Step 3: The Officer’s Report
All the representations by the public along with all the other issues material to the case will be summarised in the Planning Officer’s report. This can be a lengthy document which tries to lay out all the key impacts of the new development and how they relate to local and national policy. The report will finish with a recommendation to refuse or approve the planning application. Planning officers are obliged to fairly summarise the case for and against and must reach a reasoned judgment based on the facts of the case. If it is a delegated decision, the officer’s report will not go to Planning Committee but be decided by the officer with responsibility for delegated decisions within the local planning authority.
The Officer’s Report will not always be available during the early stage of preparation for your letter of representation. So finding Reports from similar Applications or Appeal cases in the planning file is one way of gaining a better understanding of the important material matters which form the basis of the planning considerations.
Here is an example of a Officers Report which was presented in the ‘Lyte Lane’ Application. In this case the South Hams District Council Officer recommended that the Application be refused. The Applicants Appealed that decision but the Planning Inspector also recommended the Appeal be refused. The Appeal Decision is well worth comparing with the Officers Report and with the South Hams Societies Appeal letter of representation. You can compare the arguments made by the SHDC and the South Hams Society with the final reasoned decision of the Planning Inspector. As you will see, not all the arguments presented were considered significant by the Inspector. By comparing cases simular to the one you are interested in you can get a good ‘feel’ for the significant material matters that will carry weight in the decision makers deliberations.