You've found the perfect place to live. You're happy there, and you don't want to change, and then a developer comes along and wants to build a new estate (or worse) right next to your home. What can you do to stop it?
Contact the Right People
The most important people to talk to in opposing any planning application are the local council. The planning department there will deal with the application, and either the officers or, more usually, the councillors on the Planning or Development Control committee will decide whether permission is to be granted.
It may also be beneficial to talk to the applicants themselves. They may not have realised that their application would impact on your property, and so visiting them (by appointment) with a well argued series of objections can often be very beneficial.
Finally, if an application is going to affect a number of local residents then talk to your neighbours. A group working together can often accomplish much more than one person working alone.
Get the Full Information on Planning Applications
Residents will be notified by the district or borough council about any applications which are likely to affect them. This may be done by sending individual letters to householders, or by displaying posters on or near the application site (often stuck to local lamp posts). Once you are notified that an application has been submitted the first step to take is to look at the plans which will show what is being proposed. These may be available on the council's website, and if not they can be inspected at the planning department. Seeing them at the planning department may be a better idea as you will normally be able to meet the planning officer dealing with the case and discuss matters with them. They will also be able to explain any technical matters to you. Always keep a note of the council's reference number so that the right application can be found and you can be put in touch with the right person.
Along with the plans may be any number of other documents, which should always be examined. The application must be submitted on an application form, and be accompanied by an Ordinance Survey plan of the area. Check these to ensure that they are accurate. For instance, if the description on the site is wrong, or the plan does not show all the local properties (neither of these scenarios is unknown) then draw the mistake to the attention of the planning officer as soon as possible.
If having looked at the application you are still concerned about the development, you then need to marshal your arguments against it. Many objections submitted to planning authorities are pointless, as they relate to matters that planners are not able to consider. For instance, the fact that it would spoil your view of a local beauty spot is not something that the council could take into account, as the law does not permit it.
Choose the Right Arguments to Stop the Development
In deciding which arguments to put forward opposing the development you need to look at what national planning policy and the council's own local policies say about such developments. The government publish planning policy statements from time to time, which set out the approach that local authorities should take to various sorts of development and locations. These are available on the website of the Department for Communities and Local Government.
Local authorities will also publish their own development documents, known as the local development framework. These will apply the policies found in the Government's publications to the local area, and will set out the many factors that councils have to take into account when deciding whether or not to grant planning permission.
Well presented objections will be those based on the guidance in the planning policy statements (PPS) and local development frameworks (LDF). For instance, if the LDF says that development will not be permitted where it affects the amenity of neighbouring properties, then an argument based around the impact that the proposal will have on the amenity of your property is more likely to succeed.
When writing letters of objection you should always be polite. Abusive letters tend to be ignored by recipients, and so valid points made in them do not get considered. Equally, short to the point letters are more effective than long and rambling letters. Avoid exaggerating the problems that may be caused, letters which appear to over-state the problems may well be counter productive.
Ultimately it is the councillors who will make the decision, so some well thought out lobbying to them may well be effective. Councillors are elected politicians and so have a role to play representing local people, and dealing with planning applications will be a normal part of their work. Please remember however that most local councillors work part time, and many will have other jobs so make arrangements to see them at a mutually convenient time.
If a councillor is on the planning committee they are required by law to decide the application at the committee, and must not commit themselves to any particular course of action (either to approve or refuse an application) prior to the meeting. This is why councillors will often tell you their preliminary view, but will not give a firm commitment as to the approach they will take.
When you first contact a councillor, particularly if an application has just been submitted, they may not know the details of what is being proposed. Don't be surprised about this as councils receive many hundreds of applications a week, relating from small conversions and alterations to large new housing projects and business parks.
Attend the Planning Meetings
Normally a planning application will be dealt with at a Planning Committee or Development Control Committee. These meetings are open to the public, and councils allow public speaking as well. Where that happens it is rarely an open forum, and people normally have to register in advance to speak. Your local council will be able to advise you about this.
In advance of the committee the planning officer will prepare a report for the councillors. This is a public document, and will normally be provided to you on request. If not copies can be downloaded from the councils website or inspected at local libraries. The report will contain a recommendation about whether or not to grant planning permission. Once you have read the report it might be a good time to send a further letter to the councillors on the committee, dealing directly with the issues raised in the report.
At the meeting the councillors will debate the issue and will vote on the resolution. If planning permission is granted then the applicant can proceed to build his or her property. Objectors do not have a right of appeal. If planning permission is refused however the developer does have a right of appeal to an inspector appointed by the government. If an appeal is lodged any persons who objected to the original application will be notified, and may make further representations to the inspector. A guide to dealing with appeals is available from the Planning Inspectorate website at http://www.planning-inspectorate.gov.uk
How We Can Help?
If you have any issues relating to a proposed development, our experienced property and planning law department can help.
For information of users: This material is published for the information of clients. It provides only an overview of the regulations in force at the date of publication, and no action should be taken without consulting the detailed legislation or seeking professional advice. Therefore no responsibility for loss occasioned by any person acting or refraining from action as a result of the material can be accepted by the authors or the firm.