here again, the number of you objecting matters. District Councillors are even more likely to be swayed by electoral considerations than parish or town councillors.
Of course, even if the application goes to the DMC, there is no guarantee it will be rejected. But at least you or a fellow objector will be given the opportunity to have your say. A representative of the parish or town council can also address the Committee, as indeed can your District Councillor. It’s also worth packing out the DMC meeting with as many of your fellow objectors as you can convince to attend in order to bring more pressure to bear.
Finally, although the number of local objectors matters, if the application is going to impact on people living outside the immediate area, for example the view from a public footpath they like to walk, it’s well worth trying to get them to object as well. If there’s a nearby car park you could perhaps leaflet their cars or put up a poster.
All this will of course be hard work. But the more of you there are, the easier it will be. And, if you’re not already a member of the Society, now might be a very good time to think about joining!