Surviving Planning Reform – The Planning Committee Meeting

April 1, 2015

A major change in the planning regime will be the determination of your planning application by planning committee. Developers are familiar with their planning applications being determined by planning officers employed by the Department of the Environment and whilst previously there was a statutory requirement to consult with the council ultimately the Department determined your application.

Who will do what now?

Membership of the planning committee

Members will be elected councillors to that district council. The planning committee shall meet on a monthly basis to determine applications however some planning committees may meet more frequently due to the number of applications being received.

Preparing for committee

Previously planning officers determined applications now however the role of officers will be to ensure that all considerations material to the decision to be made on the planning application (such as the outcome of any consultation and financial or other significant considerations which may be relevant) are brought to the attention of the planning committee together with a recommendation as to whether the application should be granted or refused. This information will be contained in a planning report mprepared by the planning officer prior to committee.

You should be able to review the planning report prior to the application coming to committee. If the recommendation is for refusal you should check with the planning officer immediately to see if there is anything you can do to rectify matters. If not, you may wish to consider an immediate withdrawal of the application to avoid a formal decision being made.

Attendance at committee

Even if your application is recommended for approval it is not pre-set that the committee will approve your application. Taking a committee’s decisions for granted is, in my experience, a common mistake. After all, the planning system is a democratic process and voting can be close; one way or the other. Consequently it is worthwhile attending the committee meeting so you can speak as the developer and present your case to the committee and/or answer any questions they may have. In more controversial cases your presence may help members to recognise your commitment to the proposal and that you are not taking their decision making process lightly. Furthermore you can hear what is said, how the committee voted and you get to know the result instantly, ahead of the formal decision notice.

Third parties may also be allowed to speak. Local concerns can sometimes be overcome at the meeting through the opportunity to agree details or clarify intentions in front of members.

The Decision

The committee will consider the officers’ recommendation and arrive at their decision by means of a vote. As stated above the decision does not always follow the officers’ recommendation. A recommendation for approval could be turned down and vice versa. In all cases the committee must arrive at their decision on ‘planning’ grounds, not because they personally like or dislike what you propose or for other non-planning reasons.

The committee may defer the application to a later date (usually the next committee meeting 3-4 weeks later) to allow minor alterations or agreements to be made, or so that members can visit the site. They may approve in principal, allowing other matters of detail to be handled by officers, who may then issue a decision without going back for committee approval.

The Notice

Once the decision has been made the council will issue a formal decision notice a few days later. This will set out the decision (either approval or refusal) and any conditions that must be adhered to in undertaking the scheme, or the ground on which the refusal was made.

If your application has been refused you may make an application to the Planning Appeals Commission to appeal the decision within 4 months of the date of the decision notice.

If your application has been granted you should be aware that a third party can challenge the lawfulness of your planning permission for up to 3 months from the date of the decision notice.

Please note; the content of this article is for information purposes only and further advice should be sought from a professional legal advisor before any action is taken.

Please contact Cleaver Fulton Rankin on 028 9027 3141 or alternatively visit www.cfrlaw.co.uk