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Table of contents
- How can constituents get involved in decision-making on planning applications? skip to link
- What comments make for a good objection? skip to link
- Can constituents ask the Secretary of State to “call-in” a planning application? skip to link
- How can constituents shape planning policy? skip to link
- What is the role of MPs in the planning process? skip to link
- Where can constituents find further information? skip to link
For background information and the role of local planning authorities (LPAs), see the constituency casework article on the planning system in England.
How can constituents get involved in decision-making on planning applications?
Commenting on a planning application
Before making a decision on a planning application, an LPA is required by law to hold a public consultation to allow local residents to express their views on the proposed development. Anyone can respond to a consultation, but the LPA only has to consider comments received during the consultation period.
All planning applications will be published on the LPA’s website. A proposed development will also be publicised using site notices, letters to neighbours or newspaper advertisements. The requirements for publicising applications depend on the nature of the proposed development.
There may also be an opportunity for local residents to speak at a planning committee meeting where councillors decide whether to grant planning permission to a proposed development. Not all applications are discussed by a planning committee; most are decided by local authority planning officers.
Making representations at a planning appeal
If an LPA refuses planning permission, applicants can appeal the decision. Most appeals are decided by an inspector working for the Planning Inspectorate, an executive agency of the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC).
There is no third-party right of appeal in planning law for neighbours and other third parties if they object to an LPA granting planning permission.
There may be an opportunity for interested parties to make further comments on a proposed development during the appeals process (for example, via the Appeals Casework Portal). Any comments made on the planning application during the consultation period are also passed on to the planning inspector.
In some (more complex) cases, a planning inspector may hold a hearing or an inquiry which local residents can attend. The inspector will decide whether interested parties can speak at the hearing. For an inquiry, interested parties can also apply for “rule 6 status” if they think they have a “substantive case”. It gives them the same status as the appellant and the LPA, meaning they will be allowed to speak at the inquiry and submit evidence.
What comments make for a good objection?
An LPA will decide a planning application in line with relevant policies in its local plan (if there is one) and the government’s National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), unless “material considerations” indicate otherwise. It will also consider the neighbourhood plan for the area, if there is one.
Therefore, constituents may wish to refer to some of the following in their response to a consultation or a representation at appeal:
- Relevant policies in the local plan, the neighbourhood plan (where one is in force) and in the government’s NPPF.
- Other material considerations. There is no set list of material considerations; it will depend on the circumstances of a case.
- Examples of potentially relevant material considerations include: the design and layout of a building, its impact of on the character of an area, its impact on a designated area (for example, on green belt land), highway safety issues and disabled people’s access.
- Generally, purely private considerations such as neighbouring property values cannot be material considerations.
An LPA is required to take into account the representations it receives in response to its consultation. However, an LPA will not necessarily refuse planning permission, if residents object to a planning application. An LPA may still grant consent if material considerations indicate otherwise.
Can constituents ask the Secretary of State to “call-in” a planning application?
The Secretary of State for DLUHC can “call-in” any planning application for their own determination. They can also make decisions on appeals instead of a planning inspector (called “recovery”). These powers can be used up until the point at which the LPA or the planning inspector has formally issued their decision.
Anyone can ask for a planning application to be called-in. The request does not have to be made by an MP.
It is up to the Secretary of State to decide, however, whether to use their powers. A planning application is usually only called-in if a local development is of strategic importance or has significant implications for national policy.
How can constituents shape planning policy?
Commenting on local plans
In their local plans, LPAs set out their vision for the future development of, and land use in their area. A local plan identifies what development is needed, where it should go, and what land is protected. All planning applications are assessed against the local plan.
- It is up to the LPA how it engages the local community when drawing up its local plan. How to get involved will be set out in the LPA’s statement of community involvement (which can be found on its website).
- Before submitting it to a planning inspector for examination, an LPA must publish its draft local plan to allow local residents to comment on it.
To be adopted, local plans have to be examined by a planning inspector. The examination will most likely include a public hearing. Those who commented on the draft local plan have a right to be heard by the inspector at a hearing.
LPAs are required to review (and, if necessary, update) their local plan at least every five years. An LPA may invite comments from the local community when it is reviewing its local plan to determine whether an update is needed.
Producing neighbourhood plans
Town and parish councils or local groups (called neighbourhood forums) can produce neighbourhood plans. Once in force, a neighbourhood plan has the same status as the local plan in decision-making.
It therefore allows local communities to shape what development in their area looks like and what sort of development they would like to see.
There are several stages at which constituents can get involved in the preparation of a neighbourhood plan:
- A town or parish council or neighbourhood forum will draft a plan. It is required to consult on its proposals for at least six weeks.
- The plan is then submitted to the LPA. The LPA publicises the plan for another six weeks to invite further representations and arranges for the plan to be independently examined.
- The plan is then put to a local referendum.
What is the role of MPs in the planning process?
MPs do not have any formal role in the planning process.
Those taking decisions in the planning process (planning officers, councillors, inspectors and ministers) have to follow strict procedural rules. These rules do not allow for their decisions to be influenced by private discussions with anyone outside the formal process.
The government advises that “MPs should not seek to lobby planning ministers privately” and that only representations that are made available to all interested parties can be taken into account.
Sometimes MPs may (if they wish) help constituents articulate their concerns on a planning application or write to the LPA about an issue. Anyone, including MPs, can also request for a planning application to be called-in by the Secretary of State.
It does not matter to the planning system, however, who puts an argument across (whether it is an MP or a constituent). At all stages where the public can get involved in the planning process, comments are considered equally on their merits regardless of who makes them.
Where can constituents find further information?
- The relevant LPA’s website will have a search facility to find planning applications, links to the local plan and to relevant consultations.
- LPAs will also publish a “statement of community involvement” on their website, setting out how constituents can get involved.
- Appeals that have been lodged can be found on the Planning Inspectorate’s Appeals Casework Portal.
- The government’s Planning Portal offers guides on the planning process.
- Planning Aid England, which is run by the Royal Town Planning Institute, can provide advice and support to constituents to help them get involved in planning their local area.
The Commons Library does not intend the information in this article to address the specific circumstances of any particular individual. We have published it to support the work of MPs. You should not rely upon it as legal or professional advice, or as a substitute for it. We do not accept any liability whatsoever for any errors, omissions or misstatements contained herein. You should consult a suitably qualified professional if you require specific advice or information. Read our briefing for information about sources of legal advice and help.
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