Planning Objections – What should you include?

The vast majority of my planning instructions come in the form of someone seeking to secure planning consent for a proposal.  Some, however, are quite the opposite in the form of being instructed to actively oppose an application which, more often than not, is adjacent or in close proximity to my client’s home, land or business.

I would start by saying, as with all my work, that if I don’t feel that I can help I will not take the instruction.  I will never create a job for the sake of a fee – I am very fortunate at the moment to have plenty to do and it is my nature to be brutally honest.

By way of example I was recently contacted by a potential client who wished to object to a barn conversion proposed on their neighbour’s land.  Having taken a quick look at the site history and the submissions I felt that there was nothing which could be validly objected to, in this case the concerns were mainly with a view and also privacy.  Given the distance of the proposals and the orientation of the buildings in question I could not see a valid objection on this basis given standard separation distances for back to back (facing) development as a rough guide.  Whilst I took the time to explain this to the potential client I declined to submit an objection as there was nothing I felt I could add and I felt it would be a waste of their money.  They would be more than capable, if they still wished, of writing to the case officer to outline their concerns without my input.

Planning, as a process, is one which actively encourages public engagement at varying stages depending on the scale or type of application.  For the more standard applications (which are typically eight weeks in process) there is a twenty one day consultation period.  Neighbours are notified of a proposal and given a time period in which to make representations should they wish and it is usually at this point where I am contacted with regard to structuring and/or supporting an objection.

I, personally, will only submit objections based upon material planning considerations and/or policy based issues.  I will not include all matters raised unless they are all of relevance.  This can be tricky to explain to some people as their concerns are often not a planning consideration (for example, loss of property value).  Planning is quite a clinical process and it is important to strike a balance as more often than not people are, understandably, wishing to voice their concerns and/or defend matters which often relate to one of the most expensive assets they own.

So – what are relevant planning considerations?  These can include, but are not limited to:

  • Overlooking/loss of privacy, loss of light or overshadowing (often grouped as “neighbouring amenity”)
  • Highway safety (traffic, parking, general access)
  • Noise
  • Effect on setting of a listed building and conservation area
  • Layout and density of building
  • Design, appearance and materials
  • Government policy
  • Disabled persons’ access
  • Proposals in the Development Plan (including emerging plans which, depending on their stage, can be given weight)
  • Impact upon protected species.

Previous planning decisions, and appeal decisions, can be a material consideration but it is key to note that each case is considered on its own merits and furthermore there must be some similarity between proposals to carry weight.  The starting point for the determination of any application is the Local Plan in force at the determination in accordance with s S38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004.

What are not relevant planning considerations?  The most common matters raised which are of no relevance includes:

  • Loss of a view
  • Negative impact upon property values
  • Boundary disputes
  • Commercial competition.

It is important to keep objections structured to the relevant points for your objection to hold the most weight and it is equally important to keep emotive matters, of limited relevance, out of correspondence.

I have experience working with individuals and groups to structure objections to proposals across varying local authorities and work relatively flexibly in that I can do this in two ways.  The first is to assist them in identifying matters of relevance and, where particularly policy based, assist with the wording of certain sections.  The second is to write an entire objection from scratch based on my professional opinion which is approved by the client(s) prior to submission on their behalf.

Applications are generally determined under delegated powers (by an officer), however, there is also the opportunity for them to be determined by a planning committee.  At a planning committee objectors do have the right to address the committee (virtually these days!) and they are generally given a time slot which is around three minutes.  I can, and do, attend planning committee meetings on behalf of objectors to speak in this time slot on their behalf.  Three minutes goes very, very fast and it can take a little practice to address the main points within such a short timescale.  Similarly I have prepared committee “speeches” for objectors to simply read out at committee if they do wish to speak themselves, but ensure they are raising the right points in the right amount of time.

Hopefully the above assists you in seeing both how I work and also how to approach an objection the most cost effective way if it is to hold weight within the determination of any application.  If you have any queries regarding objections, or any planning matter, please do use the contact details on the contact page to get in touch!