The Planning Process

The Planning Process

When a planning application is received the LPA will publish it on their website and advertise it, usually in the local press, and by posting notices in the immediate vicinity of the site. Residents and other interested parties then have up to 21 days, although occasionally longer, to either object to or support the application.

Once that period is over the case officer, usually an employee of the LPA, although sometimes of the applicants themselves*, will write a report with a recommendation as to whether the application should be approved or refused.

The report then goes to the District Councillor in whose constituency the site is located. If the Councillor agrees with the case officer’s recommendation the application can then be signed off under delegated powers, and you will only discover whether the application has been approved or refused when a Decision Notice is published on the LPA’s website.

However, if the Councillor disagrees with the case officer, or if the application is sufficiently contentious, the application will be referred to a meeting of the Council’s Development Management Committee (DMC).

Consequently, if you fear there is any chance the case officer might recommend approval, it is essential you do all that you can to ensure the District Councillor will not sign it off under delegated powers, but will instead refer the application to the DMC. To do so you need to bring pressure to bear on the Councillor, and some of the ways you can do so can be found here under Campaigning Tips.

In the South Hams the DMC currently consists of 12 District Councillors, who meet publicly roughly every four weeks to consider and debate the applications that come before them. Members of the public can also contribute, with an objector and a supporter of each application under consideration able to speak for a maximum of three minutes (or five minutes for major applications) to make their case. But unless asked to clarify particular points, neither can speak after this. All other members of the public attending must remain silent. When the debate concludes, the application is voted on and decided by a simple majority, with the Chair having a casting vote should one be required.

If those making the application disagree with the decision they can, within six months of the date on the decision notice, appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. Nor do they have to pay to do so. Conversely those opposing the application can only challenge it, by going to Judicial Review, if mistakes have been made in its determination by the LPA. A window of six weeks from the date on the decision notice exists in which to do so, but the cost can be prohibitive.

This means, if you are opposing an application, it is crucial that the LPA reach the ‘right’ decision, which is why it is so important for you to object, and to do so in such a way that the case officer will have no choice but to take your views in to consideration.
You can find out How to Object, and to do so effectively, here.

*major developers such as the big housebuilders can enter in to a Planning Performance Agreement with the LPA, whereby they essentially pay the salary of the planning officer who determines their application. Even though many might suspect ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ this is, astonishingly, perfectly legal.