Amended Planning Applications

July 3rd, 2023   

Amended Planning ApplicationsWhat do you do when a neighbour or developer keeps submitting amended planning applications, one after the other? It can be bad enough when you find out your neighbour is planning to redevelop his property. But what do you do when they keep coming? Surely it’s only a matter of time before one of them is approved?

Each application on its merits

A fundamental principle of the planning system is that each application must be assessed on its merits. This applies to amended planning applications just as much as any other type of planning application. The history is relevant, but each proposal stands on its own merits.

Has the scheme materially changed?

Developers will typically offer concessions when submitting amended planning applications. However, they will understandably try to avoid making changes that significantly reduce the development value of their schemes. The first thing you should do is make sure you clearly understand exactly what has changed and by how much. If necessary, visit the Council officers when they have a duty planning officer available. They will be able to help you understand the plans.

Have planning policies materially changed?

In many cases, planning policies will not have changed since the original planning application was determined. Sometimes, however, amended planning applications may be triggered by a change in policy, particularly if a new Local Plan has recently been adopted. Alternatively, there may have been a change in national planning policy, which might create potentially more favourable conditions for a revised planning application.

Have previous objections been addressed?

Amended planning applications often follow from a refusal of planning permission first time around. The local planning authority will therefore be looking to see if its previous objections have been addressed. It’s therefore worth checking the previous reasons for refusal to see exactly what these were.

Each reason for refusal will typically focus on one main planning issue. Common issues include the effect on the character and appearance of the local area; the effect on amenities and living conditions of neighbouring occupiers; and the effect on highway safety. However, planning issues are capable of being wide-ranging and may cover anything from flooding to contamination.

Note that planning applications should be determined consistently. This means the starting point for an amended application will always be the previous reasons for refusal. The local planning authority will be very cautious about introducing new reasons for refusal, as this might be inconsistent with its previous decision. Your objections should therefore be focussed on whether those previous objections have been overcome.

If there is no previous refusal, the original application may have been withdrawn. In that case, the scope for objection is wider, as there is no formal refusal to provide a starting point for the assessment of the revised scheme. Nevertheless, applications are often withdrawn because the Council has asked the applicant to look again at certain specific aspects of the proposal. These issues will naturally be the focus of any amended application and can provide a useful starting point for future objections.

Re-stating your objections

I advise re-stating previously raised objections for the avoidance of doubt and to make it clear that the amended application does not overcome your concerns. If the amended application overcomes some, but not all of your objections, this should also be clearly stated. However, it is perfectly acceptable to refer to your previous objections. If these were set out in detail previously, you could summarise your position and refer back to your letter in respect of the previous application.

It’s very important to set out the reasons that underpin your objections. Stating that a proposed building is too big is overly simplistic and difficult to substantiate. Stating that a proposed building would be larger than other buildings in the street, and therefore visually dominant and overpowering in the street scene, provides a clear planning argument against approval. This kind of objection will carry much more weight in planning terms.

If you are familiar with the local planning policies for your area, referring to these will add further weight to your objections. However, this is a more specialist area and is not always straight forward. This is where it can be very helpful to employ a planning professional to set out the case for refusal for you. The whole basis of Planning Objection Letters is to make this kind of expert service available to householders affected by development at reasonable cost.

Setting out new objections

If the amended application raises new concerns for you, it’s very important that these are clearly stated. For example, sometimes the developer will remove one element of the scheme but substitute a new element in its place. Typically, the developer will be seeking to overcome objections without reducing the size and/or development value of the project.

Alternatively, the developer may seek to make token changes or very minor reductions to certain aspects of a development. If these changes are insufficient to overcome your concerns, you should say so. Here again, it’s very important to give your reasons. In order for your planning objections to carry weight in planning terms, they need to be supported by appropriate analysis showing how the proposed development would harm interests of acknowledged importance, such as the local townscape or residential amenities.

Weighing the Balance

Local authority planning officers are always concerned with what they call the planning balance. No development scheme is perfect in every respect or entirely without merit. There is always a balance of good and bad. It can be helpful to keep this in mind when drafting your objection letter.

Just because an application has been amended doesn’t mean it’s now acceptable. There may be certain impacts that are so severe they will always weigh heavily against approval. A good example of this might be the erection of a new building in an undeveloped part of the Green Belt. There are strong policies of restraint that apply in such areas and new buildings will not normally be permitted without a sound planning justification.

Other impacts will naturally be more balanced. An example of this might be the impact associated with overlooking from an upper floor window. An increase in the separation distance to adjoining properties or the installation of obscure glazing might be sufficient to change the planning balance here. What was previously unacceptable might now fall within acceptable limits.

Remember that the local authority planning officers will always be weighing this planning balance. You should always try to show that the harm associated with a particular proposal outweighs any benefits, or that the harm caused would be great enough to warrant refusal. This isn’t always straight forward, particularly where complex planning issues, such as housing land supply, are involved. This is where employing a planning professional to help you can really pay dividends.

Professionally drafted planning objection letters

Planning Objection Letters provides professionally drafted planning objection letters to neighbours and third parties at very competitive rates. If I have already prepared an objection letter for you, I am usually able to review revised planning applications at a discount on my normal rate. Contact me without obligation for advice and a fixed fee quotation.