Your Roles in the Council
Planning in local authorities is concerned with managing local resources effectively and making sure that development is sustainable and appropriate. All councillors will be involved in some way in the planning process. You will contribute, for example, to steering the development of the Local Development Plan (LDP) which sets the framework for local decision making on land use and its review and monitoring. The adopted Development Plan is the basis upon which planning applications should be decided as it states what the council’s plans are for the area and it will have been subject to significant community involvement and public scrutiny. Members should consider the development of a whole area through collaborative working across sectors and disciplines to create distinctive and vibrant places. This is called placemaking. More information here.
Planning committees are involved in determining whether planning permission should be granted, taking into account the law on development and the requirements of the Local Development Plan. Being on a planning committee can be challenging when it comes to adhering to the Code of Conduct. There are laws that must be followed when making planning decisions. Failure to do so can lead to challenge through the courts, and formal complaints to the Public Services Ombudsman for Wales as well as causing damage to the reputation of the local authority.
Planning committee members must make sure that decisions are soundly based having regard to the relevant legal and policy background.
Even if you are not a member of a planning committee you are very likely to have enquiries from the public about planning issues, so it is important that you know what the planning committee does and how it does it.
Planning applications go through the following stages:
- Pre-application advice (optional for applicants but encouraged).
- Validation, where applications are checked and validated.
- Consultation, Publicity and Notification. All applications are required to be advertised by a site notice or by serving notice on adjoining owners or occupiers. Others, such as community and town councils should also be consulted. There are fixed timescales for this. Local members should be aware of applications in their areas and should contact officers if they need clarification or further information. There is a list of statutory consultees such as Natural Resources Wales and the Highway Authority that are consulted on relevant applications.
- Consideration and Assessment. Determination of the proposal against the adopted plan will be required unless there are material considerations which indicate otherwise. The Government sets a target for making decisions of 8 weeks or 13 weeks for major applications. Many decisions are made under the authority’s delegated powers to officers. Those decisions which are to be made by members will be reported by officers who make a recommendation.
- Recommendation. Officers make a clear written recommendation with a report providing all relevant information to enable members to make an informed decision.
- Permission granted, granted with conditions or legal agreement or refused.
What happens when permission is refused?
Firstly, there must be reasons for refusal which are clearly stated and based on sound planning principles. There can be one or multiple reasons for refusal.
An applicant (not a third party) is entitled to appeal the refusal, and this must be made within 6 months of the decision date. The appeal is dealt with by the Planning Inspectorate for Wales and costs will be incurred by the local planning authority in defending its decision.
If significant proposals raise issues of more than local importance, the Minister has the authority to “call in” the application for determination by Welsh Government. The decision is taken out of the hands of the local authority and usually results in a public inquiry.
Planning law, policies and procedures are challenging and complex. Attending your council induction session will be essential.