Planning Applications: Much is a Given, Set in Legal and Policy Stone, before you even Comment

19 July 2012…..The public is mostly unaware of Planning and Development Control until or unless it directly impacts on them.  Only when a planning application or major development arrives is attention given to one.  And people are outraged when their objection goes in and it is entirely ignored.  It is their view and it counts, right?  Wrong.  And it is why people are dismissed as nimbys.
Planning is evidence-based and unless an application fails to produce requested proofs to back up application claims and/or breaches planning law and planning policies, it will succeed.  End of: whatever you might think of proposals, whatever the council thinks of them, and even if the planning committee turns it down.  The applicant will just appeal the decision and if the Planning Inspector sees merit and sees compliance with planning law and policies, that’s that.  Consent is achieved at Appeals.  Applications are mostly already won or lost the minute they are lodged.  Please read on.
How much to give it?  80% – 100%?  Legislated Planning law and local planning policy documentation dictate at least 80% of outcome probably, depending on how good the application is.  Have you ever been part of the creation of that 80% that sits there as the given on top of which the planning application perches and with which it must comply??  It is why the public’s objections giving views are ignored (when they are).  Over and above this compliance requirement, information not previously known about or understood still matters (like the presence of badgers, wind tunnel areas, etc.) and demonstrating negative or positive impact is HUGE.  Overshadowing and local amenity impact are ALWAYS contestable.  I’m trying to both warn you and encourage you as you read along.  So moving along….
Take heart.  There are lots of incompetent planning applications, full of holes, crawling with mistakes, lies and exaggerations, applications full of spin and which go on and on and on, without being finally determined, as the planning officer hears about or sees need for ‘further information’ that the applicant hopes to avoid having to give which can be relegated to a ‘Condition’ of consent and slipped past the inexpert, mere councillors sitting on the Planning Committee.  And sometimes it works for them!  An application can be recommended for refusal by officers, but allowed by Councillors, and vice versa. 
The public can spot more than it realises possible.  If people would only trouble to look inside the box – beyond just the hyped and manipulated computer-generated images of what the outside might look like!  You really do need to question the truth of what is portrayed in those!  Things like 6-storey trees get fluffily added to soften appearance!  You WILL  see blatantly wrong things in planning applications.  You WILL.  And the planning officer needs you to point to them because he/she might miss it and you might even be able to create arguable areas to contest that the applicant has failed to anticipate. 
DO NOT just complain about traffic and parking, especially if you moved to the city from elsewhere, helping to increase the population, and are part of the reason why the city has a problem!
WHERE YOUR POWER TO INFLUENCE OUTCOME REALLY LIES IF YOU DID BUT KNOW
It all happens BEFORE applications are submitted, BEFORE people even consider doing developments.  The time for the public to have more say, more power and wield real clout, if known about, and engaged with, is during the public consultation process that creates all the city’s planning policy documentation.  Or even by requesting one be created to meet upcoming need, such as a Planning Brief.  A good ward councillor will have a mailing list of residents & groups it could alert when consultations come up – often several times a year.  BHCC has lists of ‘stakeholder’ groups who are consulted (or not).  And saveHOVE sometimes is, sometimes isn’t, one of them.  For The City Plan, it is. 
THE NITTY GRITTY OF IT
The current Local Plan is the overarching planning control document at the moment within Brighton & Hove; and it has to work with planning law, as laid down by Government.  It had to go before a Government Planning Inspector to be agreed, back in the day.  The Coalition Government changed planning law recently and created the NPPF (click on the tag cloud for more on this).  BHCC is currently drafting The City Plan which will replace The Local Plan and by clicking on the 3 really important links in the article posted just below this one, you will read that some of the Local Plan works with the NPPF, but not all of it.  Councils have to make local plans (our new one will be called The City Plan) which do fit with it and were given a period of grace within which to achieve it.
The time to influence the overall shaping of this city for the next 20-30 years is NOW by putting in a consultation response to the City Plan Pt 1 document.  The deadline is just days away.  Monday, midnight, 23rd July 2012, latest.
But it is not all there is.  Subject specific, area specific and site specific planning policy documents are created on an ongoing basis (which is where the council loses the public who are not fascinated by the daily doings of the council and do not read the public notices where consultations for these may be published).  This SHOULD be where you are proactively informed by your ward councillors but almost never are.  They represent you, are the interface between you and the council’s officers and their activities.
Shaping foundation planning policy documents is where the action is.  This is the stage of planning where local politicians and council officers should be feeling the heat from residents about what and how much is and is not needed and where and what constitutes acceptable development for the future.
P.S.  Don’t even think about buying a property without investigating the long-term planning strategy of the area you are looking at or, like the residents between Hove Station and Hove Park, you could be in for a heartbreaking shock as the character of the area alters beyond recognition in ways that are not right for you.  On the other hand, as with the upcoming Hove Station area redevelopment, if you buy cheaply in a not so lux area, you may find that the value of your property rockets because of the new facilities which will become available close by.
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About saveHOVE

Concerned with planning, development and the conservation of historic Hove, we actively seek to prevent inappropriate, negligent and abusive redevelopments!
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