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 is 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 planning applications are 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 on the web site at statement of community involvement or at the Development Management 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 Guardian 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.

Find out more about a planning application

Copies of current planning applications can be inspected using  the online planning register. Also during normal office hours (9am to 5pm 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. 

Commenting on an application

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 you can offer support or 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 Planning, 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. 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 should 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 petitioner. 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

 

Applications refused

Just because many people object, it does not necessarily mean an application will be refused. 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 Planning 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 Planning Committee. This committee comprises of 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 4990).

With effect from November 2016, the following types of application will be decided by the Planning Committee:

 

  1. Consideration of planning applications (including listed building consent, conservation area consent and advertising consent but excluding applications under the General Permitted Development Order (including amendments) and Non Material Amendment applications), where one or more of the following applies:

    a) applications that are a departure from the adopted Development Plan, or other relevant development plan for the purpose of Section 38 of the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act 2004

    b) where 10 or more persons, residing at separate addresses, make written representations (containing material planning considerations) in relation to an application which are opposed to the officer’s proposed recommendation under his/her delegated powers. (Where objections are received either by joint letter with multiple signatories or a petition, then each address for which there is a signatory will count as a separate objection)

    c) major applications for developments where the Council has an interest in the land
     
  2. Consideration of planning applications requested by a ward councillor to be determined by elected members through the Member referral procedure but excluding applications under the General Permitted Development Order (including amendments) and Non Material Amendment applications.
     
  3. Consideration of a planning application where the Local Authority has an interest in the land and which has received 1 or more relevant objections (a “relevant objection” is defined as any objection except an objection which clearly does not raise any material planning considerations) but excluding applications under the General Permitted Development Order (including amendments) and Non Material Amendment applications.
     
  4. To confirm with or without modification Tree Preservation Orders where a sustained objection has been received (a “sustained objection” is defined as an objection that is maintained despite an attempt by officer to resolve it, or which officers consider incapable of resolution by negotiation).
     
  5. Applications by Members of the Council, members of staff or their families or where a Councillor has declared an interest in an application but excluding applications under the General Permitted Development Order (including amendments) and Non Material Amendment applications.
     
  6. To consider applications at the discretion of the Head of Development Management and Strategic Planning.

 

Contacting your ward councillor

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 4990) can also supply you with the list of Councillors who sit on the Planning Committee. You can find your councillor details online.

Comments are not confidential

All comments remain on the planning file and are open to inspection at the Council offices & online. 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.

Replies to your 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.  All comments will be reported and given careful consideration before coming to a decision.

Case officer visits to neighbouring properties

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

Attending and speaking at the Planning Committee

When an application is referred to the Planning 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 Planning 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.

Sutton residents may request the right to speak about planning matters directly related to any planning application that is on the agenda for consideration at that meeting. They can register to speak by midday on the day of the meeting at the following link

Residents who have not given prior notice may still register to speak in person up to 15 minutes before the start of the meeting. Speakers will be asked for their address, their interest in the application and, if appropriate, the organisation or group of residents they are representing.

Submitting written material to the Planning Committee?

Any representation you have previously made in respect of the application has already been included in the officer’s report to be considered at the Committee meeting. Should you wish the Committee to consider any additional written or photographic material to your original representation, please send it via email to committeeservices@sutton.gov.uk by midday on the Monday before the scheduled Planning Committee. It will then be distributed to Committee members and the appropriate Case Officer, who will share the information with the applicant, prior to the meeting. 

Appealing against a decision to grant planning permission

Objectors do not have the right of appeal. 

Appealing against a decision to refuse planning permission

If planning permission is refused the applicant has 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 email developmentcontrol@sutton.gov.uk.

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