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Waverley Borough Council Committee System - Committee Document

Meeting of the Council held on 16/10/2001
A Charter for Development Control





1. Introduction

1.1 Waverley Borough Council, as the Local Planning Authority, is concerned to promote good planning practice and to ensure that it responds to the needs of the users of the planning system.

1.2 Town and Country Planning is the positive means of enhancing and protecting our environment whilst, at the same time, allowing the development necessary for economic and social well being to take place in an appropriate way. Most people become involved in town and country planning through the development control process, either as an applicant for planning permission or as someone affected by a development which is proposed or has taken place.

1.3 This charter outlines the practices which will be adopted by Waverley Borough Council as the Local Planning Authority with regard to its development control functions and responsibilities.

1.4 Applicants, neighbours and the public generally are all customers of the development control service. Many may have little or no experience of how the system works. This charter sets out how the service will be delivered. It defines the service and the standards to be met and aims to ensure that all customers will be treated positively, courteously and equally.

1.5 Throughout the development control process, officers of the Council give advice and information to applicants. Such information and advice is given in good faith. However, it does not prejudice the Council’s duty to take final and formal decisions. Care must be taken by all parties to avoid misunderstandings and in particular, any comments made by the Officers should not be taken to indicate what the Council’s final decision will be.

2. Service and Quality

2.1 Development control is a process which regulates the development and use of land. It involves the consideration of planning applications, the monitoring of development as it takes place, enforcement action where breaches of control have occurred, and the provision of information and advice about the system generally and individual proposals specifically. It is a process governed by the law, and can be complex.

2.2 Development control is also a service to local communities. Its objective is to ensure that changes to our physical surroundings - buildings and land - comply with planning policies and cause no material harm to the character and amenity of an area. Planning applications are considered against the planning policy framework provided by the Development Plan which comprises the Structure and Local Plans. The Structure Plan is prepared by the County Council and this sets out a broad framework of policies that apply to planning decisions made within the County. The Local Plan is prepared by the Borough Council and this sets out more detailed planning polices that apply to the Waverley area. The Local Plan is also supplemented by advice notes on certain planning subjects. In addition the Government has issued planning guidance on how it considers planning applications should be dealt with. General planning guidance notes are available from the Planning Reception area at the Godalming. Those published by the Government can be ordered from HMSO Publications Centre, P O Box 276, London SW8 5DT (0207 873 0011).

2.3 The aim is to make the best decision about each application, in an appropriate democratic and efficient way. This means taking into account a proposal’s impact upon the environment and on the interests of the community. It may also mean balancing the needs of the applicant against the effect a development might have on neighbours and other people living and/or working nearby.

2.4 Some planning applications raise complicated issues. Some require assessments of their environmental impact or other aspects such as golf course proposals or major developments. By their very nature such applications will take longer to deal with.

2.5 We aim to ensure that all letters and documents relating to development control will be written in plain language.

3. Pre-Application Discussions : Asking for Information and Advice

3.1 Discussions with the applicant or agent before an application is made will be welcomed so as to encourage the submission of high quality applications and to ensure that applications can be dealt with as efficiently as possible. The submission of “sketch” details of plans before any discussions or meeting is encouraged in order that any advice given can be an helpful and relevant as possible. Some applicants may prefer to use their own professional adviser or agent. In such cases discussions and negotiations about the application can take place directly with the adviser.

3.2 General enquiries can be dealt with at the Planning Reception desk at the Council Offices in Godalming during normal office hours (8.45 am to 5 pm Monday to Thursday and 8.45 am to 4.30 pm Fridays). However, it may be necessary in the case of a specific proposal, to make an appointment to ensure that enquiries can be dealt with promptly and effectively. If advice is sought by letter a response will be made where possible within 10 working days. Where it is clear that a formal response will take longer to produce the correspondent will be kept informed as to when a full reply can be expected. Telephone enquiries not capable of being dealt with immediately will be returned within two working days. If you wish to make an appointment to see a Planning Officer you may ring the following numbers 01483 869287 (Godalming and Cranleigh), 01483 869305 (Farnham and Haslemere).

3.3 If a proposal is large or complex a meeting can be arranged at which relevant officers can be present including County Highway representatives and representatives from other Departments.

3.4 Advice will be given by officers dealing with the application in good faith based on information submitted and to the best of the officers’ abilities. The views expressed will be objective and professional. At this stage, nothing the officer may say will commit the Council to a particular decision when the application is considered formally. Information will be given where appropriate about relevant planning policies, and about the Council’s requirements in relation to such factors as design, car parking and servicing standards. Details of the planning history of a property can be relevant and the Planning Register can be inspected to ascertain this history. On request, and where possible from the details provided, advice will be given about the merits of an application. Again, this will be without prejudice to the formal consideration of an application.

3.5 A range of guidance notes are available from the Planning and Development Department on the Council’s procedures for dealing with planning matters. The notes explain among other things how an application is submitted and considered, how the decision is made, and the standards of development quality which the Council expects.

3.6 A Duty Officer is available during normal office hours. As the Duty Officer may not be familiar with a particular site he or she may not be able to give detailed information. In such an eventuality a potential applicant may wish to make an appointment to see an officer who deals with the relevant area. If a meeting is requested we may require some details and information in advance of the meeting to allow the Officer time to prepare and in order that the potential applicant gets the most out of the meeting.

4. Submitting a Planning Application

4.1 It is the applicant’s responsibility to make sure that the application is submitted correctly. However help or advice needed to complete the application form and to calculate the relevant fee is available. Ordnance Survey Plans can be supplied for an appropriate fee.

4.2 Each valid application will be registered and its receipt acknowledged within five working days. The rights of the applicant will be explained.

4.3 If the application is incomplete or invalid the applicant will be notified within three working days with an explanation of how this deficiency can be corrected. The Council may require additional information if it is necessary to ensure a comprehensive consideration of the application details - see para 5.2. If the application is for a proposal for which planning permission is not necessary it will be returned within 20 working days.

5. Dealing with an Application

5.1 A case officer who will deal with the application will be assigned as soon as the application has been registered. In all cases a visit to the application site is made by the case officer. The case officer will, if necessary, make an appointment to inspect the site.

5.2 Where it becomes clear following any site inspection or detailed examination that information is missing from the submitted application the applicant will be notified of the requirements and the reasons for them normally within 15 working days of the receipt of the application. A time limit for the return of such information will be given and the implications of non-receipt will be explained. If the need for further information arises the applicant will be notified as soon as possible of that need and the reason for it.

5.3 If the proposal is unacceptable as submitted but minor amendments could be made to overcome its deficiencies, a planning officer may suggest minor revisions. In such circumstances more time may be needed to consider a revised application before a decision can be made. It remains the choice of the applicant whether or not to respond to the suggestions or proceed with the application as originally submitted.

5.4 Normally because of their nature major applications take longer to process. This can be due to the need to consult with outside organisations and to properly access every aspect of the proposal. Some major applications will require Environmental Impact Assessments to be submitted.

5.5 The Council makes every effort to deal with planning applications within eight weeks of receipt of a valid application. If the Council fails to make a decision within eight weeks, the applicant is entitled to appeal on the grounds of non-determination, to the Secretary of State for Transport, Local Government and the Regions. Applicants will be informed, on request, about the progress of their application. If an application cannot be dealt with within the statutory eight week period the reason will be explained to the applicant. More time will be sought only if there is a good reason for doing so. If an applicant does not wish to extend the time period he/she has a right of appeal to the Secretary of State on the grounds of non-determination.

6. Notifying the Public

6.1 The Statutory Register, which lists all current planning applications and past decisions, will be available for inspection by the public during office hours. Copies of valid applications and of decisions made will be placed in the Register within three working days of receipt or of the date made respectively.

6.2 The Council’s notification and publicity policy, involves:-

(a) notifying adjoining neighbours by letter;

(b) publishing weekly lists of planning applications. The lists are available for inspection in the Central Offices, the Council’s Locality Offices, local libraries and on the Waverley Borough Council website;

(c) advertising in accordance with the statutory requirements; and

(d) requesting the applicant to display a site notice.

In addition, weekly lists of planning applications are published by local newspapers.

6.3 Information about planning applications will be provided weekly and publicised in accordance with the information contained above. People notified about a specific planning application will be advised how they can make comments upon it, and will be allowed 21 days or 28 days in case of a Listed Building application in which to do so. If material amendments are made to the application, neighbours will be re-notified and generally allowed a further 10 days for comment but this may depend on Committee meeting dates and the circumstances of the particular case.

6.4 Before a decision is made all comments received within the timescale specified for each application will be considered by the case officer before the recommendation on the application is made. If the application is reported to a Committee for consideration members will be told about the content of any comments received.

7. Making the Decision

7.1 The Council will publicise its own performance targets, setting out the timetable within which it will make decisions. The Council’s overall objective is to determine 70% of all applications submitted to it within eight weeks.

7.2 The Council has approved delegation arrangements whereby applications for small-scale development which accords with Council policy can be decided by officers. Details of the approved scheme of delegation can be made available on request.

7.3 Once a final decision has been made the decision notice will be issued to the applicant normally within three working days. Any conditions attached to a permission, reasons for refusal, and/or any additional information or advice will be set out clearly and the reasons for them explained.

7.4 The approval of certain applications may be dependent upon the applicant and other relevant parties entering into a legal agreement. If such an agreement is considered to be required, an applicant will be told at the earliest opportunity normally in writing. Planning Officers will discuss the objectives of the Agreement, and the principal obligations can be negotiated concurrent with the processing of the application. Detailed discussions of specific legal terms will be conducted after the development proposal has been accepted in principle. In such a case the decision notice will not be issued until the applicant has entered into the agreement. The costs incurred by the Council in making the agreement will be wholly met by the applicant. The applicant must complete the agreement within a reasonable period but not normally longer than within six months of the date of the resolution to permit development subject to the agreement first being completed.

7.5 Where a decision has been made to refuse an application, changes or alternatives will be suggested, on request, where it is felt these would lead to a favourable decision on a revised application. This will, however, be without prejudice to the formal consideration of such a revised application. The applicant’s right of appeal against the decision will be explained.

8. Monitoring Development

8.1 Once full planning permission has been given the applicant may need to submit for approval by the Council any details of the development which have not been agreed beforehand. These details will be described in conditions attached to the permission.

8.2 Development must be carried out in accordance with the approved plans and it is the applicant’s, agent’s and landowners responsibility to ensure that this happens. It is the applicants and agents responsibility to ensure that the Council’s requirements and conditions are met and the permission is correctly implemented.

8.3 It is also the applicant’s and agent’s responsibility to let the Council know if amendments to the approved development are necessary before the building work starts. The approval of any minor amendments will be dealt with promptly on the receipt of amended plans. However it is normal to carry out further consultations on any material alterations to approved applications. In such instances neighbours and consultees are normally given 14 days to respond.

8.4 In some instances it may be necessary to take the amended plans back to an Area Development Control Sub-Committee and the Development Control Committee for further consideration. The applicant will be informed of the likely time scale for receiving a reply to amended plans. Any amendments to the approved plans should not be carried out until a decision has been made. In the case of significant amendments to a proposal a new application may be required.

9. Enforcing the Planning Law and Regulations

9.1 The aim of the Enforcement service is to ensure that:

• land and buildings in the Borough are developed and used in a way that is best for the whole community and comply with the Development Plan
• buildings or works which do not have planning permission and which are found to be harmful are removed or altered in order to undo the harm
• that planning permissions are carried out in accordance with approved plans and conditions
• the aims of the planning service are not harmed by breaches of planning control

9.2 Most new buildings, major alterations to existing buildings, as well as changes in the uses of land and buildings need planning permission from the Borough Council. It is necessary to provide the right balance between encouraging development which provides homes, jobs, services for the community and protecting the character of our towns, villages and countryside.

9.3 In reaching a decision on breaches of control, the Council always takes into account the views of those people who are likely to be affected by the development. We can usually only enforce where it is clear that the breach of control is damaging the environment or the quality of life of local people to an unacceptable degree, or where it would be contrary to the policies laid down in the Surrey Structure Plan or the Borough Local Plan.

9.4 When an alleged breach of planning control is reported or suspected, the site or premises will be inspected and other information sought to establish the facts. Where a breach of planning control is established the person responsible for the breach, and the owner of the land, where known, will be informed and told what action should be taken to correct it. A time limit will be given and the consequences of not taking the appropriate action will be explained.

9.5 Complaints alleging breaches of planning control will be treated confidentially within the Council so far as is practicable. They will be acknowledged within five working days. The complainant will be notified within 28 days of receipt of the complaint of how the Council intends to pursue the matter. Complaints will be prioritised depending on the seriousness of the breach of control. In the case of clear and serious breaches a more rapid response appropriate to the circumstances will be made. The complainant will be further notified in writing of the decision to take enforcement action within 10 working days of that decision being made. If the Council decides not to take action the reason will be explained.

9.6 If enforcement action is taken by the Council complex administrative and legal procedures can be involved. These procedures are designed to ensure that the appropriate action is taken and that the rights of all parties are protected. The resolution of an enforcement matter, even without formal action by notices or legal action, is frequently a time consuming process.

10. Performance

10.1 The Council will publish a quarterly review of its performance in relation to the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions determination targets, and its own targets.

10.2 The Council will publish a Best Value Performance Plan which will include development control performance. If it has fallen below its established service levels and targets, it will identify and detail the reasons for doing so, and describe the measures it proposes to adopt to ensure targets are met. Complaints and the action taken upon them will be identified, and customer satisfaction assessed. It will consider whether the quality of development which has taken place matches its expectations. If justified by local circumstances it will examine and revise its policies, practices and targets.

11. Complaints

11.1 All letters of complaint about the way in which development control matters have been handled will be acknowledged within three working days. All complaints will be fully and promptly investigated by a Senior Officer. Within 20 working days the complainant will be given a written response recording the outcome of the investigation and any action the Department proposes to take. If no action is proposed the reasons will be explained.

11.2 If the complainant remains dissatisfied with the way in which the Department has handled the matter a formal complaint can be made to the Chief Executive under the Council’s formal complaints procedure. A leaflet describing this procedure in more detail, and which includes a complaint form, can be obtained from any of Waverley’s offices.

11.3 If a complaint is still unresolved or the complainant believes they have suffered an injustice because of the actions of the Council or that the Council has not done something it ought to have done, they may take the matter up with the Local Government Ombudsman. The Ombudsman will only consider a complaint that something has gone wrong in administrative terms, causing injustice to the person who has complained. He is concerned with the decision making process itself and not the merits of any particular decision.

12. Conclusions

12.1 This Charter provides a clear statement of what can be expected from the Council’s development control service. However, it must be recognised that the standards set by the Council will to an extent be dependent on applicants and their agents. Applications can only be processed expeditiously if plans and letters submitted are clear and to a high standard. Furthermore it will be important that there is a prompt response by applicants to requests from the Council for additional information and/or amendments. There must be a joint commitment to providing an efficient and effective service by both the Council and applicants.