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Commenting on Planning Applications - A Guide to the Process

The London Borough of Sutton encourages public involvement in planning and your views and comments on planning applications are welcomed. The purpose of these notes is to explain the way the Council (who for the purpose of determining Planning Applications are the 'Local Planning Authority' (LPA) must consider Planning Applications.

Planning applications can involve proposals that will change the local environment and may affect the area in which you live. These can include things such as new buildings, extensions, changes of use, advertisements, telecommunication masts and the felling of trees in Conservation Areas or that are protected by a Tree Preservation Order.

When considering an application, the Council has to balance the views and concerns of the local community against the rights of the individual to use or develop their property.

How Are Planning Applications Publicised?

It is not possible to notify everyone who may be interested in a proposal, but we follow a publicity procedure which can be found in on the web site at Statement of Community Involvement or at the Development Services Offices, 24 Denmark Road, Carshalton SM5 2JG. This generally includes those properties close to the Development site.

Weekly List - A list of new applications produced weekly.  Some applications are also advertised in the Sutton Advertiser or have a notice displayed at the site. 

Neighbours will only be notified of changes to the application if the Planning Officer considers that the changes are significant enough to justify re-consultation.

How Can I Find Out More About a Planning Application?

Copies of current planning applications can be inspected using  the . Also during normal office hours (9.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. Monday to Friday) at the Development Control Offices, at 24 Denmark Road Carshalton SM5 2JG where staff will be able to help you with general questions. 

Can I Comment?

Yes. Anyone has the right to comment on any current application, irrespective of how they came to know about it, or where they live. However, we usually ask for comments to be received within 21 days of the date of the letter to neighbours or site notice or by the date indicated on the website in order that your comments can be taken into account before the decision is made.

How Can I Offer Support Or How Should I Object?

Comments are best made after you have seen the planning application, when you have an understanding of what is proposed. Whether offering support, comment or objection you should do so by putting your comments in writing as soon as possible. Verbal comments cannot be taken into account. Letters should be sent to Development Services, Environment & Leisure, 24 Denmark Road Carshalton SM5 2JG; emails should be sent to developmentcontrol@sutton.gov.uk or you can make your comment via the Online Planning Register. You must always quote the application number and provide your full postal address even if you send your comments by email so we can advise you of the decision. Anonymous letters and emails will not be taken into account.

If several other people agree with your views you may wish to organise a petition which should be sent to the address above.  Petitions clearly state the reasons for objection or support and must include the name and address of each individual and their signature. The council will not respond to each individual named on the petition. The petition must also include the details of a person who can be contacted by the council on behalf of the petitioners to inform of them of the decision taken, the committee date etc. It will be that person's responsibility to keep the other petitioners informed.

What Is Taken Into Account When Making A Decision On a Planning Application?

The Council cannot refuse or approve a proposal simply because many people oppose or support it.

Planning applications must be assessed against the Local Development Framework (LDF)The London Plan and any other relevant Development Plans and Policies, unless other considerations indicate otherwise. The weight that can be given to other considerations will depend on the circumstances of each case.

Other things, so called "material considerations", that the Council can consider may include:

  • Undue loss of privacy or overlooking;
  • Loss of sunlight/daylight;
  • effect on trees;
  • access or traffic problems;
  • need for car parking;
  • unacceptable or incompatible use;
  • noise;
  • fumes;
  • excessive height or bulk of buildings;
  • inappropriate design/layout;
  • inadequate landscaping/means of enclosure.

The following are examples of commonly expressed concerns which the Council cannot consider:

  • disputes over boundaries;
  • restrictive covenants, including ancient and other rights to light;
  • loss of value; 
  • inconvenience or other problems caused by building works;
  • opposition to business competition;
  • opposition to the principle of development when outline permission has already been granted for the same type of development; 
  • matters dealt with by other legislation for example building control

If Enough People Object Will the Application Be Refused?

No, not necessarily. Planning applications can only be refused on valid planning reasons. The number of objectors may indicate the strength of local feeling, but that in itself, may not be sufficient to result in a refusal. A single objection based on relevant planning matters can be effective, whereas a hundred irrelevant objections may carry no weight at all. If relevant planning objections are received from 10 or more separate addresses then the application will be referred to the Development Control Committee (see below for further information).

Who Makes The Decision On A Planning Application?

Most planning applications are decided at officer level under a scheme of delegation approved by the Council and published in its constitution. 

However some applications are decided by the Development Control Committee. This committee comprises of 10 elected Councillors from all parties. The committee receives written reports from the planning officers which include a recommendation to refuse or approve the application. The committee consider the reports, listen to objectors/supporters, the Ward Councillors and the applicant where appropriate, discuss the item and vote on the recommendation. Copies of the Agenda will be available to the public at least 5 working days before the committee date and are usually available a few days prior to this and can be viewed online or from the Committee Section, Chief Executive's Department (phone 020 8770 5119).

The following types of application will be decided by the Development Control Committee:

  • Larger and more contentious schemes that are recommended for approval.
  • Those where the officer's recommendation is that the application should be approved, even though 10 or more objections have been received from separate addresses.
  • All applications made by the Council.

Councillors may ask for an application in their Ward to be referred to the Development Control Committee for a decision providing they have valid planning reasons for doing so.

Should I Contact My Ward Councillor?

We will forward copies of any letters that you send to us commenting on an application to all of your Ward Councillors. However, you may write directly to your Ward Councillors if you wish. A list of Councillors is available from most council offices and the Committee Section, Chief Executive's Department (phone 020 8770 5119) can also supply you with the list of Councillors who sit on the Development Control Committee.

Will My Comments Be Confidential?

No. All comments remain on the planning file and are open to inspection at the Council offices. If the application is refused and the Applicant lodges an appeal with the Secretary of State for the Environment then copies of the letters will be passed to the Inspector and the Appellant.

Will I Receive A Reply To My Comments?

The council cannot enter into correspondence with individuals about the merits of the application or the detail of their comments or objections.

However, emailed comments sent to developmentcontrol@sutton.gov.uk are automatically acknowledged and, we will acknowledge your letter if you send us an SAE.  All comments will be reported and given careful consideration before coming to a decision. Everyone who writes to us, by letter or email, will be advised of the decision.  In the case of petitions only the named contact will be informed.

Will the Case Officer Visit Neighbouring Properties?

The case officer will only visit neighbouring properties if they consider it necessary to assess the application.

Attending and Speaking At the Development Control Committee

When an application is referred to the Development Control Committee for a decision everyone who wrote in will be advised of the committee date so they can attend if they wish. 

Representatives who wish to speak in support of, or in opposition to, planning applications are able to address the Development Control Committee at the discretion of the Chairperson. Usually speakers are only allowed four minutes to address the committee, where there are several people who wish to comment they should chose one person to speak on their behalf or they can chose to split the time between them. You must notify the Committee Manager of your wish to speak well in advance of the meeting and at the latest by midday on the day of the meeting. Full details of the arrangements for this are set out in guidance which is available from the Council Offices, local libraries or the Committee Section, Chief Executive's Department (phone 020 8770 5119).

Can I Submit Written Material to the Development Control Committee?

Yes, any written comments you have already made will have been considered in the officer's report and will be available for committee members to read.

If you have additional material that you want the committee to consider then you must submit 18 copies addressed to members of the committee to the Committee Project Manager at Civic Offices, St Nicholas Way, Sutton SM2 2EA by 12 noon on the Friday before the committee, a copy should also be sent to the applicant. Further details can be obtained from Committee Section, Chief Executive's Department (phone 020 8770 5119). You will not be allowed to submit additional material at the committee meeting.

If Planning Permission Is Granted Can I Appeal Against the Decision?

No. Objectors do not have the right of appeal. 

If Planning Permission Is Refused Can the Applicant Appeal Against the Decision?

Yes, if planning permission is refused the applicant does have the right to appeal to the Secretary of State for the Environment. If this happens, everyone who was originally consulted or commented will be advised of the appeal. Copies of all the original letters of representation are also passed to the Inspector and the Applicant (who is referred to as the appellant when they have lodged the appeal). You can write to the Inspector with additional comments if you wish. You will only be notified of the appeal decision if you put a request in writing to the Inspector. If the appeal method is via an informal hearing or a public inquiry then objectors or supporters have the right to speak at the Inspectors discretion.

If you have any further questions about commenting on planning applications please telephone the contact centre on 020 8770 5070, leave a message and we will reply to your enquiry or you can email developmentcontrol@sutton.gov.uk

Karen Fossett
Head of Development Control
February 2009