The planning application process can sometimes be complicated and difficult to understand. This guide is intended to help people unfamiliar with the process to understand what they need to consider when preparing an application and what happens after it has been submitted to us.
It sets out a simplified version of the different stages of the process. For those who are interested in finding out more about the decision-making process, the Planning Portal national website is a helpful resource and provides further general advice on the planning process.
Sections in this guide (click title to view)
- 1. Before you submit an application
- 2. Preparing and submitting your application
- 3. Validation of your application
- 4. Consultation on your application
- 5. Assessing your application
- 6. How we make our decision
- 7. Our decision and the next steps
1. Before you submit an application
If you are considering doing works to a property you should find out whether you need planning permission before you begin making changes. In some cases it is not necessary to apply to us for planning permission because works benefit from ‘permitted development’. We offer online advice on permitted development and whether permission is required. The Planning Portal also provides very useful guides on many common projects.
Most people planning a development project, whether it is a home extension or a large residential or commercial scheme, will employ an architect or planning agent to work up possible options and then develop detailed plans. Architects and planning agents can also advise whether you will need planning permission or any other formal consents and, if necessary, submit applications on your behalf.
Where planning permission is required, you may find that pre-application advice is helpful as it will indicate whether your proposal is likely to be acceptable, or what changes you might need to make for it to be acceptable in planning terms.
We offer a paid pre-application advice service for all application types and encourage applicants, developers and their agents to engage with this service, particularly for major development proposals.
Our pre-application advice will explain how our policies will be applied to your proposal, and include input from other council teams where necessary. Pre-application advice can avoid working up proposals for development which are not likely to obtain permission and help reduce the time spent in obtaining a buildable permission.
We also recommend that as you develop your plans you set aside some time to discuss them with your neighbours or the local community. Their views can be used to shape a proposal into one that is more acceptable to all parties.
2. Preparing and submitting your application
If you do need planning permission or another planning consent for your development you must submit an application to us. Even if you do not think you require our formal permission you may decide that you want to apply for a certificate of lawful development for peace of mind.
When preparing your application please ensure you complete the application form carefully and review the guidance about the information that should be submitted with your application, including the notes that accompany your application form and our Local Planning Application Requirements. Around half of the applications we receive are found to be incomplete (‘invalid’ in planning speak) as the forms have not been completed properly, the fee is incorrect, or there are errors or omissions in the supporting documents – our list of ten reasons for ‘invalid’ applications shows the most common pitfalls to be avoided.
We recommend you submit your application online through the Planning Portal but it also possible to send it to us by post, however from a sustainability perspective our preference always is to receive applications electronically.
3. Validation of your application
Once we receive your application it is checked by officers to make sure we have enough information to properly assess it, in other words to make sure it is a ‘valid’ application. The validation process will normally happen within five days of us receiving your application, however in busy periods this can take longer.
If we have what we need we will write to you or your representative to let you know who your case officer will be and their contact details. Your case officer will be your point of contact with us throughout the rest of the application process. We will also give our target date for a decision on your application which will usually be either eight weeks (for smaller applications, house extensions etc.) or thirteen weeks (for larger developments ten or more new flats etc.).
If there are any errors in your submitted application or any of the required supporting information is missing, we will write to you or your representative explaining that your application is ‘invalid’ and listing the further information we require before we will begin to assess it. If the further information is not supplied within 35 days we will return your application to you without assessment.
The date that we receive all the necessary information to process an application marks the starting point for our assessment of the application, also known as the ‘valid date’. If no additional information is required the valid date will be the date we originally received your application.
4. Consultation on your application
When your application has been registered as ‘valid’ we will publicise and consult on it.
Our policies for consultation on planning applications are set out within our Statement of Community Involvement. The extent of consultation is proportionate to the nature and scale of development proposed and, depending on the type of application, we may consult using one or more of the following methods:
- Individual letters to neighbours
- A site notice - usually attached to a lamp post or other fixture near to the site
- Press adverts - local newspaper
We may also consult specialist teams within the council such as; conservation and design, policy, transport or environmental health, or ask external organisations such as Historic England and Transport for London for their views on a development. If the site of the application is near the boundary with another London borough, we may also consult that borough.
Applications that require public consultation allow 21 days for responses to be submitted
Anyone can submit comments on a current planning application regardless of whether or not they were personally consulted or if they live nearby.
When we assess applications, we can only take into account comments that concern relevant material planning considerations and not those based on personal dislikes, grievances, non-planning issues associated with nuisance claims or legal disputes, etc.
Examples of material considerations can include:
- Siting, design and external appearance of the proposed development (for example, the height or bulk in relation to neighbouring properties)
- Loss of sunlight, daylight or outlook
- Loss of privacy
- Likelihood of undue noise, or fumes
- Adequacy of proposed parking and access arrangements
- Effect of additional traffic
- Effect on trees
- Landscaping and proposals for boundary treatment (walls or fences)
Remedy for objections or complaints to a proposed development that are not planning related should normally be sought under civil law rather than planning law. Examples of objections which are generally not planning related and which will not normally be taken into account in our assessment of an application include:
- Effect on property values
- Loss of a private view
- Noise, disturbance or inconvenience resulting from construction works (this is covered by the Control of Pollution Act)
- Boundary disputes (including party wall agreement issues)
- Restrictive covenants (including rights to light)
- Opposition to business competition
- Applicant’s personal circumstances (unless these can be show to be relevant in planning terms, for example, the provision of disabled facilities)
- Opposition to the principle of development for which outline planning permission has already been granted
Comments may be submitted online through our planning application database, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or in writing. When submitting your comments by email or letter, please remember to quote the reference number of the application and your name and address.
We do not accept anonymous comments on applications, and any anonymous comments received will not be considered in our evaluation of an application. Please note that by law your comments, including your name and address, are open to inspection by the public, and in the event of an appeal may be passed on to the Secretary of State.
5. Assessing your application
The case officer will begin assessing the application when it arrives, but cannot make a full assessment of the proposal until after the consultation period has ended as they will need to take into account any representations made by consultation respondents. For many cases an officer will visit the site as a part of the assessment process and they may contact the applicant or agent to arrange access for the visit. The officer will complete a full evaluation of the application assessing it against all relevant planning policies in the local development plan, assessing issues such as:
- Land use and the loss or increase of a particular type of use of land
- Design and layout
- External appearance and materials
- Impact on the amenities of neighbours (for example, loss of daylight, sunlight and privacy)
- Transport and parking issues
- Access for disabled people
The case officer will also consider other material considerations such as:
- The advice and comments received in the consultation period
- Observations from visiting the site
By this stage it will be clear whether a Section 106 planning obligation will be necessary to make development acceptable if it would otherwise be unacceptable in planning terms.
The case officer for the application will write a report setting out their assessment of the proposal which will recommend that planning permission is either granted or refused. It will also set out if there are any conditions attached to that permission which must be complied with and if a S106 planning obligation is required. In most cases if a S106 planning obligation is necessary the case officer will have advised you of this earlier in the process.
6. How we make our decision
Our final decision on an application can be made either:
- under delegated powers, or
- by the Planning Applications Committee.
Under the terms of reference set out in the council’s constitution the Planning Applications Committee have given delegated powers to senior planning officers to make the final decision on applications for smaller scale developments (for example, alterations and small extensions to existing properties, conversions, and straightforward changes of use) or refusals of permission. Delegated decisions can be made more quickly and efficiently as they do not have to wait their turn to be heard at the Planning Applications Committee.
Our Planning Applications Committee meets every three or four weeks and is open to the public. The applications decided there are usually larger scale developments, or controversial changes of use such as applications involving takeaway uses, that have been recommended for approval. Full details of the working of the committee, including the committee members, the terms of reference, a calendar of meetings, and a full list of applications that will be determined by the committee, are available on our Planning Applications Committee pages.
Once a decision is made, formal decision letters are sent out to the applicant and all objectors as soon as possible.
You can check whether a decision on a particular application has been made by using our online planning application database. To do this, you will require the address of the application site or, preferably, the correct application reference number.
7. Our decision and the next steps
Most applications that are given permission are granted subject to conditions. These conditions can control aspects of the future development or require the submission of further details of elements of the scheme for approval. Some of these conditions may need to be formally ‘approved’ by us before you start works, others may not need to be submitted till further into the build, but the condition will clearly state this. It is very important that you do not breach the requirements of the conditions as this may result in enforcement action.
Before you start work you should also get building regulations approval. Building regulations are separate from planning permission and exist to ensure the health and safety of people in and around buildings, provide for energy conservation, and for access and facilities for disabled people.
If you submit an application and it is not decided by its target decision date, or if you disagree with the decision that we make, you have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State within a limited time period. This is usually six months from the date of the decision or the date the decision should have been made. Further details of the planning application appeal process are attached to our decision notices and can also be found on our appeal page.
Alternatively, if your application is refused you can also make a new application, taking into account our reasons for refusal. We recommend that you engage with our paid pre-application advice service so that we can discuss your revised proposals and their chances of success, before you resubmit.