Anyone can comment on a planning application but if you wish to make an impact it is good to be prepared and have as much supporting information as possible. If you are concerned that a proposed development will impact on wildlife and you want to get involved:
- Make a note of the planning application number; it may look something like this XX/2012/1223/FUL. If you do not know the number make sure you have the address of the property/site.
- Be aware of the deadline for responses. If they arrive late they may not be given due consideration.
- Take a look at the planning application on the LPA website. If this is not possible contact the case officer to view the application at the council offices. You are legally allowed to make copies to take away, but there may be a charge for photocopying.
- Remember that if the application site lies within the South Downs National Park, the SDNP authority may determine the planning application not your local council.
Always read through the application and supporting documentation to gain more information about the proposed development. It should describe the proposed development's size and location, how it will function and its relationship with the immediate surroundings. These are the three main issues, known as material considerations, which decision makers will take into account when determining the application.
What should you be thinking about when reading through the application?
- Is the application for full or outline permission?
- Is the application accurate? For example are all local features shown? Are the maps up-to-date? Does the description of the site correctly describe how the area is currently used?
- Is the development on a site which has been allocated for development within the Local Plan? These are documents published by your LPA which set out agreed planning policies for your area and are the background against which planning decisions are made.
- Has an ecological survey been carried out? LPAs can request developers to carry out surveys if there are sufficient grounds to do so. If no wildlife information accompanies the application you may wish to contact the planning officer to discuss this.
- Contact the Sussex Biodiversity Record Centre and request a report detailing any wildlife information they have for the area. If the report comes back with limited information this doesn't automatically mean the land is of low ecological value, it simply means that the SxBRC does not hold records for this area. A desk top study from the SxBRC does not negate the need for an ecological survey by the applicant.
- Have there been any previous planning applications or proposals for the site? If an application has been refused in the past the reasons may still be valid. Alternatively if you want to support the application you could make suggestions to solve these issues.
- Does the development site fall within or adjacent to any designated areas such as a Site of Special Scientific Interest or a Local Wildlife Site?
- Is there any additional information about the site that the LPA could use to assist them in the decision making process? Focus especially on local knowledge that the LPA may not be aware of.
- What are the long term effects of the development? Will it help to achieve sustainable development in the area or will it set a precedent of unsustainable and unsuitable development?
- What are the pros and cons of the proposal? Some of the potential negative impacts of the development may be able to be addressed by suggesting that the LPA attaches conditions or obligations on any planning permission granted.
Remember planning officers are there to help. Ask them for advice if you are unsure how to interpret a planning application.