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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

Local councils are the statutory bodies known as the first tier of Local Government. They can be for a city, town or parish.

They are independent from Cornwall Council. An active partnership of joint working is essential to deliver:

  • local accountability and
  • responsiveness.

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

Role of Local Councils in planning

The role of local councils is more than being 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

Officers should work with local councils when determining planning applications. This helps deliver local services which give the best deal for the community.

Helping development  

Local councils can be proactive to bring forward development. A close working relationship with Cornwall Council is essential. These are developments that meet the needs of local residents. For example, there may be a need for affordable housing in the area. The local council could: 

  • use their local knowledge
  • help identify landowners
  • provide evidence for any local housing needs through parish questionnaires.

This could also be for other needs in the local community such as:

  • roads and footpaths
  • play areas and open spaces.

Development management

Cornwall Council provides its planning service through the process of development management. This process delivers ambitions and policies that we develop with local communities.

Local Councils are statutory consultees. Officers consult local councils on planning applications relevant to their area. Please see Consultations - a guide for Local Councils by application type. It sets out the types of applications that we consult local councils on. Planning documents 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. 

When a local council is set up for consultee access, this means that:

  • original and
  • subsequent comments are publicly available.

Please look at the local council protocol. It shows how local councils get involved in the planning application process.  

Scale bars/ratios on plans

Planning legislation requires plans to an identified scale.  This can be done using a scale bar or ratio on the plan, such as 1:500 at A3.  Planning Practice Guidance (paragraph: 023 Reference ID: 14-023-20140306) states:

"Any plans or drawings must be drawn to an identified scale, and in the case of plans, must show the direction of north.  Although not a requirement of legislation, the inclusion of a linear scale bar is also useful ..."

Plans with scale bars can help consultees and local councils assess them.   We encourage agents to provide plans with a scale bar indicated.

Local Councils can measure plans using the Online Planning Register.  The 'Help' function provides step by step instructions to measure plans.

Pre-application discussions and community engagement

We encourage developers to engage with local councils early 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 discussions with the local council and local residents. 

Engagement with the community and local councils is important at pre-application stage.  Local residents can have the best local knowledge.  Discussion about a pre-application with:

  • local residents
  • local councils

can identify local issues early. This could include a need for a particular type of development in the area. Planning officers offer advice on ways to engage with the local community. This advice forms part of pre-application discussions.

The Council offers:

Planning Performance Agreements are for more significant proposals.  Applicants give details of their engagement with local communities as part of these.  

This guidance may help local councils with discussions with developers:

Please see our Community Engagement webpage too.

Post-Decision Community Engagement

Our Post decision community engagement guidance includes:

  • suggestions on how to keep communities updated and
  • a suggested planning condition

where this would be helpful during the construction phase of a site.

Ongoing communication between developers and local residents during construction is good practice.  It helps address issues raised by local residents.

Preparing the Local Development Framework

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 document. Comments are analysed and included in the relevant planning document where necessary. This is an opportunity for the community to contribute to the future planning of Cornwall.

Development of a parish plan

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.

Development of a neighbourhood plan

A neighbourhood plan is also developed by the community.  It focuses on planning issues and is 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 plan's area. 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

Monitoring and review

Development management is an evolving process.  It is based on policies that:

  • are flexible and
  • rely on evidence. 

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.

Planning harm

Local councils can report concerns about unauthorised development.  You can access information on planning harm and how to resolve it using this link: What is planning harm?

You can find out more about how planning enforcement works using this link: A guide to planning enforcement

We produced a guide for local councils to help them deal with planning enforcement complaints: Planning enforcement guidance June 2023

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