A local authority is under a duty to advertise planning applications. The precise requirements for different kinds of application are laid out in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure Order 2015), and there is now a standard planning application form which means that all local authorities should be using the same set of requirements.
In general, local authorities are required to publicise planning applications by a site notice, and an advert in a newspaper which is in local circulation. Additionally, they will have to place details on their website (usually via the Public Access system which is part of their website which deals with applications). The means by which local authorities notify individual neighbours of the proposed development by letter depends on the authority, but usually as a minimum, immediate neighbours and relevant parish councils are informed. Although it is not a legal requirement, some local authorities will facilitate public meetings on major new development proposals.
The Government encourages private sector developers to organise more lengthy public participation on specific proposals, with this obviously being more important for more controversial applications. Many campaigners feel that this compromises the objectivity of the participation exercise and it is important to keep a close eye on any attempt by the private sector to manipulate the process in an unfair way. Each local authority has the flexibility to set their own standards of participation in the development control process.
The standard approach should be written down in a document known as the statement of community involvement (SCI) . It is useful to get a copy of this statement to make sure the council is doing what they say they would do in terms of process. In general the public have 21 days to comment on the planning application from the date of the site notice. In practice this is a relatively short period of time compared to what is needed to digest what can be complicated application submissions and to formulate a robust response – i.e. make a representation.
If you need more time, the best approach is to ring your local planning officer and agree a longer period – making sure you get confirmation in writing. However local authorities are being strongly encouraged to keep to above mentioned time – with the threat that if they do not meet targets for making planning decisions they could lose their ability to make planning decisions. Just remember that the earlier your concerns are fed into the process, the more likely they are to be taken seriously.
STOP! With the new Housing and Planning Act (2016), there is now scope for a portion of major housing schemes to be determined outside of the traditional planning application process. Permission in Principle (PIP) is a means by which permissions is effectively given to site allocations either on a brownfield register or within a local plan. The developer who wants to develop that site then only has to secure a ‘Technical Details Consent’ – you can’t argue against the principle of the development itself. This is essentially a means by which the Government is giving developers in England further means to bypass the traditional planning system, and with it your ability to influence, and your local councils’ discretion, on development happening in your area.
A ‘gold mine’ of planning information and guidance: The Government ‘Planning Portal’