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Role of local councils in planning

This page provides information on the role of local councils in the planning process.

Local councils

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Local councils (city, town and parish councils) are the statutory bodies often referred to as the first tier of Local Government. Whilst they act independently of Cornwall Council, an active partnership of joint working is essential in delivering local accountability and responsiveness.

We are keen to ensure that local communities have the opportunities to influence decision making to ensure that public services reflect local circumstances; one of the key mechanisms to deliver this vision is through enhancing the role of local councils.

The role of local councils in the planning process goes beyond acting as the eyes and ears of their local communities; they can, for example, influence decisions and policies that affect them, develop city/town/parish plans, identify potential sites for affordable housing, or lead community engagement in implementation projects. When determining planning applications, we encourage close partnership working with local councils to deliver local services which give the best deal for the community. 

Local councils can take a proactive role in facilitating developments that will meet the needs of their community through close working relationships with the council. The local council can, for example, use their knowledge to help identify landowners to enable affordable housing development where there is an identified local need; and they can establish the evidence base for any identified local housing need and for community infrastructure needs through parish questionnaires.

We strongly encourage developers to consult with local communities and local councils as early as possible prior to developing their planning applications for formal submission. This method of consultation will vary relative to the scale of the development. For example, a householder extension should involve discussions with immediate neighbours, whilst a major development should involve consultation meetings with the local councils and local residents. 

Pre-application engagement with the community and local councils helps to address site specific issues that the community may have, such as the need for a particular type of development in the locality. From May 2017, the Council initiated an enhanced pre-application community engagement process. As part of this process, planning case officers will advise applicants and developers on the most appropriate form of engagement for a proposal and this advice will be provided as part of all pre-application discussions.

The council offers a pre-application advice service and promotes the use of planning performance agreements (PPA's) to manage more significant proposals. PPA's will include a requirement for community engagement at the pre-application stage. The pre-application advice service encourages applicants to provide details of their initial proposals to local councils. Alternatively details of enquiries can be found on the online planning register.    

One of the options available for pre-application community engagement is an event facilitated by the Local Council.  A guidance note has been adopted to assist Local Councils to deal with pre-app discussions and how Local Council, Cornwall Council and developers can work together.

Full details of the options available under the new enhanced pre-application community engagement process can be found on the Community Engagement and Cornwall Planning Partnership webpages and within the pre-application community engagement guidance note and FAQs.  Local Councils and the local Divisional Member may choose to do whatever additional publicity for a formal Pre-application Community Engagement Forum that they feel is appropriate.  This is in addition to the standard publicity for a Forum that is done by Cornwall Council officers.

Cornwall Council delivers its planning service through the process of development management. This represents a significant change from the reactive development control system of the past. Development management is about the delivery of the ambitions and policies that are developed through community engagement. It has a strong implementation focus and is based on positive engagement with local councils at early stages in the process. This is integral to an effective delivery of positive developments that meet community needs and aims.

As a consultee on planning applications local councils will be consulted on planning applications relevant to their area. Planning and Sustainable Development have produced Planning Application Consultations - A Guide for Parish/Town Councils by Application Type which details the types of applications locals councils should expect to be consulted on. All relevant documentation can be viewed on the online planning register. We have produced a step by step guide for the Town and Parish Councils on how to use the online planning register. This includes registering as a consultee, viewing applications and submitting your comments online. 

The local council planning protocol is a flow diagram showing how local councils get involved in the planning application process.

The Cornwall Planning Partnership have been working on guidance for local councils that would be helpful in those cases where communities feel that a particular development may need some form of ongoing communication between the developers and local residents during the construction phase.

Local Councils can:

  • Raise the likely need for post-decision community engagement on Planning Application consultation responses, during the consideration of applications, or
  • Speak with the Planning case officer about what form of engagement would be appropriate to your Council were planning permission to be granted.

Where appropriate, Cornwall Council will add informatives, planning conditions, or S106 agreement clauses on planning permissions to address this point.  The guidance produced by the Planning Partnership was agreed on 17.1.19 and includes an example of a condition that local councils can suggest.

More details on the work of the Cornwall Planning Partnership are contained on the Planning Partnership Meetings webpage.

The Local Development Framework is made up of several documents that set out the planning framework and policies for Cornwall. Local development documents include Development Plan Documents (DPD's); Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD's); and the Annual Monitoring Report (AMR).

Local councils are consulted at all key stages in the production of each planning document that will make up the Local Development Framework and any comments and views that are made will be analysed and incorporated into the relevant planning document where necessary. In this way there is a valuable opportunity for the community to have input into the future planning of Cornwall.

A parish plan is in the ownership of its community. It identifies the needs and aspirations of all groups within it, with its purpose to shape and determine the future of the community. A robust parish plan will involve the whole community, will provide an action plan for the future and will be regularly reviewed and updated.

A parish plan can:

  • influence the planning policy framework
  • be adopted or taken into account as a material planning consideration
  • be adopted as or inform the SPD's 
  • provide evidence for and inform neighbourhood plans

A neighbourhood plan is also developed by the community, but focuses on planning issues and is adopted as part of the development plan for Cornwall. Once a neighbourhood plan has been through all the regulatory stages its policies will be used to determine planning applications in the area the plan covers. Local Councils are the qualifying body who can apply to have their area (usually based on parish boundaries) designated and who submit the neighbourhood plan for examination. More information is available on our neighbourhood planning toolkit

Development management is an evolving process with a policy context that is flexible and evidence based. However, this process will not evolve unless it is effectively monitored and reviewed. Local councils can take a proactive role in monitoring and reviewing the developments in their areas and informing their opinions back into the policy process.