The planning process can appear complex, bureaucratic and legalistic. Faced with an unwelcome planning proposal, it can be difficult to know where to start. This article takes you step by step through the process of objecting to a planning application or planning appeal, setting out some important Dos and Don’ts.
The first step is to view the plans and documents submitted with the planning application or planning appeal. These should be available on the Council’s website and at the Council offices. Ideally, you should visit the Council offices to see the plans in person, as it’s much easier to scale accurately from the original drawings. Better still, visit at a time when a duty planning officer is available. That way there will be someone qualified to help if you can’t understand the plans or want to ask questions. Take your time and make sure you understand the proposal and how it’s likely to affect you before you leave.
Representations on planning applications and appeals must be submitted in writing. Take particular note of the deadline for submitting your objections and give yourself plenty of time to draft your objection letter or seek professional advice. Local authorities should accept letters submitted after the deadline, provided the planning application has not yet been determined. However, the Planning Inspectorate enforces deadlines strictly, and will not accept late representations on appeals without a good reason.
Your local Councillor is elected to represent your interests and to reflect local concerns. It’s well worth copying your objection letter to your local Councillor so that he or she is aware of your objections and can gauge the strength of local opposition. You can follow up by email or telephone. Just remember that Council Members are busy people, so don’t try and take up too much of their time.
If you have specific concerns (such as overlooking or loss of light) it may only be possible to fully assess these matters from your property. In that case you should consider asking the Council’s planning officer (or the appeal Inspector) to view the proposal site from your property. I recommend doing this in the final paragraph of your objection letter using bold type. State clearly, but succinctly, why you think this would benefit the decision making process (for example, to assess the degree of overlooking).
Planning applications and appeals must be determined on their planning merits. In other words, it’s not a voting contest. However, all representations on planning applications and appeals must be taken into account. It’s inevitable that a high degree of local opposition will carry more weight than a single objection. This is particularly true of locally elected planning committees, whose Members are often very sensitive to local concerns about inappropriate development in their area. It’s therefore worth encouraging your neighbours to object.
It’s your objection letter so, within reason, you can say what you want. Just remember that potentially libellous or offensive letters may not be published or may be redacted. More to the point, planning applications and appeals must be determined on their planning merits. Don’t waste your time criticising the applicant or appellant, even if you think this is justified. Focus on the planning merits of the proposal and explain why you think planning permission should be refused. Your objections will be more credible if they appear to be reasonable, balanced and logical.
Sometimes local residents circulate a standard form letter to encourage their neighbours to object on the same grounds. This is better than nothing. However, a letter setting out your specific objections will be much more effective and shows the Council’s planning officer or the appeal Inspector that you have taken the trouble to familiarise yourself with the proposal and set out your particular objections. At the very least, you should alter the wording of any standard letter you may decide to use so that it reflects your own views and concerns.
There’s nothing wrong with signing a petition or even organising your own petition against a planning proposal. As with standard form letters, however, this is no substitute for setting out your specific objections in your own objection letter. Petitions are usually very simple and lack the kind of compelling evidence and robust reasoning that are necessary to ensure your planning objections are accorded the weight they deserve.
Wherever possible, try to support your objections with evidence and analysis. This is where getting some professional help can really make a difference. However, if you’re representing yourself, take the time to look through the planning policies on the Council’s website. Pay particular attention to policies that deal with design, character and appearance, and residential amenity. These are the most common grounds for objection from local residents and third parties. Explain why you think the proposal would be contrary to specific planning policies.
Non-planning matters include the effect on property values and the loss of private views. Other matters, such as the effect on drainage, are capable of being planning matters but in many case are likely to be dealt with under other legislation (such as the Building Regulations). A certain amount of disruption is inevitable during construction and would not constitute a good reason to withhold planning permission. There’s no point raising objection on these matters, as they won’t carry any significant weight.
Do consider getting professional planning representation
Planning applications and appeals can have profound effects on people’s properties and lives. If you’ve got significant concerns about a planning proposal you should seriously consider getting professional planning representation. Planning Objection Letters was conceived to give local people access to professional planning representation at affordable prices. Contact me without obligation for advice and a fixed fee quotation.