Respond - General advice

Respond to a planning application

What do you do when you receive a planning application notice? This section explains what a planning notice is, and the procedure you should follow to respond effectively.

Time is ticking, but don't panic

If you are served notice of a planning application it is important to get your written response (which is called a letter of representation) to the planning department within the alloted time period - usually 14 days. Be aware that the time is from when the application is validated, which may not be the same as the time you received the letter.

A quick call to the planning department is worthwhile to confirm the validation date - council planning websites are sometimes notoriously slow in validating applications. You may find that you are allowed more time than the stated minimum, or that the validation date is different. If so, you should ask for the new date in writing from the planning department rather than rely on anything verbal.

If you ignore the planning application notice then the council and planning department will be unaware of your views. You you must respond to make your views known.

What is in a Planning Application Notice?

The planning notice letter is issued to all neighbouring properties as part of the planning process, and usually contains the bare minimum of information. It is the applicants responsibility to ensure that the planning notice letters are sent. Most councils provide a template letter which the applicant fills in and sends. The actual letter requirements can vary between planning authorities, but most planning application notice letters usually contain:

  • The name of the applicant
  • The site address
  • The site owner (which may not be the applicant)
  • The intent for the site (ie to build houses, change to businesses, introduce a new road, demolition etc)
  • The time you have to reply
  • A map of the site, showing boundaries
  • Your local planning office, where you can view the plans

Get more information

To better understand the proposed application, it is important to see the full plans and any supporting application documents. These should all be available on-line, but if not you collect a copy of the plans from the planning department. The council may charge you a few pounds to do this, usually to cover photocopy costs. This can be money well spent for you though if the council is slow in putting this information online.

What will be the impact?

Just because there is a planning application at the listed site, it does not by default mean the plans will have a negative impact. Consider carefully what the plans really represent for the historic site. Is the planning application going to be an improvement or a detriment? Some planning applications will undoubtedly aim to improve the site and genuinely try to protect our heritage, though many others won't.

General Grounds for Objections

Ok, so you have decided the plans will negatively impact on a historic site, and you've confirmed the deadline for letters. You now should think about what your grounds for objections are, and start listing these. Before we deal with the historic aspects, we can note any general reasons for objecting. Valid reasons on general planning applications might be:

  • The development represents a loss of privacy
  • It will have a negative impact on you, your life, your surroundings
  • The area It is too large - i.e. an overdevelopment
  • Increased traffic / noise etc etc

There are many more, so note them all down.

It goes without saying that personal dislikes for the applicant are not valid reasons. "I haven't liked Mrs. Jones for the last 10 years, and my objection is a way to get back at her..." is not a constructive way to start a planning objection letter! Personal reasons have no planning relevance to the planners or the council and you run the risk that your letter will be ignored.

Research Your Case

To present a valid case in objecting at a historic or listed site you need facts, figures and supporting information. Unfortunately this step requires a lot of effort, because much of the information you require is either not available on-line, or is buried within on-line documents hundreds of pages long. To make matters worse, the local governments often re-write or plagiarise national planning guidelines and policies, and sometimes this information is conflicting and inconsistent. This introduces a big problem - which of the two is the "real" policy that will be followed? (Being cynical, you might say it is whichever of the two is easier for the council...).

A good idea while researching is to keep notes of everything as you go along, and bookmark or copy relevant on-line texts for later use. Be sure to note where the information is taken from, because you should reference your sources in your objection letter.

As you search, you are looking for areas where the submitted application does not comply with planning policy. By quoting areas where the plans do not comply with policy you make it a lot harder for the applicant to gain planning approval.

Planning guidelines contain a wealth of information, so you might find you have general grounds to object because:

  • Your windows are within the minimum distance from the building and you will be overlooked
  • Boundary walls are too close to other buildings
  • Insufficient car parking spaces for a business
  • The type of business will generate a lot of traffic or noise late at night (eg a dairy or nightclub)
  • The type of business does not suit the local area (a pub in a residential area for example)

Planning policy is open to interpretation, so there may well be areas where the planning application has bent the rules, either deliberately or not. If you can spot these you can bring them to the attention of the planning department and council in your objection letter.

 

The next page explores the historic aspects of your letter of representation in more detail....