What's the best policy? Do people's objections to building permits usually result in denials?

Not all planning projects are well received.  

According to UK government statistics, 13% of planning applications submitted to local councils in England between October and December 2021 were either refused or withdrawn. When planning applications are denied, it frequently indicates a breakdown in productive conversations with external project stakeholders, such as residents and the council. Significant time and money have been spent up to this point. Designs will need to be reworked, and in many cases, the project will be scrapped entirely.  

Throughout the pre-application phases, it is critical to maintain effective and transparent communication with local stakeholders, the public, and the council.  

In this article, we'll see that it's not just design quality that ensures the success of a planning application. Even projects with architecturally strong designs can be rejected. Projects that are controversial, unconventional, or large will inadvertently attract criticism. Understanding critique and delivering successful outcomes frequently requires effective, consistent, and early engagement.

How are planning applications approved?

Let us go over how planning applications are approved. This article will concentrate on planning projects in England.

The vast majority of projects are approved under "delegated authority" by a planning officer. According to government statistics, 94% of applications granted in the fiscal year ending March 2019 were granted under delegated authority.

Planning committees made the remaining 6% of decisions. This usually refers to large or contentious applications. According to Eden District Council, planning applications can be referred to committee for the following reasons:

  • Approvals would be against policy.
  • Applications are significant, contentious, or sensitive in nature.
  • Applications that have piqued the public's interest due to valid planning grounds (public objections)
  • A statutory consultee's objection
  • Applications that are the subject of a valid planning objection from the Parish Council
  • Applications subject to an objector's request to address the Planning Applications Committee
  • Applications submitted by a Member for consideration by the Committee
  • Applications in which the recommendation contradicts that of a statutory undertaker, such as the Highways Authority.

It is not uncommon for applications with a high number of objections to be referred to the planning committee for review in order to provide an additional level of public scrutiny before a planning application is approved.  

How do planning application objections affect planning success?

Planning applications are not decided by popular vote. However, o Planning applications are being challenged. influence the time it takes the council to make a decision on a planning application   This is especially true if objections are raised by organizations that must be consulted, as their input carries additional weight. weight  

In general, objections can raise significant material planning grounds. If those material concerns are valid, it will almost certainly reduce the chances of approval and necessitate additional investigation by officers and the applicant. In that case, the planning officer may refer the matter to the local authority's planning committee.  

Planning applications that are sent to the planning committee typically take much longer to resolve. Monthly planning committee meetings are held. Members of the planning committee may need to make a site visit. Coordination of a site visit can take a significant amount of time. All committee members who would eventually vote would have to go on a site visit as well.  

Examples of applications that were denied

Long before submitting a final application, the signs of an unsuccessful application can become apparent. Planning failure, significant financial loss, and negative media coverage can all be avoided with early stakeholder involvement. Objections to planning applications are not the sole reason for refusal, but they are a contributing factor.

Sir Tim Smit's Gillyflower Farm Education Centre (link) — Status: Rejected


What is the purpose of this project? Development of a horticulture, agronomy, and cooking education center on a Cornish hillside

Who is the candidate? Sir Tim Smit of the Eden Project

What happened to the project? Cornwall's Lostwithiel

What occurred? The development of an education center was rejected by the planning committee by a vote of seven to four. This was preceded by significant civic opposition to the project, including slogans like "Orchard my arse" and parish council opposition. Smit, the applicant, later expressed surprise at the strong opposition and noted that earlier consultation could have resulted in a "less bumpy ride" for the project.  

How did the engagement strategy work? The project created a video, which was distributed through the town council's website and Facebook pages in December 2020. The architect compiled feedback. After submitting a planning application in July 2021, the planning consultant conducted another consultation, organizing Zoom sessions, a newsletter, and a project website to save the doomed application.  

What were the reasons given for the refusal? The development is located in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Furthermore, the development violated the new neighborhood plan, which prohibited development in that area. The town council spoke out three times against the project.  

What was the ratio of objections to supporting remarks? 318 of the 396 comments were negative, while 60 were positive.  

Lugano's Dissington Garden Village — Status: Rejected


What is the purpose of this project? Construction of 1,600 new homes in a separate development near Ponteland, Northumberland.  

Who is the candidate? Lugano Group

What happened to the project? Northumberland's Ponteland

What occurred? Lugano has been holding farmland near Ponteland for long-term development. The council issued a'minded-to-approve' note in 2017, but after the local election, a subsequent planning application was denied in 2019, prompting a £10 million high court appeal.

How did the engagement strategy work? The planning portal no longer has access to the application documents. Despite extensive activity at the time, the report mentions that 80 people attended a public meeting. A website was also created. Nonetheless, the statement of community involvement only listed three public comments and did not provide anything resembling a thorough analysis of the consultation response.  

What were the reasons given for the refusal? The change in government was a major reason for the refusal. Throughout the council, the incoming Conservative government pushed for stronger protection of green belts. Already, the developer's 2013 application for a much smaller project resulted in a high-profile legal battle with the council.

What was the ratio of objections to supporting comments? At the time of the 2013 application, the council received 4,310 letters of opposition and 487 letters of support.

Objections will accelerate the decision-making process, potentially sending the application to the planning committee. Objections alone cannot be the basis for refusal; however, valid and material concerns contained within them can.  

Early engagement with local governments and citizens has numerous advantages in understanding and dealing with local issues. See also: How to Prepare for Productive Pre-Approval Meetings with the Council

Planning applications are denied for substantive reasons. Objections can add extra scrutiny to planning issues that could have been considered at the design stage, which can add significant additional cost at the planning stage.  

No objection should be unexpected at the time the planning application is decided. You will have listed and comprehended the concerns of all local parties, including residents. This will be clear from your Design and Access Statement as well as your Community Involvement Statement.

Successful projects pick up on the ideas and sentiments of local stakeholders early on, allowing a planning application to land softly. You don't want to be in a situation where your application is deferred to a committee and it is determined that the project itself did not have adequate levels of community involvement.  

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