Responding to Planning Applications

Having your say on planning, listed building and licence applications is one of the best ways of influencing the shape of our communities. For Herefordshire Council, it is the Core Strategy 2011-2031, based upon the National Planning and Policy Framework, which is treated as the key reference document. The Core Strategy is due for revision in the light of the 2018 iteration of the NPPF and the Climate Emergency, but the basic process for public comments is unlikely to change.

 

Getting going

'Google' Herefordshire Council Planning' and click on 'Planning Application Search.  A box will appear headed 'search for applications'. If you know the number of the application type it in. If not type in its address. If you only know the street it is likely quite a few options may appear.  Scroll down to search the one you want.

 

Review the evidence

Herefordshire Council's planning portal is very user-friendly. When you have brought up the application you want to review you will see on the right hand side various drop down menus containing the application form, supporting documents, drawings, photographs and representations. You will need to look at the drawings and any reports and correspondence in the supporting documents

 

Making your representation

Go to the top of the page and click on 'comment on this application'. Write in the text box.  Take care to stick to planning matters and avoid comments of a personal nature. Planning matters include design, appearance, layout, materials, accessibility, transport provision, heritage, landscape and wildlife. Planning does not concern itself with personal circumstances or impact on property values. Try to get your comments in before the deadline. The Council will accept them for a while afterwards but you will have to send them direct to the case officer and they may not be published on the application site.

 

Sustainability underpins everything

Sustainability is the watchword of the NPPF, but it has become a hackneyed word open to a variety of interpretation and frequently undermined by the notion an unsustainable development can become acceptable if it provides sufficient 'benefit'. Civic Society members are encouraged in their representations to defend the notion robustly and to suggest improvements to unsatisfactory schemes so that they deliver outcomes which are both genuinely sustainable and of public benefit.

 

Framing your representation

The vast majority of applications are of a minor  nature, such as small domestic extensions or change of use of premises and seldom require a comment. Focus on larger schemes which impact upon valued open space, upon communities or are for big new buildings impacting on the historic environment. We hope you agree with the Society's position and urge that in Hereford these are, so far as is humanly possible:

  • assessed on their own merits and not compromised by poor quality 'enabling developments'.

  • affordable and appropriate to meet genuinely local need

  • adequately serviceable by public transport, cycle and walking and are not essentially car-dependent. It will increasingly be a requirement of schemes for new housing that they specifically design out the private car, following principles of Transport for New Homes, here.

  • energy efficient to minimum energy performance ratio (EPR) of 0.375 (equivalent to BREEAM 'Excellent') for all applications and for new build a minimum of EPR 0.6 (BREEAM 'Outstanding') with immediate effect, leading to EPR 0.9 (zero CO2 emissions or 'Passivhaus') from 2030.

  • provided with renewables heating systems sufficient to meet carbon neutrality and the elimination of fossil fuels with immediate effect

  • provided with facilities for effective waste and recycling separation (particularly an issue re applications for houses of multiple occupation (HMOs)

  • well-designed so as to protect and enhance local  distinctiveness, properly respect historic character and create places of appropriate human scale and style which people will admire and enjoy.

 

Be succinct and in your own words

Representations framed in your own words carry more weight than those which copy and paste. The number of representations on an application matters, but so does what you say. Planners are busy people. Stick to planning matters and express yourself concisely and frame your comments in line with the Civic Society's perspective for conserving and enhancing valued environments, strengthening society and building a robust economy.

 

Decision making

Most planning applications are straightforward and are determined by authority delegated by members to officers. About 5% of applications go to the Planning & Regulatory Committee which, meeting about once a month, listens to a report from the case officer, representations from the ward councillor and others before debating and deciding by simple majority vote. If you have made a written representation you are entitled to register an interest in speaking as a member of the public (max 3 minutes) at these meetings.

 

And finally...

If you are responding on behalf of the Civic Society, please add the following disclaimer:

Comments submitted in respect of planning or listed building applications to Herefordshire Council will have been drafted by HCS case-workers to reflect the generality of view of the Society, and do not necessarily reflect the views of all members.