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Planning applications

Read CPRE Hertfordshire’s responses to significant planning applications. Also see below for advice on how to influence and respond to a planning application.

How to influence and respond to a planning application

Look at the planning application

All planning applications are available to view on the relevant local planning authority’s website. You can also visit the planning department in person and ask to view the planning application documents.

Visit the site of the proposed development to assess its likely effects

Take photos of the site and anywhere else that you think will be affected. You can send in photos with your comments.

Decide whether the proposal will affect your interest in the local area

These must be relevant to the planning application. Extra traffic, impact on wildlife, visual intrusion/loss of light, and loss of residents’ amenity are issues that matter, but house prices and views from private properties are not a planning consideration.

Examine relevant planning documents and policies

You can look at copies of the National Planning Policy Framework, the Local Plan, and Neighbourhood Plans (where they exist) at your local planning authority’s office, libraries or on the authority’s website. Think about how you can use the policy wording to support your arguments.

In addition, consider looking at other national and local strategies. For example,

if you are concerned about:

  • rural landscapes and local character, look at Natural England’s Natural Character Area Profiles;
  • ecological impacts, look at for environmental designations that are relevant;
  • transport issues, refer to the Local Transport Plan;
  • flood risk data is available for free from or by request.
  • climate change and mitigation, look for the authority’s declaration of a climate emergency and associated action plan.
  • Consider other issues such as design, infrastructure, air and water quality, and waste water treatment.

Decide on your action

Depending on your concerns and the strength of policies supporting your view, decide whether to accept, seek amendment, actively support or outright object to the application.

You may feel that the principle of a scheme is okay, but that alteration to the access, design and/or layout of a proposal would reduce harmful impacts. In these cases, you can write a letter of support subject to improvements being agreed. Minor alterations can be made to an application without resubmitting another one – so it’s important to follow the progress of the application carefully. In cases where you oppose the principle and you see the balance between benefit and harm being towards harm you should lodge an objection, stating clearly what harm would be caused and why the authority ought to refuse the grant of permission.

Speak to the planning officer

When you have considered the application details, have read relevant planning policies and have focused your concerns, it may be useful to speak to the planning case officer responsible for the application. Remember that they are doing their job. They have to show balance and consider the application in accordance with stated planning policies. Like you, they are human, and should be treated courteously.

Put your comments in writing and send the letter to the planning authority

If speaking with the planning officer does not satisfy your concerns and you still feel strongly about adverse impacts of a planning application, then write to the planning department. You can either comment online, send an email or a letter. Be as clear and concise as possible, stating why you think the application should be refused. Remember that your objections must relate to relevant issues, so refer to any relevant policies if you can.

Gather support for your views

Think about gathering support from other members of your community, elected representatives within the parish council or local authority. You can also contact your MP. The planning officer will consult other officers in the local planning authority about an application. These will include conservation, highways, public rights of way, ecological and housing officers. If you feel any of these specialists may be able to help, contact them to express your concerns and see if they will raise them in an official capacity with the planning officer.

Depending on the issue, you might consider speaking to statutory agencies such as the Highways Agency, English Heritage, Natural England and the Environment Agency. This will apply particularly to developments affecting designated nature conservation sites or designated landscapes such as the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, listed buildings, and those that are close to water or in flood plains. Community action groups and environmental organisations can also provide valuable support.

Speak at the planning committee meeting

Applications are decided (or “determined”) at either Council planning committees or by planning officers who are allowed to make delegated decisions about small, uncontentious applications.

If the application is being determined by the planning committee, you can speak at the meeting. You must inform the local planning authority beforehand. If you are allowed to speak, you’ll only get three minutes to get your points across. Write a note beforehand, and practice reading it aloud. Don’t over run your allotted time. Committee members might ask questions so make sure you can support your comments with evidence. If you cannot justify what you say, it is best to leave it out as you’ll damage your case if you can’t back up claims.

Appeals and inquiries

Applicants who are refused planning permission have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State against the decision. This will be dealt with by the Government’s Planning Inspectorate. Members of the public affected by a planning decision cannot appeal. Alternatively, a local planning authority may approve an application but defer the final decision to the Secretary of State if it goes against the authority’s policies. The Secretary of State will decide whether the application needs a thorough examination at a public inquiry.

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