The decision-making process

The development plan

Planning applications have to be decided in line with the relevant local planning authority’s (LPA) development plan, unless there is a very good reason not to do so.

The development plan incorporates the Local Development Framework for that area and any 'saved policies' carried over from the local planning authorities local plan. For more information about Local Development Frameworks, please see our guidance on the planning system.

National planning policies, such as Planning Policy Statements, Minerals Policy statements and circulars are material considerations.

When deciding whether a planning application is in line with its development plan, the LPA will consider the following:

  • The number, size, layout, siting and external appearance of buildings
  • The infrastructure available (e.g. roads and water supply) and proposed means of access
  • Any landscaping requirements
  • The proposed use of the development
  • The likely impact on the surrounding area.

View a flow chart diagram of the application process

Minor planning applications are usually decided solely by a senior planning officer at the LPA, after taking into account any comments received.

Otherwise, a planning officer will present a recommended decision to a planning committee made up of elected councillors. You are allowed to attend these meetings and, in many cases, are also entitled to speak briefly to make your views known.

Only the elected councillors can vote on the planning application itself. They do not always follow the planning officer's advice.

Councillors or planning officers cannot refuse a planning proposal simply because many people oppose it. If an application is refused or granted subject to conditions, that decision must be based on the approved plans and policies of the LPA's development plan.

The key considerations will be whether the proposal would unacceptably affect amenities and the existing use of land and buildings which ought to be protected in the public interest.

Once a decision has been reached, the LPA must give either a summary of its reasons for granting permission, or detailed reasons for a refusal.

If an application is refused or granted subject to conditions, the applicant will be told in writing. They then have the right to appeal.