Consultation Draft Statement of Community Involvement 2018
7. Planning Applications
7.1 Involvement of the community and stakeholders at an early stage of the planning application process is of great benefit to the public, organisations, authorities and the applicant themselves. The following section explains how the Council will seek to encourage awareness and involvement in the planning application process, starting with pre-application discussions and continuing through to the planning application stage, and in some cases, the planning appeal stage.
Before Submitting a Planning Application
7.2 Before submitting a planning application applicants are recommended to consult with immediate neighbours and people who may be affected by proposals. For major applications (such as housing schemes of 10 or more dwellings) we strongly recommend additional measures to engage with the local community. Such measures should be proportionate to the scale of the proposed development and could include:
- Consultation events with the local community;
- Consultation with elected members, town and parish councillors;
- Making detailed plans available for public view (including online on a website);
- Press notices/leaflets or letters to nearby residents.
7.3 This should be effective in bringing draft proposals to the attention of the public, the local Town or Parish Council and other affected parties and provide opportunity to make comments. The purpose of early discussions between the community and developers is to encourage agreement within the community early on in the process and provide a better chance for schemes to be positively received. This process can benefit both parties. For developers it will ensure that key issues are addressed prior to planning applications being submitted and for the local community it will enable them to have an influence before proposals reach an advanced stage.
7.4 It is essential that any community involvement conducted by the developers be tailored to the nature and scale of the proposal. A broad list of consultation and community involvement methods is provided in appendix 2, along with details of when they are most suitable, their advantages and disadvantages, and resource implications.
7.5 The Council will expect the applicant to submit details of pre-application consultation as well as an explanation on how responses have been taken into account, alongside their planning application. In some cases it can also be a validation consideration, whereby applications will not be processed unless the Council is satisfied that adequate consultation has been undertaken by the developers.
7.6 The Council will engage in pre-application discussions with the developer that are often undertaken in confidence because of the various sensitivities of some schemes at this stage, but discussions are always recorded and are without prejudice to the later application. At this stage, the Council will be in a position to advise developers and help clarify the format, type and level of consultation to be undertaken. The Council has a schedule of charges for preliminary enquiries and pre-application advice. As part of this process we will also seek to engage elected members through our "Early Member Engagement Protocol" wherever this is applicable. This Protocol forms part of the Council's Constitution and can be read online.
7.7 In the case of larger applications the Council operates a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) approach. Details of the applicable charges are available on the Council's website. A PPA is an agreement between the Council and applicants to provide a project management framework for major applications that may exceed the 13-week period for the determination of major applications. The PPA sets out the targets agreed by both parties for the levels and types of consultation required, information gathering process, consideration of options and agreement on design issues.
Submission of a planning application
7.8 The process of deciding planning applications is often of great public and local interest, and comments on proposals are welcomed. When deciding which applications are classed as major applications and therefore subject to wider community consultation in line with the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) (England) Order 2015 (as amended), the Government sets out the following criteria:
- Residential developments comprising 10 or more dwellings;
- A site area of 0.5 hectares or more where the number of dwellings is unknown;
- Commercial proposals creating more than 1,000 square metres of floor space or on sites of 1 hectare or more; or
- A change of use application involving the above.
7.9 The Government sets targets for the time taken to determine planning applications. These are currently 13 weeks for major applications and 8 weeks for all others. If an Environmental Impact Assessment is required as a result of the scale of development then this period will extend to 16 weeks, but this is not common. Before a decision is made, the case officer will prepare a report with a recommendation.
7.10 The recommendation will take into account the adopted Development Plan, the National Planning Policy Framework and any comments made by consultees and the public. However, the Council can only take into account comments relating to material planning considerations, which exclude non-planning considerations such as property values, loss of a private view over land, moral objections to development and commercial considerations.
7.11 The level of consultation carried out for all major planning applications, will be determined by the council to ensure that it is appropriate. Statutory advertisements will be used as a means of consultation if required and as laid out in legislation, which means that it may be necessary to publish an advertisement in the newspaper and on a site notice to be displayed at the application site. We also recognise that any involvement will need to encourage participation and social inclusion to ensure that the local community is given every opportunity to influence the process.
6.12 A weekly list of all applications received appears on the council's website. Individual letters/emails will be sent in respect of every planning application where neighbouring properties/businesses can be identified. Parish and town councils will be consulted on every application within their parish boundaries. Where Neighbourhood Plans exist or are advanced in their preparation, relevant Groups / Forums will be consulted on all planning applications (and alterations to applications) within the Plan Area. Similarly, the elected ward members will be consulted on applications that fall within their wards.
7.13 It is important to note that whilst statutory requirements are met in all instances, the types of discretionary methods used and the length of consultation will need to suit the type of application and therefore the methods listed above are provided as a guideline of how we may consult, but is in no means intended to be prescriptive or exhaustive.
7.14 With regard to all other types of applications, officers will determine the appropriate level of consultation. Individual letters/emails will be sent to neighbouring properties/businesses and/or site notices used. Parish and town councils will be consulted on every application in their parish and where Neighbourhood Plans exist or are advanced in their preparation, relevant Groups / Forums will be consulted on all planning applications (and alterations to applications) within the Plan Area. Similarly, the elected ward members will be consulted on applications that fall within their wards. All the planning applications appear on the website.
Sources of Information on applications
7.15 Information on planning applications can be found in the following places:
The Planning Register
7.16 Applications for planning permission must by law, be entered on a register within 14 days of receipt. Maintaining a planning register is a statutory obligation imposed on the Council by the Town and Country Planning Acts and the information is available for inspection by arrangement during office hours. In Colchester, all applications are held in an electronic format, and the register consists of two parts:
- A register containing details of all current applications for planning permission, including plans and drawings;
- A register that contains a permanent record of all applications and decisions since 1 July 1948 (including any order made, appeals and their outcome).
7.17 Current planning applications, including plans and drawings and those dating back to the year 2000 can be viewed online using the Colchester Planning website. For those who do not have access to a computer the Council provides appropriate terminals at its Customer Service Centre for public use.
7.18 The statutory register does have limitations for general use and accordingly we also produce a weekly list. As the name suggests, this is a list of all new applications registered and decisions made the previous week.
7.19 Regulations set out in the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure) Order 2015 (as amended), the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Regulations and the Planning (Listed Building and Conservation Areas) Act 1990, state that all planning applications need to be publicised, either by site notice or individual neighbour notification. A press notice and site notice is also required for the following types of application:
- Erection of 10 or more dwellings or site area of 0.5 hectares or more;
- Erection of 1000 square metres of floor space, or site area of 1 hectare or more;
- An application subject of an environmental assessment;
- An application that would affect a right of way, under Part III of the Wildlife and Countryside Act;
- Development affecting listed buildings;
- Development affecting the character or appearance of a conservation area; and
- Departures from the Development Plan.
7.20 These requirements are subject to change and a press notice will only be used where required by legislation.
7.21 We are aware of the need to provide an effective and efficient service, and to ensure that budgets are closely controlled. It is sometimes difficult to bring together these objectives with widespread public consultation on planning applications. The actual extent of consultation in each case will be determined having regard to the type of development involved.
7.22 Letters will only usually be sent to those properties directly affected by a proposal, which according to the Development Management Procedure Order 2015 is any adjoining owner or occupier. "Adjoining owner or occupier" means any land sharing a common boundary with the application site. Any further consultation will be at the discretion of the case officer. For example, in the case of rear extensions those to the rear will be consulted whilst those on the opposite side of the road may not be.
Parish and Town Councils
7.23 The Council is committed to close working with local representative bodies, as provided within part 8 of the Constitution. We have set up a forum for parish and town council clerks, which is held every two months. Although this is a corporate initiative there is opportunity to report on planning matters on a regular basis.
7.24 Planning workshops for Town and Parish Councillors include workshops on subjects including, material considerations, influencing the planning process, enforcement, appeals, planning law, design, legal obligations etc. These are usually held annually, while individual Parishes/Towns can ask for liaison meetings in between if they wish to discuss specific issues.
7.25 Our website is increasingly being used as a tool for consultation. The website includes weekly lists of applications received and decisions made. These can be viewed by application number, address or by ward and comments can be sent direct. Committee agendas, reports, S106 agreements, planning enforcement activity and associated notices and a list of current appeals and appeal decisions can also be viewed. The Colchester Planning Online website now allows copies of the application forms, plans and drawings, and consultation comments to be viewed online. All enquiries can be made online, while a number of questions can be answered through self-service information.
Procedure for Dealing with Written Representations to Applications
7.26 We currently notify neighbours within a week of registering a planning application and they are given 21 days to reply. All those wishing to comment on an application are encouraged to do so electronically using the Council's 'on-line planning' website. Whilst we will accept written letters and e-mails we will not acknowledge their receipt. Any representation received is redacted and placed on the Council's 'on-line planning' website and is available for viewing by the public. This also allows those people sending such representations to check safe receipt by the Council for themselves.
7.27 The Planning Service does not respond in writing to comments about a planning application unless specifically requested, but all comments received are considered by the case officer, which may result in the application being revised. If the scheme is significantly changed or changed in a manner deemed to have a greater impact upon neighbours than the original submission we will try to repeat the consultation allowing, where possible, an extra 7-14 days for further comments (at the discretion of the case officer). Sometimes time constraints mean a shorter period is given for comments on revised plans and sometimes it is not possible to re-consult at all.