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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 known as the first tier of Local Government. Whilst they act independently of Cornwall Council, an active partnership of joint working is essential to deliver: 

  • local accountability and
  • responsiveness.

We want local communities to have the opportunities to influence decision making.

The role of local councils in the planning process goes beyond acting as the eyes and ears of their local communities.  They can:

  • influence decisions and policies that affect them
  • develop city/town/parish plans
  • identify potential sites for affordable housing
  • lead community engagement.

We encourage close partnership working with local councils when determining planning applications.  This means local services are delivered which give the best deal for the community.

Local councils can take a proactive role in bringing forward developments that will meet the needs of their community.  The close working relationship with the Council is essential. One example is if a need for affordable housing has been identified locally.  The local council could:

  • use local knowledge to help identify landowners to enable affordable housing development
  • provide evidence for any local housing and community infrastructure needs through parish questionnaires.

We encourage developers to consult with local communities and local councils as early as possible in the planning process. This varies according to the scale of the development. For example:

  • a householder extension should involve discussions with immediate neighbours
  • a major development should involve consultation meetings with the local council and local residents. 

Engagement with the community and local councils is important at pre-application stage.  It helps to address site specific issues that the community may have.  This may be the need for a particular type of development in the area. Planning case officers advise applicants and developers on the most suitable form of engagement for a proposal. This advice is provided as part of all pre-application discussions.

The council offers a pre-application advice service and promotes the use of planning performance agreements (PPAs) for more significant proposals.  Applicants are encouraged to provide details of their engagement with local communities.  

One way of doing pre-application community engagement is an event facilitated by the Local Council.  A guidance note assists Local Councils to deal with pre-app discussions. It also sets out how Local Council, Cornwall Council and developers can work together.

More information on pre-application community engagement can be found in:

Cornwall Council delivers its planning service through the process of development management. This is about the delivery of the ambitions and policies that are developed with local communities.

As a consultee, 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.  This sets out the types of applications that 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 local 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 shows how local councils get involved in the planning application process.

The Cornwall Planning Partnership have produced guidance for local councils when communities feel more communication is needed:

  • after the planning decision
  • when work starts on site.

Some form of ongoing communication may be needed between developers and local residents during construction.  This will help address issues raised by local residents.

To raise the need for this communication, Local Councils can:

  • include it in planning consultation responses
  • speak with the Planning case officer about what form of engagement the local council would like if planning permission is granted.

If appropriate, Cornwall Council can then add to planning permissions:

  • informatives
  • planning conditions
  • or S106 agreement clauses.

More information is on the Cornwall Planning Partnership webpage. This includes an example of a condition that local councils can suggest is used.

The Local Development Framework is made up of several documents. These set out the planning framework and policies for Cornwall. Local development documents include:

  • Development Plan Documents (DPDs)
  • Supplementary Planning Documents (SPDs)
  • the Annual Monitoring Report.

Local councils are consulted at all key stages in the production of each planning document. Comments and views are analysed and included in the relevant planning document where necessary. This means there is a valuable opportunity for the community to contribute to the future planning of Cornwall.

A parish plan belongs to its community. It identifies the needs and hopes of all groups within it. Its purpose is to shape and determine the future of the community. A robust parish plan will:

  • involve the whole community
  • provide an action plan for the future
  • 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 SPDs 
  • provide evidence and information for neighbourhood plans.

A neighbourhood plan is also developed by the community.  It focuses on planning issues and is adopted as part of the development plan for Cornwall. A neighbourhood plan has to go through all the necessary regulatory stages. Its policies will then 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
  • submit the neighbourhood plan for examination.

More information is available on the neighbourhood planning toolkit

Development management is an evolving process based on policies that are flexible and rely on evidence. However, this process will not evolve unless it is effectively monitored and reviewed. Local councils can take a proactive role by:

  • monitoring and reviewing the developments in their areas
  • communicating their opinions to officers.

Local councils will then be taking part in the monitoring and review of the policy process.