5 Tips: Making your voice heard in the planning system

Michelle Lyon, LyonCTP Ltd

There’s plenty of development going on right now…and you will have views on how this development may affect your business. If you think a development proposal will affect your business then it is important that you make your voice heard to those making the decisions.

When a planning application is made you have an opportunity to make a representation to the local council about that development. The local planning authority are statutorily required to consider yours and all the other comments they receive about an application. As a planning officer for 15 years I read numerous letters of representation on planning applications. However, these letters did not always convey an opinion about the development proposal.

Based on my experience below are 5 tips to ensure your representation conveys your opinion on a planning application.

1.    Clearly state your opinion

If you think the development will have benefits say so. Likewise, if you think the development will have a negative impact say so. However, do not assume that those dealing with the application will make inferences from what you have written. The points you state in your email will be taken into account when the application is processed, but assumptions about what you may or may not have been inferring will not be considered.

2.    Provide justification for your opinion

Your opinion will have more weight if it is justified or explained. For example, if you think a development will support existing business in the area then say how it will do this? Or If you think a development will cause traffic problems, explain what these traffic problems will be.

3.    Avoid only asking questions

It can be relevant to ask questions, but don’t assume your question conveys your opinion. You may think you are implying something by asking a question, but a question is very often just a sentence seeking clarification about something. By asking a question you are not actually giving your opinion on a matter. You can always telephone or use the duty officer service at the council if you require clarification about what is being proposed.

4.    Be concise

You do not need to write any more than is necessary to make your point. Be clear and to the point, and try not to be repetitive or to contradict yourself. A planning application can attract anything from no comments at all to hundreds of comments, and the planning officer will read all of them.

5.    Only include comments relevant to the proposed development

Your email will be considered as a representation on a particular development proposal. If there are other local matters that are affecting your business direct these to the relevant department. If you include matters in your email that don’t relate to the proposed development this can result in your comments about the development not being successfully conveyed. The planning department cannot normally help with existing issues with other public services, and you may find the points you make about those matters never reach the person responsible for them.

A representation on a planning application is your opportunity to give your opinion on that development proposal. Your email will only apply to that one application and any subsequent appeal. If further applications are made in the future you will need to write again. Your comments will not automatically be carried over from one application to another.

Its important that the planning system hears from all those that want to comment on a proposal. Following the above 5 tips will help you make sure your voice heard. However, if you have concerns about a proposed development near you and would like further advice please contact me at planning@lyonctp.co.uk .

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