How to comment on planning applications
How do I submit comments on a planning application?
Anyone is entitled to comment on a planning application. When a planning application is received all immediate neighbours must be consulted or a site notice should be placed on, or near the application site. Normally, only those neighbours that are within the immediate vicinity of a proposal will be directly notified. For some applications, particularly those of a nature which are likely to prove more controversial, some authorities will send out letters to a wider area. If you have not received such a letter, you can still comment as well as encouraging others to do so, particularly if they have not been directly consulted or are otherwise unaware of the application.
Comments on planning applications can be submitted to West Northamptonshire Council online via their website or by post to : Planning Services, West Northamptonshire Council, Guildhall, St Giles Square, Northampton NN1 1DE
It is advisable to quote the planning application reference number when submitting your comments.
What should I say?
The Local Planning Authority is not expecting you to be an expert on planning matters. Whilst you should explain the issues adequately, you should not make your comments over-long. If you are raising several issues, it is probably best to use bullet points or numbered paragraphs. Although not essential, and especially for larger schemes, if comments can be supported by cross references to policies in the authority's Development Plan that may strengthen your case as developments are assessed against these policies. The case officer will be able to advise you what the relevant Development Plan documents are, and they should be available on the authority's website.
What issues can be raised?
You may comment on material planning considerations and relevant facts pertinent to a planning application. Some examples of material planning considerations and issues that may be taken into account include:
- the environmental impact of the development
- the impact of the development on the highway network
- any policy in the Council's Local Development Framework, or the relevant Local Plan for your area
- central and regional Government planning policy guidance, circulars, orders and statutory instruments
- planning laws and previous decisions
- noise, disturbance, smells
- residential amenity
- design, appearance and layout
- impact on trees, listed buildings and conservation areas
- public open space
Issues that will not be taken into account include:
- boundary disputes
- private rights of way, private covenants or agreements
- the applicant's conduct, private affairs or how a business is run
- the applicant's motives (including profit)
- the impact on property values
- suspected further development
- loss of views over other people's land
- land ownership
Examples of issues which are not normally material planning considerations are private rights such as restrictive covenants or rights of way and structural issues which are covered separately by the Building Regulations. Devaluation of property is not a material planning consideration, though a factor which causes such devaluation might be, e.g., if a noisy factory is proposed near your house and this will devalue your property, permission cannot be refused because your property would be devalued, but permission could be refused because of the impact of the noise on your home.
If you are not sure if an issue is a material planning consideration, you can either ask the Local Planning Authority Planning Department or you can simply raise it in your comments (if the issue is not a material consideration it will be disregarded)
Can I suggest possible conditions be imposed if permission is granted?
if you are writing to object against an application, you should also include comments on conditions that you would like to see included within the scheme that would reduce the impact of the development, should permission be granted, this may include:
- Provision of open spaces
- Layout and design quality
- Provision of recreational space
- Healthcare provision
- Education provision
- Retail provision
- Community facilities e.g. community centre
Planning conditions are explained further here. If you are supporting an application, you can still suggest possible conditions.
How will my comments be considered?
The case officer will look at any issues raised carefully and, if a report is prepared on the application, they would usually be addressed within it. Consultations are there to help the officer identify the possible impacts of the development. Planning decisions are primarily made on the basis of the impact of the development assessed by policies within the development plan - not by how many objections/letters of support are received. Comments from neighbours allow the planning officer to gather as much information as possible on potential impacts.
Will other people be able to see my comments?
Normally authorities make comments made on planning applications publicly available and some will put them on their websites. If an application is determined by the Planning Committee, which is a decision making group of local authority councillors that has the power to determine planning applications, comments from neighbours, etc are considered to be what are called "background papers" and they must by law be available for public inspection if requested, which means that any comments you make may be seen by the applicant or other people.
Can someone write the comments on my behalf?
Yes. A friend or relative can write comments on your behalf. If you wish to pay somebody to make comments on your behalf, the best person would normally be a planning consultant. The authority will receive many comments on planning applications each year, so they are not looking for anything particularly special from you. Paying a planning consultant to write comments on your behalf will not necessarily result in a different outcome than if you had written the comments yourself, but with a larger, more complex scheme a consultant may be able to add some specialist knowledge to assist your response.
Can I speak at a Planning Committee regarding the application?
Most planning applications are dealt with under what are called "delegated powers". Essentially this means that the decision-making power has been delegated to a senior officer. Some applications, usually the more major or controversial ones, are dealt with by the authority's Planning Committee, which is a group made up of local authority councillors. Committee members will receive a detailed report and recommendation from the case officer. Most authorities will allow interested parties to speak if an application is to be determined by a Planning Committee. The precise rules vary from authority to authority, but usually there is a limit on how many people can speak on an application and for how long. Check with your local planning authority to see what the rules are.
If an application is to be dealt with by a Planning Committee and you have the chance to speak, you are recommended to do so. Whilst most people can write a letter commenting on a planning application without too much difficulty, addressing a Planning Committee involves public speaking and many people are nervous of doing this. You can usually arrange for a friend or relative or a planning consultant to do this on your behalf if this is the case.
When addressing a planning committee, as when writing your initial comments, be straightforward. Do not exaggerate and keep to the main issues – do not deal with minor ones. Prepare what you have to say beforehand and make sure you can say it within the allotted time limit.
Will I be told of the decision?
Local authorities are not obliged to notify those who have commented on an application regarding how it has been decided. The outcome of the application can be found by checking the Council's website or by telephoning the Council's planning department.
What about an appeal?
If the application is refused, or if conditions are imposed which are not acceptable to the applicant, or if the application is not determined within a specified period (usually 8 weeks but 13 or 16 weeks for more major proposals), the applicant can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate, an independent government agency set up to handle planning appeals. If you have commented on an application and an appeal is lodged, you will normally be informed so you can be involved in the appeal process if you wish (the main category of development where you are not likely to be informed is extensions to houses and other householder applications such as for outbuildings or new vehicular accesses). If an application is approved, there is no right for neighbours or other third parties to appeal.