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Planning Agents' Area

Please be aware that we are experiencing a significant increase in the volume of general planning enquiries and planning enforcement enquiries. Whilst we are aiming to maintain customer service there may be a delay in dealing with enquiries during this period.  However, we are working hard to keep the planning service operating effectively and have changed most of our working practices accordingly.  We are undertaking site visits on a risk assessed basis where virtual means of assessment are not available.  This is to ensure that we comply with the government guidance on social distancing and to protect our staff and our residents.  We have changed our procedures for Planning Committees, site notices, availability of information by hard copy and office availability.  For more details on our revised processes, please see our FAQs Covid-19 impact on planning processes and bear with us at this difficult time. Thank you for your understanding. 

We have developed this area to provide information from the Planning and Sustainable Development Service. It is designed for Planning Agents who regularly submit planning applications to Cornwall Council. If you think anything is missing or have any feedback please email: planning@cornwall.gov.uk

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Please note that the current higher level of enquiries is also affecting validation times.  We are still performing well with 87% of applications determined within agreed times.  We are prioritising work during holiday periods and have some new staff joining our team this month.  We hope this will help reduce validation times.

Our officers are mostly still working remotely.  We are currently supplying mobile phones which should all be delivered soon.  Officers are all available by email and can pick up messages from their office phone numbers.  Officers will get back to you as soon as possible.  Please note some officers may be working different hours to be able to balance childcare and work.  

The many changes at both work and home can be inconvenient and frustrating but we are all doing our best in these extraordinary circumstances. Please can we ask that agents remain professional and courteous in their correspondence.  We are aware that sometimes frustration is directed at officers unnecessarily.

You will be aware of the changes introduced by the Government to Permitted Development Rights.  Most of the changes will need new application processes.  We are working hard to set these up on our systems. Please note that Prior Approvals for the creation of dwellings under the permitted changes of use:

  • require provision of natural light to all habitable rooms and this is now a consideration for the Local Planning Authority
  • the easiest way to demonstrate this is to provide floor plans and elevations for the proposal
  • these should now be included with this type of prior approval application
Average number of working days to validate general and householder planning applications:
14.5

The number of days quoted is indicative of when most applications are validated.  Some applications may be processed earlier or later. 

CIL has recently been triggered on a development that could have benefited from being phased. Please consider if a development could be phased and discuss this with your planning case officer early in the planning process.

Where a planning permission is phased, CIL is applied to each phase of the development as if it were a separate chargeable development. The benefit of this is that different parts of the development can start without CIL becoming due on other parts of the development.  Our Phased development and CIL webpage contains more information on the benefits of phasing including:

  • self-build developments of more than one dwelling
  • developments containing multiple uses or where only part of the work is CIL liable

If you want to know more about CIL and phasing please contact the Infrastructure Team.  You can email them at cil@cornwall.gov.uk.

Contributions from developers play an important role in delivering infrastructure. New homes, and local economies require such infrastructure.  The mechanisms for securing these contributions are:

  • section 106 agreements (S106)
  • the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL)

The Planning and Sustainable Development Services fees for discretionary services were increased. This was on 19 August 2019. The majority of our discretionary fees were increased by 4%. However, certain products may have increased by more than that amount on a cost recovery basis. This is because we propose to set prices at just below the average levied for similar products and services by other authorities across the Country.

We understand from the Planning Portal that some of you may have been sent reminders for payments which have already made to the Portal direct. This has happened since the launch of the Planning Redirect Service. (It is something which they intend to fix within the next few days).  Agents have been phoning Cornwall Council to query payments. However, they will need to contact the Planning Portal to discuss payments for any application submitted. Agents can do this by emailing support@planningportal.co.uk. (The Planning Portal a completely separate private company). 

Have you decided to submit applications through the Planning Portal? If so, please ensure that you pay the Planning Portal and not Cornwall Council. Without this payment the Planning Portal will not release your planning application to the Council.  Due to financial restrictions, Cornwall Council is unable to transfer payments onto the Planning Portal. The Council must refund the original payee which will delay your application.

The planning enforcement function has now been separated from the area teams. This is to form a dedicated team of experienced enforcement officers.

Enforcement officers will be aligned to dedicated areas in a similar way to that of the area teams.  This will provide consistency and local knowledge. It will also ensure that Members and local councils will know their local officer.  Officers in the current Cornwall-wide proactive project teams and Appeals will continue to be in this Cornwall-wide team. These proactive project teams are:

  • Enforcement
  • Trees
  • Minerals and Waste

From 1 November therefore the Area Team approach will comprise:

  • 8 multi-disciplinary planning teams. These are based on a group of community network areas dealing with all types of planning applications. They will also deal with some compliance matters from receipt through to decision;    
  • a Cornwall-wide team of specialist functions. This will include:
    • appeals
    • enforcement
    • Highways Development Management
    • Historic Environment
  • a central function of support services.

Some changes were made to existing processes and some new processes have been introduced. This is part of the implementation of an area-based planning service. More details on the planning teams are available on our Planning contacts page.

Frontscreening

Applications go through a process of Frontscreening. This is prior to the registration and validation of an application. Frontscreening is a relatively quick check of an application. It helps to identify if the proposed development is likely to be acceptable. For example:

  • whether it accords in principle with the policies of:
    • the Cornwall Local Plan
    • Neighbourhood Development Plan
  • whether there would be any other obvious material planning reasons why planning permission is unlikely to be forthcoming

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

However, the Planning Case Officer may consider that the proposed development is unlikely to be acceptable. In this case, the applicant/agent will be contacted. They will be given the option of having the application returned with the fee prior to validation. This option will potentially provide the applicant/agent with time to:

  • amend the proposals
  • submit a pre-application enquiry or
  • prepare additional information

Alternatively, if the applicant/agent wishes, the application can proceed to validation in the normal way. The applican/agent will know that it is possible that the application will be recommended for refusal.

 Please note the following:

  • Frontscreening is not intended to be a full validation check. 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. 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.

Site visit (carried out on the majority of applications*)

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
    • the nature of the area 
  • possible impacts on the neighbours including:
    • any loss of light
    • overlooking
    • 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.

**  The applicant will be asked to post the site notice. This is if it is known (based on the details contained on the application forms) that an applicant resides on the application site. Alternatively, the display of site notices is the responsibility of the Case Officer during their site visit if:

  • the applicant does not reside on the site, or
  • the applicant fails to post the site notice

It should be noted that not all types of application require site notices to be posted.

If you have any questions on the Area Team project, please send them to: egdcustomerrelations@cornwall.gov.uk.

The Planning and Sustainable Development Service has produced a Validation Guide. (This includes an updated local validation list). It provides applicants and agents with as much information as possible to submit an application ‘right first time’. It also helps avoid any delays at validation or during the planning process.

Main changes include:

  • a single guide for both the public and internal staff.
  • a more concise guide achieved through reducing the amount of duplicated information.
  • increase in information and guidance. This is achieved through links to
    • useful documents
    • webpages
    • guidance
  • More detailed information regarding specific plans with the aim of improving quality

Significant updates have been made with regards to:

  • Contaminated Land
  • Air Quality
  • Noise
  • Odour
  • Affordable Housing
  • Plans

From 1 January 2019 Planning and Sustainable Development will be making some changes to its process and charges. Please see our revised process and changes document for further information.

From 1 January 2019, Cornwall Council will be a Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) Charging Authority. Any new development determined after this date could be liable to pay a CIL. CIL may also be charged on development approved by way of general consent if it commences after 1 January 2019.  Visit the community infrastructure levy page now to find out how CIL may affect your development.

The Planning and Sustainable Development Service offers an optional Validation Checking Service. This is subject to a fee.  We currently receive a high volume of planning applications that do not meet the local and national requirements. Our intention is to reduce this amount and help speed up the process for our customers.  Please see the Validation Checking Service page for details. This includes fees and how to access the service.

9 out of 10 agents submit applications via the Planning Portal.  Submitting applications through the Planning Portal means your documents automatically drop into our back-office system. This gives you immediate assurance that the documents have been received. Submitting applications in this way speeds up our processes.

Applications submitted by alternative means such as by email or in hard copy divert resources to other processes. These enable the documents to be published on-line, which leads to a delay in those applications being validated.

We would therefore encourage you to continue to submit applications in a way that speeds up the process

It has come to our attention there are still a large number of applications being submitted with non-interpretive contaminated land reports.  These are no longer required. However, a Phase I assessment should be submitted – see clarification below.

It is appreciated that there are financial implications in undertaking a Phase I assessment. Clearly any subsequent assessments and remediation works that might be necessary may also have such implications.  However, a Phase I assessment provides preliminary information. It is only requested where potential contamination risks are highlighted for a specific site.  For proposed development with a sensitive/vulnerable end use, where the protection of human health is particularly important, it is considered to be reasonable and consistent with relevant guidance to consider this as part of the determination of a planning application.

Further information can be found in the following document: