How to respond to a planning application

Many residents, as well as the Town Council, will wish to comment on planning applications submitted to Tunbridge Wells Borough Council.  Whilst many will have views on these proposals, when determining the planning applications Tunbridge Wells Borough Council can only take into account planning law. 

You may respond to planning applications in writing, by email, via the Borough Council planning website or in person by registering to speak at a planning meeting if the application is being considered by the committee. Only a minority of applications are considered by the committee.

The Town Council will have to take planning law into account as well when considering its response to any consultations.

Planning law is quite explicit.  Comments which relate to planning (material considerations) will be taken into account.  There is little point in including non-material considerations when responding to a consultation as the planning authority (Tunbridge Wells Borough Council) must disregard them.

So what is a material consideration?

There is no legal definition of a material consideration.  In practice it has, therefore, been up to the courts to determine what is and what is not a material consideration.

Examples of a material consideration are as follows:

* Government policy, especially planning policy

* Local planning policy e.g. Local Plan or Neighbourhood Plan

* Impact on access, parking or road safety

* Views of statutory and other consultees

* Visual impact

* Overshadowing

* Lay out

* Affect on listed building, conservation area or tree preservation order

* Impact on the local economy

* Impact on community life

* Design/ appearance

* Noise/smell

* Planning site history.

Non material considerations include:

* History/character of the applicant

* Reason or motives of the applicant making the application

* Impact on an individual

* Commercial or business competition

* Impact on property values

* Civil matters e.g. restrictive covenants

* Ownership of land

* Matters of decency or taste

* Matters which relate to other regulatory regimes such as Building Standards or Health and Safety

* Loss of a view

When commenting on a planning application it is a good idea to substantiate any comment you may make.  If you do not believe an application is in accordance with government policy, state which policy you think it contravenes.  If you consider that the design or a building is unpleasant, out of character or overbearing then say so and why.

Bear in mind if you comment on technical issues such as highway safety or flooding other agencies such as the Highway Authority or Environment Agency will also have been consulted and will have given their professional opinion.

The rules on material considerations will apply whether the application is for an extension next door or a new housing development.

This is just a brief overview on how to respond to a planning application and further more detailed information can be obtained from the following websites:

How to register to be notified of local planning applications and how to respond to planning applications

http://tunbridgewells.gov.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0017/132038/Final-Procedure-on-Public-notification-of-applications-24.03.17.pdf

More information on the planning system

http://planninghelp.cpre.org.uk/

May 2017