Consultation is a crucial part of the planning process. It is important that Local Planning Authority (LPA) identifies and considers all relevant planning issues associated with a proposed development. Consultees may be able to offer particular insights or detailed information which is relevant to the consideration of the application.
The past couple of weeks have afforded me a range of experiences of the various consultation processes involved in planning. This has included consultation with the public ahead of the submission of a planning application and responding to public and statutory consultee comments in relation to an application pending determination.
The former of the above involved two 5 hour long public exhibitions, where the public, namely the residents and owners of properties in close proximity to the proposed development site, were invited to meet with the client team to view a series of display boards and talk through the proposed scheme. Public exhibitions, such as these, provide the public with the opportunity to understand the proposed development and to raise any issues or concerns prior to the submission of the application. Exhibitions also prove valuable to the client team, with vital feedback being taken on board to inform the final design of the scheme to be taken forward to application. This was the first opportunity I have had to talk directly to members of the public in relation to one of the projects on which I have worked and provided me with a good insight to the principal concerns which face neighbours to development sites (car parking, highways impacts, disturbance during construction, impact on local facilities etc.), and the importance of listening to, and addressing, these concerns.
The second form of consultation within which I have recently been involved occurs post submission of a planning application. After the LPA has received a planning application, it will undertake a period of consultation where views on the proposed development can be expressed. The formal consultation period normally lasts for 21 days, and the LPA will identify and consult a number of different groups, including neighbouring residents and community groups and statutory consultees (i.e. specific bodies who are under a duty to provide advice on the proposal, such as Historic England, Thames Water, Environment Agency, Environmental Health, Highways Authority etc.). Responses from consultees may comprise, inter alia, letters of support, comments and suggestions, or objections. We have recently received a series of consultation responses in relation to a hybrid planning application (comprising outline and detailed elements) for circa. 16,090 sqm of Use Class B1(c) / B2 / B8 floorspace. The nature of these responses varied significantly, however a number raised concern with specific elements of the proposed development and requested further information. It was my job to liaise with the relevant consultants in order to provide the further information requested and to respond to the concerns raised. This included clarifying the specific details of the proposed drainage improvement works, providing further ecological assessment of the potential impacts of the scheme, introducing further replacement tree planting into the proposed landscaping scheme and rebutting claims that a set of trees should become protected by a Tree Preservation Order (TPO). The aim of our response and amendments was to ensure that the proposed scheme is considered to be acceptable in planning terms. They are now being considered by the LPA, who will re-consult those parties who previously made representations for further comment.
Aside from the day to day work of the planning department, we recently partook in an evening of celebrations to celebrate a successful end to the financial year, which was a great opportunity to let our hair down after much hard work.
Harriet Barber, Planning