Tag Archives: Helen Heward

Town Planning…how to find your way through it all

There’s a lot of advice available regarding Town Planning, thousands of pages dedicated to what can be perceived as red tape but with a lot of jargon and confusing details. In general, they don’t tend to cover what you need to know in simple terms. This article for Wynyard Matters has been written by Helen Heward Associate at Planning House (& Wynyard Resident) to provide valuable information in order for people to be better informed about the planning process without being bogged down by unnecessary waffle.

Town planning can be seen as ‘red tape’ however it is what controls how we build our neighbourhoods, it sets guidelines to make sure developments do not have adverse effects on their surroundings. It also protects listed buildings – buildings that we have deemed important to heritage, culture and history. Basically, it seeks to manage development to minimise impact.

The National Planning Policy Framework, with supporting Planning Practice Guidance provides guidance for how Local Plans should be made and how planning decisions should be taken.

The planning function is controlled by different bodies at varying levels dependant on where you are. Town planning is mostly handled by local government. Typically, local government has three tiers:

  • County Councils;
  • District, Borough and City Councils;
  • Parish and Town Councils. Applications and all planning matters are handled by the relevant Local Planning Authority, for Wynyard this is either Stockton or Hartlepool Council depending on your location.

The process of a planning application is relatively simple it’s the potential issues involved which sometimes aren’t. Once an application is submitted, it goes through a validation process whereby the Local Authority ensures all the required information accompanies the application and plans are accurate. Then the process of consultation is carried out where neighbours and various Council departments and external bodies, such as the Environment Agency or Highways England are notified and given a minimum of 21 days to respond. For some applications, depending on the type of development, site and press notices are posted which you may have seen on lampposts.

Planning applications must be determined in accordance with the development plan unless material planning considerations indicate otherwise. The Local Authority have set timeframes in which they should determine applications, for instance; 8 weeks to determine minor applications, such as an extension to a home or 13-16 weeks for major applications. However, these timeframes can be extended with or without the agreement of the applicant. Often however are agreed where amended plans are submitted or additional information is required and further consultation is needed.

Decisions on planning applications can be made either under delegated powers, which means that Planning Officers make a recommendation and it is signed off by a Team Leader or Manager, or by Planning Committee. Planning Committees are made up of elected members (Ward Councillors) from across the Borough who assess planning applications in public meetings and vote to determine the application. These decisions are informed by a Planning Officer report, members can, and sometimes do, go against officer recommendation and this is their democratic right.

If your application is refused don’t despair, there is a statutory right to appeal against refusals of planning applications or if unacceptable conditions are imposed, however this is only open to the applicant. An appeal can also be lodged if the Local Authority do not determine the application within the agreed time. Be aware that there is no third party right of appeal, this means that an objector cannot appeal against an approval. Appeals are handled by the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the Secretary of State and determined by Planning Inspectors who are independent from the Local Planning Authority.

Following the grant of planning permission an applicant may have conditions that they have to comply with. It’s essential to know what conditions are attached, what they cover and how they can be complied with. In some cases, a further application may be required to be submitted with additional information to formally discharge a condition. This could be anything from drainage details or details of external materials for a new house or extension up to details of landscaping, play areas or car parking for a larger development. Not discharging or adhering to planning conditions means the applicant is in breach of their planning condition and enforcement action could be progressed by the Local Authority. A Breach of Condition Notice could be served which would require compliance to the condition. However, breaching a pre-commencement condition (a condition which prevents a start on site until a condition has been adhered to), could render your whole permission as null and void.

Planning conditions cannot be imposed to secure financial contributions or relate to land outside of the application site boundary. Sometimes a decision can be subject to a legal agreement, often referred to as a section 106 agreement. These agreements often, but not always, secure financial contributions towards works in order to make a scheme acceptable. For example, housing developments may be required to contribute towards provision or improvements to cycle links, highway works or sports facilities.

Prior to a planning application both Stockton and Hartlepool Borough Council operate a pre-application enquiry service where you can ask for planning advice regarding a proposed development, some Council’s charge for this service. There are many benefits to engaging with the Local Authority before submitting an application, for example if an issue is identified early this can give an opportunity for amendments to be made to overcome any problems at formal application stage, ultimately avoid delays and wasted expense.

Town Planning is not rocket science, to help you know the basics of town planning, Planning House have prepared eBooklets covering just that, the Basics. If you want to look further into a particular topic more information can be found online very easily. These resources have been prepared as an easy read starting point, free of charge, no email collection before you can download and no sign up to a newsletter – no strings attached! All you need to do is go to the Planning House website, www.planninghouse.co.uk click the eBooklet and read it. Alternatively, should you wish to speak with a planning consultant please get in touch.

Women in Planning North East Launch

Planning House were proud to sponsor, along with Kings Chambers the launch of the North East branch of Women in Planning, organised and chaired by our very own Helen Heward. The wonderful Laurence Sweeney took some beautiful photographs which can be viewed in our Photo Gallery.

Women in Planning is an independent network with the aim of promoting a diverse and inclusive planning industry. The network has a clear vision to inspire women to feel empowered and be successful with the overall aim of promoting gender equality. Whilst the network is women led it is not exclusionary, both women and men are encouraged to get involved and work towards a common goal of increasing diversity and championing gender equality across the planning industry.

Women in Planning North East Launched on Thursday 7th February at The Botanist in Newcastle. The event was attended by over 70 people, both men and women, who enjoyed a Masons gin and tonic on arrival followed by drinks and nibbles. The atmosphere was amazing and there was a definite buzz of excitement in the air.
Speeches were made by Helen as the Chair of the North East branch, who spoke about her reasons for setting up the branch and the need for people to unite to bring about equality in the region. Alison Mackay, one of the founding members of Women in Planning in 2012, spoke about why the network was originally set up and the success it has enjoyed, and Sarah Reid, a Barrister at Kings Chambers spoke about the need to inspire and encourage women and the role that the network has to play in order to address the gender imbalance across the industry.

The next step for the North East branch is to set up a committee and then start work on the next event. It is a really exciting time to get involved, as those involved at this stage can be influential in shaping the network going forward. There seemed to be a definite feel from attendees that short CPD events held in the form of interactive breakfast seminars and post work social events such as a pub quiz or cocktail making class would be well received so those are already on the ‘To do’ list.

Mentoring was also high on the priority list for attendees particularly the wonderful planning students who joined us on the evening and are just starting in their planning career.

If anyone would like to get involved in any aspect of the network, either on the committee or as a mentor please email womeninplanningnortheast@gmail.com and to find out more about upcoming events sign up to the Mailing List.

More information about who we are and the vision of the network can be found on the Women in Planning Website.

 

Introducing Helen Heward

In the first 2019 edition of Northern Insight Helen Heward, Associate at Planning House is introduced, with her substantial public sector experience and passion for people and places we’re excited to have her onboard.  In the article Helen introduces herself.

As a chartered town planner with over 12 years experience in the public sector across planning policy, development management and enforcement, I’m leaving my comfort zone in the Local Authority to start a new adventure in the private sector.

It’s a really exciting opportunity to use my unique practical skills to effectively navigate the planning process from a Local Authority perspective to provide clients with an insightful and reliable service in the private sector.

As a Senior Planning Officer, I have dealt with a wide variety of planning applications, predominantly major applications for residential, commercial, industrial and renewable energy developments. In previous articles Planning House, has described the move from Local Authority to the private sector as “gamekeeper turned poacher” and honestly I can’t think of a better analogy.

For me, planning is all about relationships. I initially decided on a career in town planning as I was interested in the relationship between human activity and the natural environment. I soon learned that effective town planning is underpinned by collaboration and importantly communication between stakeholders in the whole of the planning process. In my experience the better the relationship between stakeholders the smoother the planning process runs!

The ethos behind Planning House is to provide a personal, flexible service that meets the needs of its clients; this suits my approach down to the ground. I am definitely a ‘people person’, I love a challenge and have always thrived under pressure. I am an advocate for talking about a problem to resolve it and definitely believe that communication is key.

In my experience I have found that meaningful engagement can resolve the seemingly unresolvable. As planners we are often mediators between stakeholders, when something is talked about face to face or explained properly a solution can usually be found.

I am of the opinion ‘why have countless emails back and forth when a discussion would be better?’, this has always worked for me and is definitely an approach I intend to maintain. So when, following my return to work from maternity leave, I was offered an opportunity to work for Planning House, a company which has been built on service to clients I jumped at the chance.

Planning House is also supportive of another of my passions which is promoting gender equality. My time away from the office, during maternity leave, highlighted to me that whilst women may be represented in the industry there is a wealth of women who take time away from their career for family. This inevitably has an impact upon career progression.Fortunately, the flexible approach of employment with Planning House accommodates my personal circumstances whilst supporting my career progression. Nationally the network that champions for gender equality in the planning industry is ‘Women in Planning’. The network is women-led however is not exclusively for women. There are branches across the UK and I am currently in the process of launching the North East network. Excitingly the upcoming launch event, in early 2019 will be supported by Planning House!

Having children has made me realise that being a working mother is tough and the pressure is immense. Trying to fit that into office hours is practically impossible. However, my new role at Planning House has offered ‘a new way of working’ giving me the flexibility to spend time with my young family whilst continuing to work in a profession I am passionate about – why do you have to choose! I am sure that this flexibility will benefit my family and future clients too.

I’m really excited to get started. If you have any planning matters you would like to discuss, from January 2019 I will be joining the Planning House team and I look forward to hearing from you.

Helen’s contact details are helen@planninghouse.co.uk or 07834 775732