Appealing Planning Decisions: A Comprehensive Toolkit

Welcome to Appealing Planning Decisions: A Comprehensive Toolkit…

Navigating the realm of planning decisions can be intricate, but understanding your rights and the appeal process is crucial. This toolkit is designed to provide a thorough understanding of how to appeal planning decisions, ensuring you’re prepared every step of the way.

So, who makes the decision?

In general appeals are determined by a Planning Inspector who is allocated appeals on a case-by-case basis. Inspectors are part of the Planning Inspectorate who deal with planning appeals, national infrastructure planning applications, examinations of local plans and other planning-related and specialist casework in England and Wales. A Planning Inspector will be provided with the relevant information, visit the site and make the ultimate decision on a proposal. They are independent from the Council and will consider all parties points.

Understanding the Grounds for Appeal

Before delving into the process of appealing planning decisions, it’s essential to recognise on what grounds an appeal can be lodged. Essentially, the appeal is your opportunity to challenge a planning decision, arguing that it was incorrectly made. But not all disagreements qualify for an appeal. Below, we’ve expanded on some of the most common grounds for appeal:

Inconsistencies with Local Planning Policies: Every local council will have its set of planning policies. If a decision appears to contravene these established policies, it provides grounds for an appeal. For instance, a decision that doesn’t adhere to the guidelines on building heights or distances might be inconsistent with local policies.

Adverse Impact on Local Environment: A major concern in many appeals is the potential negative effect a decision can have on the environment. This could range from harm to protected wildlife habitats to the degradation of local landscapes or water sources. Check out our article – What Constitutes Adverse Impact on Local Environment? 

Procedural Errors: Any decision-making process can be prone to mistakes. If you believe there were oversights or errors made during the decision-making process, such as not consulting relevant parties or overlooking crucial reports, this can form the basis of an appeal.  However, it may also be something to mention to the Council to see if there is an easier way to secure an approval for instance by resubmitting an application.

Material Considerations Ignored: Sometimes, crucial material considerations – factors that should have been weighed in the decision – might be overlooked or inadequately addressed. This can range from the impact on highway safety, noise disturbances, or local historical assets.

Overbearing Impact on Neighbours: If the proposed development is perceived to significantly overshadow, overlook, or dominate neighbouring properties in a way that compromises their amenity or enjoyment, this can be grounds for appeal as it is subjective, however you’d need to demonstrate why you thought the Council made the incorrect decision.

Economic Factors: Occasionally, the economic benefits or downsides of a project (like job creation or the potential for a downturn in local business) can be a solid basis for an appeal, especially if these factors were not sufficiently taken into account.

Lack of Housing Supply: if you are proposing a residential development and the Council cannot demonstrate an adequate 5-year housing supply there is a presumption in favour of development. Has this been considered and weighed up appropriately? If not make sure that it’s highlighted in any appeal.

Initiating the Appeal Process

Launching an appeal against a planning decision can seem like navigating a maze, but with a clear roadmap, you can proceed with confidence. The appeal process serves as a platform to rectify decisions that may have overlooked vital considerations or didn’t follow due procedure. Here’s a detailed breakdown of the steps involved in initiating the appeal process:

Time Constraints: Firstly, be acutely aware of the ticking clock. You typically have a tight window, just six months from the decision date, to lodge your appeal. Early preparation is not just advisable; it’s essential.  However, note that the timescale for appealing a householder or small-scale commercial scheme is only 12 weeks.

Choose your Appeal Procedure: an appeal can be lodged as written representation, which is the most common and quickest appeal process.  Hearing, where you present your views to a Planning Inspector in person, however often this is not required. Or Public Inquiry this is generally for complex appeal cases as it can be expensive and the longest process for an appeal, involving Barristers, legal professionals, consultants, and other experts.

Source the Appeal Form: The first step is administrative but crucial. An official appeal form is typically accessible on your local council’s website or directly from the Planning Inspectorate’s portal.

Assemble Necessary Documentation: You will want copies of the following documents:

– Refusal Notice: The formal notice you received detailing why your application was rejected. This document will be a cornerstone of your appeal.

– Original Application: This encompasses the entire application package, including your initial proposal, architectural drawings, and supplementary documents.

– Supporting Evidence: Depending on your grounds for appeal, gather any evidence that strengthens your case, like expert opinions, surveys, or impact assessments.

Craft a Compelling Grounds of Appeal Statement: This is where you articulate your main arguments. Detail, with precision and clarity, why you believe the initial decision was flawed or unjust. Draw upon factual evidence, ensuring your claims align with recognised planning policies or any material planning considerations. While it’s vital to be thorough, brevity can also be impactful. Aim for a balance, prioritising the most compelling points. Check out our article: How to Write a Compelling Grounds of Appeal Statement.

Submission: Once you’ve compiled all necessary materials and crafted your grounds of appeal statement, it’s time to submit. Follow the specified submission guidelines meticulously, ensuring all documents are clear, legible, and correctly formatted.

Await Acknowledgement: After submission, you’ll typically receive an acknowledgment from the Planning Inspectorate. This will confirm receipt of your appeal and provide details about the subsequent steps and potential timelines.

Preparing for Appeal Hearings: Tips and Tricks

A hearing is a platform where your arguments are presented and scrutinised. Proper preparation can significantly influence the outcome. To optimise your readiness for this critical stage, consider the following expanded insights and strategies:

Assemble a Strong Team

– Expert Witnesses: Depending on the nature of your appeal, consider bringing in experts, such as architects, environmental scientists, or town planners, who can provide authoritative perspectives that support your case.

– Legal Representation: While not mandatory, and not always necessary, having a solicitor or a planning consultant can lend weight to your appeal, ensuring that your arguments align with expectations and that you’re prepared for any counterarguments.

Revisit and Refine Your Argument

Take the time to review the decision you’re appealing against. Pinpoint its weaknesses and anticipate potential counterarguments. This ensures that you’re not caught off-guard during the hearing and can respond with well-thought-out rebuttals.

Conduct Mock Hearings

Try simulating the hearing with your team. This not only helps you refine your presentation skills but also exposes potential gaps in your argument.

Prepare Visual and Tangible Aids

Maps, models, diagrams, or even photos can be influential in conveying your points. Such aids can provide a clearer picture, helping the inspector to understand the practical implications of the planning decision.  However, be careful introducing ‘new’ evidence into the process could lead to an award of costs claim being applied for by the Council.

Organise and Index Your Documents

An organised presentation can reflect professionalism and thoroughness. Ensure that all your documents are ordered, clearly labelled, and easily accessible. This will save precious time during the hearing and prevent any unnecessary fumbling.

Stay Calm and Professional

Hearings can be intense, and emotions can run high. It’s crucial to remain calm, courteous, and professional throughout, irrespective of provocations or challenging questions.

Be Ready for Possible Outcomes

While optimism is good, it’s also practical to prepare for various outcomes. This means understanding the implications of both a successful and unsuccessful appeal and planning next steps for either scenario.

Maximising Your Chances of Success

Navigating the intricacies of a planning appeal can be challenging, but with strategic foresight and meticulous preparation, you can enhance your chances of a favourable outcome. Here are tailored strategies to give your appeal the best shot at success:

Seek Expertise Early: Engage planning consultants, or other professionals with a proven track record in similar appeal cases. Their expertise can provide invaluable insights, from fine-tuning your grounds of appeal.

Comprehensive Research: Dive deep into previous similar appeal decisions and their outcomes. Familiarity with past cases can offer valuable insights into what works and what pitfalls to avoid.

Engage Stakeholders: Open a line of communication with local stakeholders. Their concerns, if addressed properly, can turn potential opponents into allies. Moreover, demonstrating that you’ve proactively sought and considered local feedback can be a significant asset.

Robust Documentation: Ensure all your documents, evidence, and reports are accurate, up-to-date, and professionally presented. Well-organised and compelling evidence can significantly influence an inspector’s decision.

For Hearings Rehearse and Anticipate: Think of potential counterarguments or challenges you might face and develop clear, concise responses. Practising your key points ensures clarity and confidence during the hearing.

Foster Open Communication: Keep an open line with the local planning authority. Sometimes, minor adjustments or clarifications can address concerns and potentially avoid the need for a lengthy appeal process. Check out our article Make An Ally Of Your Planning Officer.

Be Adaptable: While it’s essential to have a clear strategy, staying flexible and adapting to new information or changing circumstances can be crucial. Being able to pivot or modify your approach based on real-time feedback can be a significant advantage.

Stay Informed: Keep abreast of any changes or updates in planning policies, regulations, or guidelines. Being current ensures that your appeal aligns with the most recent stipulations and standards.  If there are changes in policy or a decision has been made which could influence your appeal details can be submitted to the Planning Inspectorate.

In the world of planning appeals, success often hinges on a combination of thorough preparation, professional expertise, and strategic foresight. By implementing these strategies, you can navigate the process with confidence and maximise your chances of securing a favourable decision.

This guide aims to demystify the process of appealing planning decisions. Always consult with a planning professional for tailored advice. If you’re not sure if you need help from a Town Planner take a look at blog on When to Hire a Town Planner our download a Guide on How to Choose a Town Planner.

Appealing Planning Decisions