Your local Councillors have a key role in the planning system by:
- making sure that local residents are involved in planning, by acting as a liaison between our communities and the council and raising local issues, and helping residents to understand what the council is doing;
- by helping to set the direction of the Council’s planning policy;
- by being a decision maker on the planning committee; committees generally deal with around 5-10 per cent of the applications determined, usually the most strategic and complex proposals.
When a planning application is received, it will checked by Council officers to make sure that all the relevant information and fee has been submitted.
The application will then be publicised (using methods such as site notices and notifying neighbours, or a notice in the newspaper) so that people have the chance to express their views. The specific publicity requirements will depend on the type of application.
Residents normally have 21 days to respond and make comments on the application. Written comments will be taken into account when a decision is made.
A Council usually has up to eight weeks to make a decision on minor planning applications, which include most household cases, and up to 13 weeks for major development such as large housing or business sites. This can be longer when agreed with the applicant.
Most planning applications are decided by planning officers under delegated authority powers with only the more complex, large or controversial applications coming to the planning committee for decision.
More than 90 per cent of applications received by the Council are straightforward and decided by officers.
Planning legislation requires that applications should be decided in line with the policies of the local development plan, unless some other material planning consideration persuades you to make a decision contrary to the development plan policies
The Planning Committee at Bury Council is made up of 13 local Councillors from across Bury. There are currently 8 Labour, 4 Conservatives and 1 Lib Dem Councillor. This is based on the proportion of Councillors that each political party has on Bury Council.
When approaching a planning decision Councillors will:
- read and understand the officer’s report, which will set out the description and context for the planning application, outline the relevant policies and responses received , and will then analyse the proposal against relevant policies and material considerations before putting forward a recommendation on the application (ie to grant or refuse permission)
- seek clarification on any matters they are concerned or unclear about
- listen to the presentations and any representations at committee, listen and contribute to the debate
- come to a view on the proposal, in line with the planning policies and other material considerations.
The following material considerations are relevant in most planning applications:
- national planning policy and guidance
- environmental impacts of the proposal (eg impact on ecology or landscape value),
- social impacts (eg loss of privacy, light or overshadowing) , and
- economic impacts of the proposal
- access (including disabled persons access) and provision of infrastructure for the site
- the design and appearance of the proposal
- the planning history of the site
- the views of organisations and individuals in relation to relevant planning matters
- the likelihood that the development will be delivered (especially including economic viability).
The following issues are not material considerations for planning decisions:
- loss of views
- negative impact on property values
- competition between individual businesses
- moral considerations (eg religious objections to licenced premises)
- political opinions
- the cost of the development
- whether or not the applicant owns the site
- issues covered by other legislation (eg building regulations)
- the character of the applicant.
At planning committees, officers advise, councillors decide.
Planning committees can and, at times, do make a decision that is different from the officer recommendation. There is nothing wrong with this provided that the decision is based on proper planning grounds, and accords with planning policy unless material considerations dictate otherwise.
Bias, predisposition and predetermination
Pre-determination is where a councillor has a “closed mind” i.e. their mind is made up before having the opportunity to hear or consider all the relevant matters at committee.
This could leave the committees decision susceptible to challenge by a judicial review. If a councillor has predetermined their position, they must withdraw from decision making for that matter.
Predisposition is where a councillor may be predisposed – ie have an opinion – on a matter before it comes to committee, but provided they remain open to listening to all the arguments presented at the meeting and the possibility of changing their mind as a result, they can still make a decision on the planning application.
The Localism Act 2011 places requirements on councillors regarding the registration and disclosure of their interests in a planning application – whether they know the applicant, have a financial interest in the planning etc – and then leaving the planning meeting. Failure to disclose this is a criminal offence. Ultimately, responsibility for fulfilling the requirements rests with each councillor
Planning applications can be approved, approved with conditions, or refused.
Planning conditions can be used to make an otherwise unacceptable development acceptable.
Planning decisions can also be made by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government (on a small number of decisions through the appeals system, the call-in process and decisions on nationally significant infrastructure projects); and the Planning Inspectorate (PIN), a government agency responsible for deciding most appeals on behalf of the Secretary of State.