How to object to a planning application

OnTheMarket explains how you can object to a planning application and what to do to try and ensure you get the result you want.

Where can I find details of the application?

Before you can object to a planning application, you first need to know it exists. Local councils are supposed to notify neighbours likely to be affected in writing but regardless of whether you have received a letter, you are still permitted to object. Most councils allow you to browse planning applications on their websites or you can visit their planning department and selected local libraries.

The government’s website has a directory where you can enter a postcode to search the register of planning decisions which will connect with the correct council website.

Check before you buy

If you’re thinking of buying a property, it’s worth asking your estate agent to check with the sellers if they know of any planning applications on neighbouring land.

Unlike the property you are looking to buy – for which the sellers are obliged to disclose any information they know about planning applications relating to their home – they are under no obligation to tell you anything, but it’s worth trying to find out what potential developments might be on the horizon nearby.

What are valid grounds for objecting?

Only objections falling under certain categories will be considered. These include:

– Reduction in light
– Possible overlooking of your property causing a loss of privacy
– Anything out of character with other development in the area
– Too much development for the site
– Any effect on road safety.

Common objections which won’t be taken into account because they are not planning matters, include a perceived reduction in property value and the loss of a view from your property.

Will I need professional help?

No, not unless you are objecting to a very large and complex planning application and you are working together with your neighbours. In that case, you may want to speak to a solicitor or planning consultant but be prepared for a bill running into the thousands.

Should I write to my MP?

No, local planning is an issue devolved to councils and MPs have no say over them.

How can I make an objection?

You need to send a letter or e-mail to the Local Planning Authority (LPA) – usually the council – quoting the planning application number and your reasons for the objection. You’ll find the number on the letter you were sent or on the authority’s website, where you may also be able to leave comments on the application.

Every local authority in England is required to produce a Local Plan, setting out its policies on development so it’s important how you word your objection, according to Oliver Goodwin, a planning expert and consultant barrister at Keystone Law.

“Try and couch your objection in the text of the planning policies in the council’s Local Plan,” he says.

“If you can show the design is in breach of those policies, you have made a good start.”

Having your say at a meeting

The vast majority of decisions on planning are delegated to council officers by the authority’s planning committee, made up of elected councillors, and are taken behind closed doors.

But a member of that committee can refer to it any decision on whether to grant planning permission to a particular application if they believe it may violate planning policy.

The best way to lobby councillors to refer a decision to the committee is to send the same letter to all its members.

If you are successful, the application will then be discussed at a planning meeting where members of the public can have their say, provided they notify the committee clerk in writing or by e-mail at least 24 hours in advance and speak for what is normally a strict deadline of just three minutes.

How can I object to something that has already been built?

If a person has conducted building works for which they should have applied for planning permission but didn’t, the LPA has the right to issue an Enforcement Notice ordering them to alter that structure or demolish it entirely.

The owner can then appeal that decision to the national Planning Inspectorate on the grounds that planning permission should be granted. Objectors to that appeal can register their opposition in the same way as they would to a planning application made in advance of any building work, only this time representations must be made to the Planning Inspectorate.

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