Planning appeals

Whilst the planning system aims to encourage development of our surroundings in a sustainable way that does not mean that every development proposal will prove acceptable. Society’s need for development has to be met with minimal harm to the environment and issues of public importance.

This means that the Council has to refuse some applications. About 10% of applications are refused.

The Council encourages pre-application discussions on proposed development which aims to ensure that an acceptable form of development can be identified. There are always cases however where agreement cannot be achieved.

It is through the pre-application process that we seek to negotiate improvements to proposals. Once an application is submitted there is limited time to negotiate further improvements.

If planning officers consider that minor amendment of an application would prevent refusal, they will normally offer the applicant an opportunity to make the necessary changes, provided there is sufficient time for the change to be made.

If the necessary amendment would significantly alter the nature of the proposal, it is best to leave it to a new application. If a refusal is made on a point of principle, for example, because of conflict with Green Belt policy, no amendment may be acceptable.

Sometimes the Council grants permission but subject to conditions which the applicant may find unacceptable. In those cases, there is a right of appeal against the condition(s). The administrative arrangements for such an appeal are the same as for a refusal of permission, as set out below.

If your planning application has been refused

You (the applicant) can appeal against the Council’s refusal. The law does not give this right of appeal to anyone else. However, you should first decide whether an appeal is necessary.

The Council has outlined the reason(s) for refusing permission (or imposing condition/s) in its decision notice. This includes the planning policies that your application was held to contravene. It may help to read the planning officer’s report to understand the decision better. You can view the report and decision notice on the planning application search page. Alternatively, to obtain a copy of the report call the Contact Centre on 01737 276000.

Reading the report and, if necessary, speaking with the planning case officer involved should give you an indication of whether a revised application would stand a better chance of success. If this option sounds promising, you can submit a new application.

If the proposal is sufficiently similar and submitted within one year of the date of submission of the original application, you will not need to pay another fee for the second application. The planning case officer will be able to advise on this.

In the event of an application being refused, planning officers will meet the applicant or their agent once to discuss a revised proposal that addresses the reasons for refusal. Prior submission of amended plans (in sketch or full form) will be an essential pre-requisite. It is important to note that a better result cannot be guaranteed.

As with pre-application discussion, further research or inspection of the site will not be possible and any liaison with potential consultees (e.g. the Highway Authority) will be minimal.

Your Right of Appeal

If it seems unlikely that you can reach agreement with the Council you can exercise your right of appeal to the Planning Inspectorate.

The Planning Inspectorate is a Government agency based in Bristol charged with deciding planning appeals on behalf of ministers.

The Council’s refusal notice will have given you details of how to contact the Planning Inspectorate and your appeal must reach their Bristol office within six months of the Council’s refusal if your application is not householder development. If it is a householder development the time limit for submitting an appeal is three months from the date of decision. There is currently no fee involved. For a full list of planning appeal time limits, please see the  Planning Inspectorate webpage

Very rarely a Government minister decides an appeal. Inspectors decide the vast majority. Your appeal can be considered in three ways:

Written representations

This is the most popular form of appeal and, as the name suggests, involves submission of written statements. This method has the advantages of being relatively quick and inexpensive.

From 6 April 2009 there has been a process change if your appeal involves householder development or tree works. These appeals are now dealt with entirely online. See the Planning Inspectorate website to see what you will need to do if you wish to appeal cases like this.

Hearing

If you want to present your case to the Inspector in person, this method allows you to do it in an informal way, without going to great expense. You will need to submit a written statement before the hearing. Hearings are usually held at the Town Hall, and the Inspector will lead you and the Council’s planning officer in a round table discussion of the case. They will not make a decision on the day, but will send it to you in writing later.

Public inquiry

This is the most formal and expensive method, and is also the slowest. It involves presentation of your case and the Council’s to the Inspector and each side can cross-examine the others expert witnesses.

Public Inquiries are usually held at the Town Hall. In some ways the process is like a court, with the Inspector acting as a judge.

You will probably need to engage a lawyer or professional town planner to represent you and to cross-examine the Council’s witnesses, although this is not essential.

The Appeal process

Other interested parties such as neighbours will be informed of the appeal and given the right to submit their views in writing or in person, depending on the method of appeal.

All three appeal methods involve a site inspection. The Inspector will not allow any arguments to be put to them on site.

Appealing can be a lengthy and costly business. It is possible for one party to make a claim to recover some or all of its costs of the appeal from the other party.

The Council will seek to reclaim its costs in appropriate cases.

To be successful, a claim for costs must satisfy the Inspector that the other side acted unreasonably. That is not the same as the Inspector finding fault with the Council’s decision and allowing your appeal. In fact it is possible to win an appeal and lose costs, or vice versa.

About a third of appeals are successful. It is important to note that the Inspector is entitled to make his or her decision as he/she sees fit.

Therefore he or she may find your proposal unacceptable for different reasons to the Council. If your appeal is dismissed, the Inspector may give an indication of what alternative proposal would meet with their approval. If this happens the Council’s planning officers will discuss that alternative with you.

For more information on the appeal process see the Planning Inspectorate guide ‘Making your appeal - How to complete your planning appeal form - England (March 2013)

The Planning Portal offers further guidance on appeals.

Complaints

With the best will in the world sometimes things go wrong. If you are dissatisfied with the service you have received please tell us and we may be able to put it right.

If not, you may lodge a formal complaint. Details of this are also available from the Town Hall.

The Council’s complaint procedure is not designed to review the merits of decisions that were properly taken (e.g. to refuse planning permission) and does not prejudice your right to complain through the Local Government Ombudsman website

There is a different procedure for complaints about councillors. If you feel that a Councillor has failed to follow the Code of Conduct and wish to make a complaint, you will need to complete the online Councillor complaints form.