How can constituents get involved in the planning process?
Many constituents will only get involved in the planning process when a planning application is publicised near to where they live. There are however many more opportunities for constituents to get involved in the planning process at various different stages.
As planning is a devolved subject the sections below highlight which processes apply to which UK country.
Statement of Community Involvement (England)
Each local authority should publish a “statement of community involvement” on its own website. This will set out the local authority’s policies for involving the community in the preparation, alteration and review of planning policy documents and in deciding planning applications.
Not only is this a helpful document setting out how constituents can get involved, but when these statements are made or revised, there is often a consultation period during which constituents can submit their views.
Neighbourhood planning powers (England)
Parish councils and groups of people from the community, called neighbourhood forums, have powers to formulate Neighbourhood Development Plans and Orders, which can guide and shape development in a particular area. These powers provide an opportunity for constituents to get involved at the stage where the neighbourhood plan is being prepared, at the stage where the plan is consulted on and by voting in the referendum which must be held before it can come into force.
Commenting on local plans and public consultations (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
Another way to have influence in the planning process is to make representations on any public consultations on any development plan documents that are being made by the local authority for the area. This might include a local plan, a core strategy, or a combined area plan.
In England the local authority’s statement of community involvement will set out the opportunities for making representation at each stage of the local plan making process.
Commenting on a planning application (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
All planning applications should be publicised, but the publicity requirements vary depending on the type, scale and size of the proposed development. Publicity requirements set out how and when people can comment on a planning application.
It is really important that constituents note the deadline for any representations and send their comments in good time – these deadlines are often very strict.
Regulations provide for how a planning application should be publicised and the minimum time allowed for comments as follows:
- England: the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015
- Wales: the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Wales) Order 2012
- Scotland: the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (Scotland) Regulations 2013
- Northern Ireland: the Planning (General Development Procedure) Order (Northern Ireland) 2015
For further information about how to make effective comments see the links to the right of this page.
Making representations at a planning appeal (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
In all of the UK countries if a local authority refuses a planning application the disappointed applicant then has the opportunity to make an appeal against this decision. There are no third party rights of appeal against development being granted permission or being refused. There may however, be further opportunity for people to make representations at the appeal stage.
- In England and Wales appeals are made to the Planning Inspectorate. For further information see the Planning Inspectorate’s Planning appeals: procedural guide.
- In Scotland appeals may be made to either the Local Review Body (if the decision was initially taken by delegation to a planning officer) or to Scottish Ministers (if the decision was taken by Councillors). For further information see the Scottish Government’s, A guide to planning appeals in Scotland.
- In Northern Ireland appeals may be made to the Planning Appeals Commission. For further information see Appeal Procedures.
Requesting call-in by the Secretary of State/ devolved Governments (England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland)
The Secretary of State in England and devolved Governments in the other UK countries can “call in” a planning application so that it is the Government that takes the final decision, rather than the local planning authority. It is often though that it is only an MP that can make a call-in request, but in practice, anyone can apply for it to be done. It should be noted that only a very small number of planning applications are actually called-in each year and they are normally those related to issues of more than local importance. Call-in can be done at any time during the planning application process, up to the point at which the local planning authority actually makes the final decision.
For further information about how to request call in and the call-in criteria see:
- England, House of Commons Library briefing paper, Calling in a planning application
- Wales, Welsh Government, Guidance: called-in planning applications
- Scotland, Scottish Parliament Information Centre, Scottish Ministers’ Power to Call-in Planning Applications
- Northern Ireland, section 29 Planning Act (Northern Ireland) 2011
What is the role of an MP in the planning process?
Throughout the UK an MP does not have any formal role in the planning process. Constituents often write to MPs about planning issues but they should not have unrealistic expectations of what an MP can do. Those taking decisions – planning officers, councillors, planning inspectors and planning ministers – have to follow strict procedural rules. These rules do not allow decisions to be influenced by informal, private discussions with anyone outside the formal process.
Sometimes MPs like to help constituents by helping them to articulate their concerns during the period where a local authority seeks representations on a planning application. Similarly an MP may put his/her name forward to speak at a planning committee or inquiry. An MP can also request that a planning application should be called in by the Secretary of State/devolved Government to take the final decision. Often MPs are well placed to articulate the views and concerns about a planning application because of their experience in debating and putting across clear arguments. It does not matter to the planning system however who puts the arguments across – it is focussed on the quality of the arguments rather than on who makes them. Any representations made by an MP should be made in an open and transparent manner.
- England: Commenting on planning applications, Planning Aid England
- England: The Local Plan process, and how to get involved, Planning Aid England
- Scotland: Rights and Challenges in the Scottish Planning System, Planning Aid Scotland
- Wales: Guidance publications, Planning Aid Wales
- Northern Ireland: The planning system – how a decision is reached, NIDirect