How Quickly Will I Get A Decision?
The Government has set Councils targets for deciding planning applications. Some applications raise difficult issues which take longer to decide. If an application cannot be dealt with within 8 weeks (or 13 weeks for a larger scale scheme) after receipt the reason will be explained to the applicant on request although in most cases the applicant will already be aware as a result of discussions. Speed Is not more important than the quality of decision but there is no reason why good decisions need to be slow ones if the Council is efficient.
The Council’s performance against the Government’s targets are monitored closely, and the results are published every three months. Copies of the statistics for England can be inspected at the Development Department or can be obtained from the Department of Communities and Local Government, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU.
Council may not reach decisions on some applications until the applicant has entered into a ‘planning obligation’ – a special type of legal agreement between the applicant and the Council Planning obligations may be used if there are objections to the proposal which cannot be overcome by imposing conditions. This type of agreement may make it possible for a proposal to go ahead which might otherwise be refused. If the Council thinks an obligation may be needed, then the applicant will be informed as soon as possible, so that discussions can continue while Council is considering the application.
If the applicant considers the Council is making unreasonable demands, or is delaying negotiations unnecessarily, the applicant may offer a unilateral ‘undertaking’ that they will carry out certain objectives if planning permission is granted. This undertaking will be taken into account if the Council decides to refuse planning permission and the applicant appeals.
Applications to work on protected trees Applications are dealt with under different legislation to Planning Permission, the principal difference being that there is no charge for these applications. You will still need to fill in the requisite forms, and indicate by plan or diagram the positions of the trees you wish to work on. The Council will advertise your application, but there is no legal requirement for them to formally notify neighbours, and therefore this is done on a case by case basis. The Arboricultural Officer determining your application may well need to visit the site. Most applications will be decided within the 8 week target.
High Hedges Complaints
In certain circumstances, as a last resort, it is possible to request that the Council provides a judgement in the matter of a neighbour’s high hedge. There is a non-refundable fee for this action, which can, if successful, lead to the Council issuing a Remedial Notice, enforcing landowners to cut their hedges to a more reasonable height, at their expense. There is, however, no requirement that hedges should be cut to 2m, or any other pre-determined height. For further advice on this matter, you are strongly advised to contact the Tree Section.
Refusal Of Planning Or Other Permission
On average, the Council approves about 80% of planning applications (90% of ‘householder’ applications). If the Council refuses an application, it is open to the applicant to ask if there are any changes that could be made to help a revised application to be approved. Another fee may not be charged if a revised application is made within a year for the same proposal. Alternatively, the applicant can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate (see Appeals Section later in this chapter).
What If The Council Fails To Make A Decision?
The applicant can also appeal to the Secretary of State if the Council fails to issue a decision on an application within 8 weeks (or 13 weeks for larger scale development) of receiving it, or whatever longer period has been agreed by the applicant with the Council in writing. But as it takes time to deal with an appeal the applicant is advised to contact the Council first to see what is delaying the decision and when it is likely to be reached.