Influencing an application
The nine point plan
1. Look at the planning application
All planning applications are available on local authority websites – Peak District National Park Authority, High Peak Borough Council and North East Derbyshire District Council. You can just turn up at the planning department in person too
2. Visit the site of the proposed development to assess its likely effects
Take photos of the site and anywhere else that you think will be affected. You can send in photos with your comments.
3. Decide whether the proposal will affect your interest in the local area
These must be relevant to the planning application. Remember, house prices and views from private properties are not a planning consideration.
4. Examine relevant planning documents and strategies
You can look at copies of the local development plan, regional spatial strategy and national Planning Policy Statements (PPS) at your local authority offices, libraries or on the internet. Think about how you can use them to support your arguments. Also consider looking at other national and local strategies which are related to your concerns. For example, if you are concerned about ecological impacts, look at the local Biodiversity Action Plan. If transport is a problem, the Local Transport Plan may help.
5. Decide on your action
Depending on your concerns and the strength of policies supporting your view, you need to decide whether to ignore, support or oppose the application. You may feel that the principle of a scheme is unacceptable, or that alterations to the design and layout of a proposal are all that is needed. In these cases, you can lodge an objection. Minor alterations can be made to an application without resubmitting another one – so it’s important to follow the progress of the application carefully.
6. Speak to the planning officer
When you have an understanding of the application and have focused your concerns, you should speak to the planning officer responsible for the application.
7. Put your comments in writing and send the letter to the planning authority
If speaking to the planning officer doesn’t satisfy you and you still feel strongly about an application, then write to the planning department. You can either comment online, send an email or a letter. Be as succinct as possible, clearly stating why you think the application should be refused. Remember that your objections must relate to relevant issues, so refer to any relevant policies in the development plan if you can.
8. Gather support for your views
Think about gathering support from neighbours, other members of your community, elected representatives within the parish council or local authority. You can also contact your MP or MEP. The planning officer will consult other officers in the local planning authority about an application. These will include conservation, highways, public rights of way, ecological and housing officers.
If you feel they may be able to help, contact them to express your concerns and see if they will raise them with the planning officer. Depending on the issue, you should also consider speaking to statutory agencies such as the Highways Agency, English Heritage, Natural England and Environment Agency. This will apply particularly to developments effecting nationally designated nature conservation sites, designated landscapes (National Parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty), listed buildings and those that are close to water or in flood plains. Other local groups can also provide valuable support. There are a wide variety of these groups including historical societies, community action groups and environmental organisations such as Derbyshire Wildlife Trust or The Ramblers.
9. Speak at the planning committee meeting
Applications are decided (or ‘determined’ in the jargon) at either planning committees (or planning boards) or by planning officers who are allowed to made delegated decisions about small, uncontentious applications.
If the application is being determined by the planning committee, you can speak at the meeting. You must inform the local planning authority beforehand. If you are allowed to speak, you’ll only get three minutes!
- Peak District National Park Authority – planning committees are on the third Friday of the month. If you want to speak, you have to ring and let them know before 12 o’clock on the Wednesday before.
- High Peak Borough Council – planning committees are on a Monday, normally every three weeks. You need to request a form to speak, which has to be returned a week before the meeting.
- North East Derbyshire District Council – planning committees are on a Tuesday, every four weeks. You need to request to speak by 10am on the Friday before.
If you are in a group, decide who will represent you at the committee. If one person can cover all the issues within the allotted time, there is no need for other group members to repeat what they have said. If there are a variety of issues which cannot be dealt with in one go, try and split the content according to the issue and the speakers’ expertise. Write the speech beforehand and practice to make sure you are familiar with it and don’t over run your allotted time. This will also help you to structure it and include the most important points. As committee members are likely to ask questions about what you say, make sure you can support any comments you make with evidence. If you can’t justify what you say, don’t say it – you’ll damage your case.
Appeals and inquiries
If the application you are concerned about is refused planning permission by the local planning authority, the applicants may appeal to the Secretary of State against the decision. This will be dealt with by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate.
Applicants who are refused planning permission are the only people allowed to appeal. Members of the public affected by a planning decision cannot appeal themselves. Alternatively, a local planning authority may approve an application but defer the final decision to the Secretary of State if it goes against the authority’s policies. The Secretary of State will decide whether the application needs a thorough examination at a public inquiry.