Whilst everyone hopes for a smooth ride when they submit a planning application, decisions can sometimes be controversial. Even the simplest of schemes may raise a few eyebrows or cause concerns, and controversy is almost certainly heightened due to the openness of the planning system, which invites public opinion.
Nevertheless, decision making should be based on an informed judgement, which balances competing interests against local and national planning policy. Therefore, to ensure that decision making is fair, contentious proposals, whether big or small, are frequently decided at Planning Committee.
Whilst this can be a daunting and unpredictable process, Atlas Planning Group are very experienced when it comes to Planning Committees. Indeed, only yesterday were we at Basingstoke and Deane’s Development Management Meeting, where we successfully gained planning permission for a two-bedroom infill dwelling in a Hampshire village.
There are two ways in which planning applications are decided – a delegated decision made by the Planning Officer or a Committee Decision made by Councillors.
Each Council varies with regards to their protocol; however, in most cases, when a Ward Councillor raises an interest or when a certain number of objections or petitions are received, then the application will automatically be referred to Planning Committee. In some Councils, only the Parish Council has to object, and the application has to be decided in this way.
Regardless of whether an application is written up for a refusal or approval, all applications must still be addressed at Planning Committee if it is called in.
Planning Committees comprise several Councillors who are represent different political parties and wards. They have been appointed by residents and are responsible for making an informed and fair decision, balancing social, economic and environmental needs to achieve sustainable development.
Committee meetings are run by the chair and is welcome to all members of the public and any supporters/objectors to the proposals.
A Planning Officer will first present the application to both the Councillors and members of the public, outlining their assessment of the proposals and their recommendation - either an approval or refusal.
After this, the agent/applicant will be invited to speak for a certain amount of time to argue their case and subsequently, a limited number of objectors are also allowed to follow with their speeches. Questions may be asked by members to the presenting Planning Officer and the Applicant / Agent.
Afterwards, the Council members discuss whether planning permission should be granted/refused, and decision is finally made.
The outcome of Planning Committees is often uncertain, particularly if an application has caused a lot of controversy. However, whilst Councillors must take account of opposing views, they should not favour a particular group, person or locality. Planning decisions should be made impartially with sound planning judgement.
If Councillors would like to go against the Planning Officer’s recommendation, they must make a decision based on justifiable reasons, taking into consideration both local and national planning policy. If this is not undertaken and there are no sound reasons justifying their arguments, the application is likely to succeed if the application was brought forward to appeal, with a risk of costs being awarded against the Council.
It is our job therefore to argue the case in favour of the application, demonstrating how the proposal is a sustainable form of development, whilst ensuring that Committee members are not influenced by the more immediate and everyday world of politics.
If you’d like to hear more, or discuss how we help you with an appeal, please get in touch.
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