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How does your Town/Parish Council approach Planning Applications?

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How does your Town/Parish Council approach Planning Applications? 

I am increasingly concerned with the amount of council time we continue to allocate to consider planning applications (15+ Hours worth of meetings each year and countless officer hours in addition to that) as a "Consultee" to the Principal Planning Authority.  It feels like the content submitted is rarely if ever is taken into account.  At Local "ALC" training/seminars/networking privately many admit they feel same way locally at other bodies but maintain the status quo out of a sense of duty and purpose (in hope maybe one day will be listened to akin to buying a lottery ticket every week "in it to win it")

Our Existing Set Up

Our "Planning Committee" meets monthly spending anywhere from 45 minutes to sometimes well over 120 minutes.  They consider every single application that comes in and then the staff are required to try and type up what was agreed and submit it online afterwards via planning portal to the planning authority.  

What do you do?

  • Some locally elsewhere digitally exchange views prior to meeting (which seems to me potentially problematic) to speed the process up
  • Some delegate authority to comment to their Clerk
  • Some simply put "NO COMMENT" to everything 
  • Some simply make no comment at all.  
  • Some only comment on large "major" schemes (10+ Houses) with the rest no comment.  
  • Some make no comment as a body but encourage individual members to comment as individuals 
  • Some take approach short and sweet single sentence is sufficient.  

So Wondered..  How would you approach it? How do you approach it?

A compelling and strong argument has been put forward recently that the Council should cease routinely commenting on applications only commenting on "major" planning applications (i.e 10 Dwellings+, conservation area).  Individual members are free to comment on their own on the rest (making clear on own no body).  Is this a legal way forward? They make the case that the money saved and saved staff hours would start making a real difference and positively impact on the community we serve.   

Look forward to your thoughts.  

asked by (1.1k points)
edited by

3 Answers

+1 vote
Best answer
The simple fact of the matter is that a Town or Parish Council cannot determine applications, only comment on them.  Their responses count only in the singular  when Planning officers in the Planning Authority total  up the number of objections or expressions of support. My PC  usually answers no comment to the majority.  They may submit something for a housing development, but planning application time  forms just part of a committee remit.  I think your PC is going into serious overkill here, and wonder if  to amounts to inefficiency and bad value for precept payers given the officer time you allude to being taken up.  Are people undertaking this scale of work for something to do to justify their existence?
answered by (13.5k points)
selected by
Thanks for taking the time to respond very much appreciated.   Its a committee in its various guises has had a sort of protected status (from what i can glean as someone who has recently joined) whereby it been left to its own devices for so long reform of it seems a real uphill battle to reform it despite a fair few attempts over the decades.
+1 vote
I appreciate that this response may not be of much assistance, but we have a Neighbourhood Development Plan.  The Steering Group that formed to develop and implement the plan primarily comprises parishioners (not councillors) and continues to exist for the purpose of considering all planning applications against the requirements of the plan. They then propose a response for the Parish Councillors to consider. This is expressed by reference to the policies in the NDP eg this application meets the requirements of polices A, B, C.  Ths process seems to work well and is not overly onerous.
answered by (910 points)
Many thanks for taking the time to reply very much appreciated.  Its certainly something to think about should our Council ever decide to go down the Neighbourhood Plan route in the future.  Willing to explore all options as am conscious that maintaining our current approach looks increasingly untenable.
Is the Neighbourhood deveolpment plan endorsed by your Principal authority - or even acknowledged by it? Does the Principal authority  have one  of its own for your Parish from which it derives its Planning applications decisions and policies?
Our Neighbourhood Development Plan is 'made' and has legal authority, therefore the Borough Council is obliged to take its policies into account when considering planning applications. We have worked quite closely with the BC Planning team to make sure that they are familiar with the contents and consider them.
+1 vote
We too have a Planning Committee, but it meets as and when required. Our District Council requires a response within 21 days of notification, so we can still call a meeting and comply with the Transparency Code for notifying the public and interested parties. At each meeting, we have a list of the valid reasons for objection (downloaded from t'internet) and we consider each application against this list. The majority of applications fall into the "We'd rather it didn't happen, but have no valid reason to object" pile, so a one-line "no objection" response is submitted. Using the list means we seldom spend more than ten minutes on any application. There is nothing to be gained from writing an essay on matters that are not material considerations, as this is just a waste of officer time in your own council and the planning authority. It is my belief that we have a duty to consider and to respond to every application, regardless of size and importance.
answered by (18.5k points)
Many thanks for taking the time to respond.  Pleased seems to be an online consensus around position that nothing is gained through submitting essays responding to planning applications (particularly when they stray outside boundaries and framework required to actually comment on).   Perhaps naivety on my part but id hoped the principal planning authority would get actively involved when another body routinely submitting content that wastes their officers times (and indeed their members).
They have no powers to instruct anybody on a suitable response and must accept and process whatever comes in. They can merely offer guidance and training for parish councillors. It's not much fun being a planning officer these days, as online communications have made it easier for people to comment. I remember a planning application a couple of years ago for a zip wire in the Lake District National Park that attracted over 3,500 objections, each of which had to be studied, considered, recorded and filed by the planning officer. I believe there were also over 100 letters of support! All in a day's work, as the saying goes!

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