Finding out about developments
The citizen affected by a new development proposal may first learn about it as a neighbour who is informally consulted by the developer.
After the planning application has been made, the local planning authority will post notices near the site and/or write letters to those closest to the proposed development, inviting comments.
Larger developments will also be advertised in a local newspaper. In some cases, local authorities also keep local civic and environment societies informed of all applications in the area.
The details of the proposals, including architects' drawings, will be available for inspection at the local council offices or may be available from the council's website.
Making your views known
There will be a limited amount of time in which to send comments to the local planning office. It is very important to meet any deadline or your submission may not be taken into account.
It is possible to attend committee meetings dealing with planning applications. In many cases members of the public can speak briefly to ensure that the committee is aware of their views.
However, only elected members of the local planning authority can vote on the application decision itself.
After the decision
In England and Wales it is not possible for a third party to appeal against a local planning authority's decision.
For example, if your neighbour was granted permission to build an extension you could not appeal against it, even if you objected to the application at an earlier stage of the process.
Complaining about applications
In some cases, you can complain to the Local Government Ombudsman about how a local planning authority handled a planning application.
If you are the planning applicant, the Ombudsman will not usually look at your complaint because you have a right of appeal to the Secretary of State, through the Planning Inspectorate.
If you are a neighbour affected by a local authority's planning decision, the Ombudsman may consider your complaint, but only if there was administrative fault in the way the authority handled the matter.
The Ombudsman cannot investigate a complaint just because you do not agree with the decision.
The Ombudsman has no power to alter the decision, even if the local authority administration has not been entirely correct.
However, in cases where the Ombudsman decides that the local authority has acted incorrectly in handling a planning matter, the Ombudsman can recommend that the authority take action to mitigate the effect on you, and pay you compensation, if appropriate.