Monday, 14 March 2011

How to challenge a planning application

I’ve just had to go through this and I’ve learnt a few things.  I can’t promise that any of these things will work for you but I think they have improved my chances of successfully challenging a planning application.

First things first, you need to look at the plans.  Spend a long time doing this and make notes as you’re doing it.  It’s OK to view the plans online but sometimes you really need to see them full size laid out on a big table, so make time to visit your local planning office.

When you do visit the local planning office make sure you ask to have the duty planning officer explain the plans to you.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Find a copy of your council’s adopted plan.  This is effectively the Council rule book for assessing planning applications.  Talk to the duty planning officer to help understand the adopted plan.  It’s a little like trying to understand a legal document; a bit of a challenge if you’re not used to the terminology.  Also ask the planning officer if there any other documents or policies that aren’t in the local plan but are official adopted policies.  I’ve found it difficult to navigate easily to all of the relevant information so it’s useful having an expert guide you through.  Town planners aren’t web designers and the usability of the site and the logical layout of information can be somewhat lacking.

When you’ve had time, in a quiet room, to evaluate the plans together with the local adopted plan, then go back for another chat with the duty planning officer with a list of questions.  Ask them about the things that you think aren’t in line with the local planning guidelines and get some feedback from an expert.

Contact your local Councillor and, if they aren’t on the Planning Committee, maybe contact a Councillor who is on the Planning Committee.

Your Councillor can provide advice and guidance but if they are on the Planning Committee they must remain impartial and cannot express an opinion on the application.  This doesn’t mean they can’t offer advice and you should take advantage of their expertise.

Talk to your neighbours about the application to see if there are other people that would support an objection.  Help people by sharing everything that you’ve learned from the town planners and Councillors and give them the key points to include in an objection.  Encourage them to get involved by viewing the plans and talking to planners and Councillors.

When you write your objection letter try to reference back to the policies in the local adopted plan.  This makes it look like you’ve done your homework and that you know what you’re talking about.  Copy as many Councillors as you can with your objection letter because if the decision goes to Committee then they only see objections if they ask for them. 

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