Few issues raise more passion than planning and as property prices soar and the government and councils look for new land to tackle housing shortages, planning decisions are becoming more and more controversial. But if somebody is intending to re-route the local by-pass through your back garden, you can don’t just have to sit there and take it.

What happens when a planning application is made

For all but the biggest projects your local council – district, borough or unitary, depending on where you live - is the initial arbiter of planning applications. On receiving an application, a council must notify neighbouring residents and other interested parties and allow them 21 days to object or suggest changes. A council planning officer will make a recommendation based on national planning guidelines, its own local development plans and the comments it receives from the neighbours and the final decision is usually made by the council's head of environment.

Appealing a rejected planning application

If the plan is rejected, the applicant can appeal (within six months) to The Planning Inspectorate, although the grounds on which appeals can be made are limited and a more successful approach is often to work with the council to amend the original proposal rather than appeal. Appeals are often considered without a personal hearing, but if there is a hearing than either side can be liable for the other side's costs if they are unsuccessful. Those who objected to the original application will also be informe d of the appeal so that they can comment again.

Major planning applications

Very large or controversial schemes can be 'called in' by the Department of Communities and Local Government and decided by the Deputy Prime Minister, while councils also take legal action on behalf of their residents against planning decisions made at national or regional level.

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