Make your Objections Count

January 5th, 2015   

Effective Planning ObjectionsPlanning applications and planning appeals must be determined having regard to the development plan and relevant material planning considerations. Understanding this process is the key to making your objections count. Planning objections must must be:

  • material planning considerations;
  • relevant to the development proposed;
  • supported by development plan policies;
  • consistent with national planning policy;
  • substantiated by evidence and objective analysis.

Relevant material planning considerations

Material planning considerations are matters that are capable of being taken into account in planning decisions. They are wide ranging and include matters such as the character and appearance of the local area, residential amenities, the local environment and ecology, highway safety and local economic development.

However, not all these matters will be relevant in every case. If your objections are going to carry weight they must be relevant to the development proposed. Biodiversity might be of critical importance on a greenfield site, but it’s unlikely to be relevant to a town centre change of use.

Furthermore, the courts have held that certain matters, such as the effect on property values or the loss of private views, are not planning matters. There’s no point objecting on these grounds, as they cannot be taken into account.

Planning policy

Planning policy is very important, because the planning system is based on a plan-led approach (see below). The development plan comprises the adopted statutory planning policy documents for the local area. These typically include Local Plans, Core Strategies and Development Management policy documents, which can only be adopted following public consultation and a public examination.

Other locally adopted policy documents may not form part of the statutory development plan but are capable of being material planning considerations. These include adopted Supplementary Planning Guidance (SPG) and Supplementary Planning Documents (SPD). Provided these are up-to-date and have been subject to public consultation, they can carry significant weight.

National planning policy does not form part of the statutory development plan. However, the courts have held that it should be accorded significant weight as a material consideration. Moreover, locally adopted policies should be consistent with national policies; and if the development plan is out-of-date, national planning policy may take precedence.

The plan-led approach

Planning applications and planning appeals must be determined in accordance with the locally adopted development plan unless there are material considerations that indicate otherwise. However, in 2012 the National Planning Policy Framework introduced a new presumption in favour of sustainable development. For decision-taking this means:

  • approving development proposals that accord with the development plan without delay; and
  • where the development plan is absent, silent or relevant policies are out-of-date, granting permission unless:
    - any adverse impacts of doing so would significantly and demonstrably outweigh the benefits, when assessed against the policies in the Framework taken as a whole; or
    - specific policies in the Framework indicate development should be restricted.

The is very significant, because if development plan policies are out-of-date, national planning policies may be accorded greater weight. This can lead to development being approved even where it conflicts with an adopted local development plan, such as an older Local Plan.

Demonstrating harm

Unsubstantiated objections, based on vague, generalised or inaccurate assertions about a proposal’s impact, rarely succeed. There needs to be demonstrable harm as a result of the proposal. In other words it’s not enough to say that something would be harmful; you need to explain why. You might do this by referring to specific evidence, such as locally adopted guidelines for separation distances between habitable room windows, or by analysing local character to show that a proposal would be out of keeping with its surroundings.

Getting professional planning advice

Putting this all together can be difficult. That’s why professional developers and many applicants and appellants employ professional planning consultants to represent their interests. Planning Objection Letters was conceived to provide local residents and third parties with their own professional planning representation at affordable prices. This is the best way to ensure your objections are taken into account and accorded the weight they deserve. Contact me without obligation for advice and a fixed fee quotation.