“The viral internet sensation of the meetings of Handforth Parish Council, and a recent appeal decision, has reminded us of the important role that Parish Councils (PCs) play in the planning process as statutory consultees”, says Mark Sanders of Acorn Rural Property Consultants.
“The relationship between Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) and the PCs within their areas is not always straightforward. When it works well, LPAs gain useful insight from PC consultation comments on planning applications because PC members have detailed local knowledge and an understanding of whether a proposed development is likely to be appropriate in a local context, which LPA planning officers may not. Where there is a disagreement between the recommendations of the PC and the recommendations of planning officers, applications are referred to the planning committee for a decision. That can be useful where, for example, the PC believes that there are material considerations that are not being given sufficient weight by planning officers,” explains Sanders.
“However, PCs can, and do, get things wrong and their comments are sometimes treated with too much importance by planning committees. We dealt with a planning application that was opposed by a few vocal residents on highways safety grounds. That was despite the fact that both the Highways Authority and planning officers supported it. The residents persuaded the PC to adopt their cause and the PC duly objected to the application which was referred to the committee for a decision. The committee was strongly influenced by the PC’s comments and, contrary to the recommendations of the planning officer for approval, refused the application. We appealed the refusal and the planning inspector granted consent and awarded costs against the LPA because the refusal by the committee was unreasonable and ignored the comments from the Highways Authority and the recommendation of its planning officers”, continues Sanders.
“The recent appeal decision had very similar circumstances where residents had campaigned against an application on what they said were highway safety and amenity grounds and, contrary to the recommendation of its planning officers, the planning committee refused it for those reasons. The planning inspector granted consent and awarded costs against the LPA because, with the exception of the representations from the local residents, there was no substantive evidence to support the LPA’s reasons for refusal”, concludes Sanders.
For further information please contact Acorn Rural Property Consultants on 01884 212380