Application process

Frontscreening

Prior to the registration and validation of an application, the application goes through a process of Frontscreening. Frontscreening is a relatively quick check of an application to identify if the proposed development is likely to be acceptable i.e. whether it accords in principle with the policies of the Cornwall Local Plan/Neighbourhood Development Plan or whether there would be any other obvious material planning reasons why planning permission is unlikely to be forthcoming.

Continue reading

It also comprises a check to ensure all the information necessary has been submitted to allow the determination of the application. 

If the Planning Case Officer considers that the proposed development is likely to be acceptable, the application will proceed to validation in the normal way.

Alternatively, if the Planning Case Officer considers that the proposed development is unlikely to be acceptable, the applicant/agent will be contacted and given the option of having the application returned with the fee prior to validation (to potentially provide the applicant/agent with time to amend the proposals, submit a pre-application enquiry or prepare additional information) or, if the applicant/agent so wishes, the application can proceed to validation in the normal way in the knowledge that is possible the application will be recommended for refusal.

Please note the following:

  • Frontscreening is not intended to be a full validation check as this will be completed by the Development Support team in the normal way.
  • Frontscreening is not intended to provide free Pre-Application Advice or a free Validation Checking Service and applicants/agents are encouraged to visit the relevant webpages to access these services.
  • If the application has been submitted via the Planning Portal/iApply, the relevant Financial Transaction Service Fee will not be refunded.

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.

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 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 (if required**), 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 effect 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.

**If it is known (based on the details contained on the application forms) that an applicant resides on the application site, the applicant will be asked to post the site notice. If the applicant does not reside on the site, or if the applicant fails to post the site notice, the display of site notices is the responsibility of the Case Officer during their site visit. It should be noted that not all types of application require site notices to be posted.

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.