Commenting on planning applications

I thought it might be useful to add a note about making comments on planning applications for housing and other developments.

Formally, there are 21 days to object or support from notification of an application. In practice, Shropshire Council, like most other councils, will accept comments up until shortly before the application is decided. Often it takes months for an application to progress through the system and developers frequently submit revised plans and specialist reports late in the day. The officer report recommending approval or rejection is published one week before the planning committee meets. New objections might arise from the report and residents and other parties can submit supplementary comments.

Only a minority of applications go to planning committee. Most will be decided by officers, so it is best to get comments in early.

You may wish to base your objections on planning rules. The four most relevant are:

  • Material planning considerations (see this guide)
  • Shropshire Council’s planning policies (see the core strategy)
  • National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF)
  • SAMDev (see below).

But you don’t need to wade through these pages of impenetrable jargon. When local people look at a landscape, they see it through informed eyes. This is often the greatest contribution that residents bring to the planning process. They understand locality and context in a way a planning committee often cannot.

Whether you wish to speak from the heart or write a technical letter of support or objection, your comments are valued.

Writing as a member of the South Planning Committee, I can assure people that comments are read diligently by committee members. Even if we don’t agree with objections and letters of support, we do value hearing peoples’ views.

You can comment in three ways. These details are for the south of the county:

Your three minutes

Objectors and supporters can get their chance to speak to the committee. At the planning committee, Shropshire Council allocates a slot for people who want to speak either way. This is not an invitation for dozens of people to turn up to speak. There is no legal right to address the committee. Shropshire Council follows customary practice of allowing three minutes to speakers. You must book in advance.

When objections are raised, most town and parish councils send a representative. Often someone will come to voice community concerns. The planning applicant or the agent for the applicant will speak last.

The committee secretary will allow representatives of different viewpoints in favour or against a scheme. Usually only two or maybe three are allowed to speak and they need to give different perspectives. That may mean you need to coordinate protest or supporting actions.

Rules on committee speaking.

SAMDev

SAMDev is the code name for a plan that allocates sites for housing and employment across Shropshire. It has been adopted by Shropshire Council and is the definitive plan for Shropshire.  Here is what SAMDev means for Ludlow.

When is a planning application considered by committee?

Only a small number of applications are considered by committee, probably no more than 200 applications a year. Committees only normally consider controversial or complex applications, though these may range in size from a house extension to a huge housing estate or shopping complex.

Applications might be “called in” if the parish council objects (or supports where the case office objects, although that is rare). The local Shropshire councillor can also request call in. This usually has to be done within 21 days of the councillor being notified. Final decisions on what is considered by committee are made by planning managers and committee chairs. Further details…

Emailing committee members

There is nothing to stop members of the public emailing comments directly to committee members but at times us councillors get bombarded with huge numbers of emails. As many of these duplicate comments already made on Shropshire Council’s planning portal they can distract members from detailed scrutiny of the application and the technical reports that accompany it.

Councillors do read the comments on the planning portal and the major points are summarised by officers. My advice would be to restrict emails to substantive points and matters that need to be raised late in the day; for example, when new evidence emerges or the officers’ report needs to be challenged on specific and material points.

There is no need, and it is not particularly helpful, to send your comments both to the planning portal and by email to committee members.

Why I can’t vote on some applications

In 2014, Shropshire Council introduced a rule that councillors that sit on planning committees can’t vote on planning applications in the area they represent. If there is a planning application for Ludlow North I will get a chance to make my views known to the committee and then I must leave the room before the committee debates the application.

Planning applications and heritage

See: Listed buildings, conservation areas and planning