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In the UK, around 45 planning applications are made every hour. Despite this, both the government and local authorities fail to provide adequate resources to help members of the public understand how they can dispute planning applications which affect them. This, coupled with the complexity and seemingly arcane nature of the planning process makes it difficult to know where to even start.
This article is written to help inform members of the public of their rights and how to effectively dispute developments which they disapprove.
Finding Out about Planned Developments
In theory, when your local council's planning department receives an application for development they are supposed to notify all of those within a given radius of the planning site. This will include neighbours and local businesses in more densely populated areas. In reality however, this will come down to the discretion of your council's planning officer(s). This regularly leads to situations where many people who believe they should be informed do not get a letter or any notice. Luckily, this doesn't actually affect one's ability to object to an application. The only prerequisite is that you are aware of the application's existence.
If this concerns you, one way of keeping up to date with planning applications in your area is to frequent your local Council's website.
Council's are required to keep records of applications that have been received (for example see here). In many cases you will be able to see what other people have already said about them and download all the details of the applications yourself.
If you do not have access to the internet, I'm impressed by how you are reading this article! Notwithstanding, you should be able to request copies of applications to inspect by visiting your Local Council's Planning Department. In some cases these records are also available in your local library.
Making a Planning Objection to the council
In order to make an objection to a planned development you must write to your local council's planning department. You can do so either by post or in some cases email. Many planning departments also have a dedicated website. For a comprehensive list of these see here.
When writing your letter it is important to reference the planning application number (shown on the Council's initial letter/email to you or on the Council's website). The letter should be sent to the address of the department.
In general, the more people that submit an objection, the greater the likelihood that the council will take it seriously. However, this comes with a catch. Do not attempt to organise a petition; council's seldom pay these any attention and it will be unlikely to aid in your endeavour.
Also avoid using a letter that is heavily templated. The council will respond more favourably to disputes that are clearly originated in the own words of their writers. Anyone can copy, paste and post a template. An original letter is seen as a clear quality indicator and more likely to be taken seriously. If you require assistance writing an objection letter then you can reach out to LawHive. We work with local solicitors across the UK who specialise in the planning process of their county. The work itself is charged at a fixed fee and will be completed within 48 hours of payment. Alternatively you could contact a local law firm and request a quote.
Councils are required to request comments to a planned development within a fixed time frame. This is typically within 21 days of notice. In practice however, they will take into account representations received before final decisions are made on the application. Don't feel like you have missed the boat just because this time frame has elapsed; as long as the planning permission has not actually been granted. That said, it is obviously preferable to make your objection known sooner rather than later.
On What Grounds can I dispute a planning application?
When writing your application it is important to be considerate of what actually constitutes a legitimate argument against a planned development.Obviously there is no one size fits all answer to this question. Every application is different. However, there exists a broad list of reasons you can put forward as the basis for an objection. This list is not comprehensive but rather indicative. It is the job of the reader to use their discretion and decide which of the following reasons (if any) are relevant to their situation. You may still have a case in the absence of these but it would be advisable to find a solicitor to confirm.
Negative / adverse visual impact of the development - of particular concern is the impact a proposal will have on local landscape and points of interest
Issues with the Design proposed - this includes:
Designs that are out of scale or "character"
Detailing and materials that are poorly matched with the area
Ignoring local design (determined by comparison and any guidelines)
Negative effects on community - due to:
- Overlooking & loss of privacy
- Shading / loss of daylight
Be sure to provide tangible and detailed examples of the above in your letter. Planning officers do not look kindly on what they consider to be unfounded claims.
Over development - This is especially relevant if changes will be out of character in the area.
Conservation Areas & Listed Buildings -Any impact that the planned development may have on a Conservation Area or Listed Buildings.
What Councils will not accept as grounds for an objection
It is also important to be cognizant of what will not fly with the council. The following arguments should never be used as grounds for an objection.
The applicants ethnic origin, religious beliefs, or sexual orientation
Impact on property valuation in the area of the planning site
Boundary or other unresolved civil disputes
The applicant's personal circumstances or other private matters
Claims about the behaviour or reputation of the applicant or their representatives
Hearsay about other unspecified work or alternative uses of the application site (unless covered by the application)
Matters relating to prior negative experiences such as previous nuisances caused by the applicant
Many people object to planning on the grounds that the effect of construction (i.e. dust, noise, nuisance caused by construction traffic etc.) is causing a major impact on themselves or their community. This is not a planning consideration as such, in all but extreme cases this is unlikely to be considered by the planning authority.
When you send your objection letter, be sure to ask your post office for a certificate of posting. This should not cost extra and can be kept by you as a record for posterity.
In general, decisions on whether to grant planning permission are made by officers who were delegated the responsibility to do so under powers specific to your local council. These planning officers will be charged with considering whether objections submitted such as yours are worthy grounds to reject an application. In particularly complex or controversial cases, a planning committee will be convened to make the decision instead. If this is going to take place then you will be able to attend and in some cases will be permitted to make your case. The process itself varies based on the council. You should be able to find out more information by visiting the planning department of your local council's website.
For all your legal service needs, LawHive has top property solicitors ready to help you online. Whether you need to apply for planning or object to planning, you can request any of our services and we’ll get started right away.