Responding to Planning Applications

Any response to planning applications must, first of all, be in accordance with the Societies constitution and policies. Secondly the application must comply with the Local Plan and other policy documents and thirdly, but very importantly, material considerations – those other matters that decision makers will take into account.

By its very nature planning can be very emotive, after all it can affect quality of life, even peoples livelihoods. However, planning is about legislation and rules and any response must be evidence based within the legislative framework if it is to be taken seriously by either the Local Planning Authority or the Planning Inspectorate.

In responding to planning applications the Societies Planning Sub Committee goes through a number of stages which mirror the planning process. These are:-

Stage 1 – Monitor and review all applications especially those classified as ‘major’, those within the conservation areas, those   affecting listed buildings and those within the environmentally protected areas around Yateley Common.

Stage 2 – Visit the development site and surrounding area and evaluate the information accompanying the application.

Stage 3 – Decide on the stance to make, whether it is to support, to object or be neutral about the application. This is the time to weigh up the ‘pros and cons’, speak to local residents and discuss within the planning group.

Stage 4 – Examine the Local Plan and other policy documents. Look at ‘material considerations’ e.g. national policy, history of the development if any, affect on conservation area and listed buildings, effect on protected areas such as SSSI’s and SPA.

Stage 5 -This is when we take action by responding in writing to the relevant Planning Authority. We can support the application but suggest changes, take no action or have a neutral stance, register an objection and to suggest changes if appropriate or we can object because of its adverse affects and non compliance with other legislation.

Stage 6 – Prepare the written response. Where appropriate quote sections and references of documents and legislation to support our stance. Look at responses from statutory consultees such as Natural England, The Environment Agency, Highways Authority, etc.

Stage 7 – Gather support. Speak to residents groups, send any response to elected councillors for the area.

Stage 8 – Speak at committee. Major applications will be decided by the Planning Sub Committee comprising of elected members. If we have registered a response to the planning application there may be a chance to speak. This will comprise of a few minutes only of time so concentrate on import issues only.

Timing is of the essence at the beginning because from the date that a site notice is displayed there is only 21 days to prepare the initial response. Normally the Local Planning Authority will decide on the application within eight weeks. Minor cases will probably be handled by the LPA under delegated powers but major and controversial developments will be decided by the Councils planning sub committee or even the full council. If the development is very controversial or adversely affects any statutory area such as green belt, heritage sites or other protected areas an application may be made to the Secretary of State to ‘call in’ the application. The application will then be decided by an inspector at a public enquiry.