In some cases, special rules apply to how local planning authorities consider planning applications.
To comment effectively on a planning application, you should be aware if a development:
You should pay particular attention to planning applications falling under any of the four categories below. Your comments in these cases are likely to be especially valuable:
It's more likely that a development will face stricter planning controls in some areas as opposed to others.
For example, in conservation areas there are typically stricter than usual controls over buildings, satellite dishes, work to trees including felling, and demolitions. In national parks and the Broads, fish farming and extensions to farm buildings are more tightly controlled. In Green Belt areas, inappropriate development is generally not allowed (government policy on Green Belts explains what 'inappropriate development' is).
In general, special rules apply in National Parks and the Broads; Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; conservation areas; internationally important wildlife conservation sites - Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and Ramsar sites; sites designated as nationally important for wildlife or geology, such as National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest; and Green Belts.
As well as planning permission, some kinds of development need consent under other legislation:
Listed buildings and conservation areas benefit from extra controls under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act (1990). Buildings are 'listed' for their special architectural or historic interest. Any proposal to alter or demolish a listed building needs listed building consent. Within a conservation area, 'conservation area consent' is needed to demolish most unlisted buildings, structures and trees.
Hedgerows that are deemed ecologically or historically valuable have some protection under the Hedgerows Regulations (1997). Anyone intending to remove a rural hedge must notify the local planning authority, which has 42 days to decide whether to issue a hedgerow retention notice to stop the removal. Local authorities don't have to publicise plans for hedgerow removal, but must keep a public register.
Tree preservation orders can be used to protect a group of or individual trees from damage or felling without the local planning authority's consent. Your local planning authority should be able to provide details of trees covered by preservation orders in your area.
The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations (1992) control outdoor advertisements. Many outdoor advertisements need 'advertisement consent'.
There are also regulations covering the interiors of buildings, pollution control and the protection of ancient monuments. These are not covered by the planning system.
If you're in any doubt about a particular case, ask your local planning authority what controls apply and under what legislation.
Development likely to have a significant effect on the environment is subject to an environmental impact assessment. This helps to ensure that the environmental implications of a new development, and alternatives, are fully explored before a planning decision is made.
Certain types of development require an impact assessment automatically. Others may need one if their environmental effects could be significant. If you're not sure whether a development requires an assessment, or how to encourage the local planning authority to request one, check the government guidance in the National Planning Practice Guidance.
If an assessment is required, the developer must present an 'environmental statement' along with the planning application. This should explain how measures taken in the development do the least possible harm to the environment and what that harm will be. Environmental statements should look at alternatives to the development proposal. The public has the right to comment on the environmental statement.
Local planning authorities should decide on planning applications for development requiring an environmental impact assessment within 16 weeks.
Some types of development, known as 'permitted development', receive automatic planning permission. They are typically smallscale or within an existing development. However, in special cases or areas the local planning authority can require a planning application to be submitted with an 'Article 4 direction'.
For some developments, permitted development applies but the planning authority needs to approve the details of the proposal before development starts. In these cases, the authority has a chance to get a development repositioned or the external appearance changed, but can't question whether the development should be allowed.
A range of developments fall into this category, including outbuildings related to farming and forestry (but not new dwelling houses, where normal controls apply) and telecommunications masts under 15 metres in height.
Under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) Order (1995), local planning authorities are allowed to put up structures like bus shelters and information kiosks as permitted development. Beyond this, they often determine their own planning applications, either for development that they want to carry out themselves, or where they're making local planning authority land available for development by others.
County councils can grant themselves planning permission for their own developments, such as major new roads and school buildings. County councils also decide all planning applications in connection with minerals or waste, which are deemed 'county matters'.
Development that has been started, or even completed, without permission may still be subject to a planning application. In these cases, the developer has to apply for retrospective planning permission. Arrangements for handling this kind of application are the same as for any proposed development. If the application is unsuccessful, action should be taken by the local planning authority to remedy the damage done by the development.
Another option is for owners of the land in question to apply for a certificate of lawful use. Under the Town and Country Planning Act (1990) there are two types of lawful use certificates: certificates of lawfulness of existing use or development (CLEUDs) and certificates of lawfulness of proposed use or development (CLOPUDs). Local planning authorities would grant such certificates only where it was proved that the use of the land has not breached planning controls. If you're faced with such an application and you have proof that planning controls have been, or will be, ignored, you should make the local planning authority aware.