Application process

Once an application is fully registered and allocated to a case officer it is then carried forward through the application process. This process should run for a period of six to eight weeks from the time the application is registered complete. For major applications this period is extended to 13 weeks, and longer if an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) is required.  If you haven't been involved in the planning process before then you might like to have a look at the Plain English guide to the planning system.

Desktop analysis

Continue reading

The case officer becomes familiar with the application and assesses implications that could be raised during the process. The following list highlights the main parts of the planning application that are addressed in this initial desktop analysis:

  • location of the development site and relationship with neighbouring properties
  • constraints such as Tree Preservation Orders (TPOs), conservation areas, flood zones etc. 
  • who has been consulted/notified
  • planning history of the site, conditions and reasons for previous refusals  
  • application form details, ownership of the land, design and access statements and materials used
  • reports or statements made by the applicant
  • check for accuracy and assessment of the plans.

As well as displaying the site notice, the purpose of the site visit is to visualise the development in the context of its setting. This part of the process is important in understanding the extent of the proposal on the site and the following points are noted:

  • characteristics of the location including terrain, levels, surrounding buildings, and the nature of the area 
  • possible impacts on the neighbours including any loss of light, overlooking and compatibility of uses
  • visual impacts, the affect on the street scene and fitting in with the existing character
  • access
  • appropriate siting
  • environmental impacts such as trees, hedgerows and flooding
  • local facilities
  • sustainability

Checks are made to ensure that the relevant neighbours have been notified. Notes are made, and photos are taken. The date of visit, location of the site notice, and any additional neighbours that have been notified are recorded.

*Except Householder Applications where the case officer may do a site visit, but this may not always be the case.

The application may be advertised in the local press, a site notice displayed, neighbours are notified by letter, the parishes and other interested parties are consulted. Then during a three week period comments on the application are received. These comments bring matters to the attention of the case officer and may lead to a second site visit.

The evaluation part of the process pulls all the information together and determines a recommendation. This is achieved through researching the various and wide ranging source material. The following is not an exhaustive list but merely gives an indication to the level of research that is necessary:

  • histories of both the site and other similar cases
  • local and national planning policies
  • government guidance
  • case specific research
  • planning acts, regulations and case law
  • design guides and other supplementary planning documents
  • a further site visit is sometimes necessary in order for clarification

Once the information is gathered it is put beside the previous information that was gleaned in the earlier stages of the process. This then provides the basis for a balanced and strongly backed recommendation that is fundamentally supported by planning policy. In exceptional cases the recommendation may be weighted to the contrary by other material considerations.

It may be necessary to contact the applicant and request further information, or an amendment to the proposal. The planning process is not in place to oppose development but to encourage and provide a healthy and prosperous community. In many circumstances if faced with a recommendation of refusal, through discussion with an applicant a more positive outcome can be reached. However, time is often limited at the end of the process and the best way to avoid a refusal is to withdraw the application and seek pre-application advice.

The officer's role is to investigate and assess the proposal's suitability and then communicate this by written report to the appropriate deciding body. The majority of applications are decided by delegated powers via a Principal Development Officer or Group Leader. Major and more controversial applications are put before, and debated by, the relevant planning committee who meet every three weeks.

Decisions fall within three categories:

  • approval
  • conditional approval
  • refusal

The decision is made and the agent/applicant are then notified.

If you wish to complain about how the Council has handled a planning application or planning enforcement matter, please contact the case officer’s line manager in the first instance.

In some cases, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) about how a local planning authority handled a planning application or planning enforcement investigation. The LGO cannot investigate a complaint just because you do not agree with the decision and the LGO has no power to alter the decision, even if the local authority administration has not been entirely correct.