The most common issue that our members ask for assistance with is planning. Usually this relates to applications made by neighbours that are considered inappropriate. While the Council gives considerable guidance on how to submit a planning application, assistance on how to object to a lodged application is less clear. In this section we give some details of the planning decision process and some guidance on how to raise an objection.
How do I find out about an Application?
The Council is obliged to notify all properties that abut the property that the application refers to (ignoring the presence of roads) of the submission of the planning application. At their discretion, they may notify more residents if the application is considered to have significant impact on a wider area. Optionally signs may be placed on nearby lampposts and adverts placed in the local press.
If you want to be kept informed of new applications relating to a specific property or a Ward, you can subscribe to the LBS Planning Portal and request email updates.
In addition to the Council's notification process the Association regularly monitors the LBS Planning Portal for planning applications submitted for our area. We pay particular attention to two storey extensions, infills, demolition and rebuilds and plot splitting. If we see an application that we consider may be of concern, we will distribute a "Planning Watch" email to residents who are likely to be affected, suggesting that they check out the application and let us know if they are considering objecting. This service is only available to BSCRA members who have asked to be registered with our e-Bulletin service.
Be aware that some applications relate to Certificates of Lawfulness. These are requests by the applicant to obtain formal confirmation as to whether or not proposed changes are allowed under Permitted Development Rights and do not require a full Planning Application. It is not possible to comment on these applications.
The Consultation Period
Initial objections to a planning application must be made during that application's consultation period.
At the end of the 21 day consultation period, most of the applications made in our area can be decided by the Case Officer under delegated powers. However, on written request from a Councillor (which must quote valid planning policy reasons), or on receipt of 10 or more written objections, the application can be de-delegated and consequently referred to the Planning Committee for debate and decision by Councillors.
Making an Objection
It is important to understand what points are relevant when making your objection. Some of the reasons you may want to raise, may not be valid for refusing an application. Do not clutter your letter of objection by including reference to invalid reasons no matter how strongly you may feel about them as this will detract from more relevant planning policy points.
The Council Officers or the Councillors who decide your application must consider whether there are any good planning reasons for refusing planning permission or for granting permission subject to conditions. The Council cannot reject a proposal simply because many people oppose it. The Case Officer will primarily assess whether the proposal is consistent with the policies in the LBS Local Plan. Consideration may also need to be given for the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) (July 2021) and the Mayor of London's London Plan (March 2021).
In addition to policies that apply to the whole of the Borough, the BSCRA area also includes three Areas of Special Local Character (ASLCs). These are the Burton Estates ASLC, the Kings Road and Belmont Road ASLC and the Queens Road and The Crescent ASLC. The Burton Estates ASLC is the largest of these ASLC and covers a large part of South Cheam. Its character is documented in its own Character Appraisal which covers many aspects of design. Residents considering carrying out developments within the ASLC's boundary are advised to read the Character Appraisal to make sure that they are complying with its guidelines which can have a significant impact on whether their application is granted or not.
The "material considerations" the Council can consider include:
- Undue loss of privacy
- Loss of sunlight/daylight
- Effect on trees
- Access or traffic problems
- Need for car parking
- Unacceptable or incompatible use
- Storage of hazardous substances
- Excessive height or bulk of buildings
- Inappropriate design/layout
- Inadequate landscaping/means of enclosure
It is important to remember that the Council is required by law to decide applications in accordance with the planning policies in the LBS Local Plan. The weight that is given to material considerations can vary from case to case. Any objection you may wish to make must also be based on policies defined in the LBS Local Plan.
Reasons that cannot be taken into account by the Council when considering an objection are:
- Disputes over boundaries
- Restrictive covenants
- Loss of value
- Matters dealt with by other legislation
- Inconvenience caused by building works
- Opposition to business competition
- Opposition to the principle of development when this has been settled by an outline planning permission
- The applicants' personal circumstances unless exceptionally these can be shown to be material e.g. disability
- Factual misrepresentation of the proposal.
The Council cannot keep objections to planning applications confidential even if requested to do so. Any objections marked as confidential will be returned to the objector. Anonymous objections will not be taken into consideration.
Once you have prepared your objection you must submit it online by logging in to the
LBS Planning Portal. Once logged in (you may need to register first) select the application you wish to object to and click the "Make Comment" button. We advise you to prepare your objection offline first and then Cut And Paste it into the Comments Box on the website. Except in cases of valid difficulty, the Council will NOT accept emailed objections.
The Decision Making Process
If the application has not been de-delegated (see above), at the end of the consultation period the application will be decided by the Case Officer without further discussion.
If the application has been de-delegated, all comments received by the Council from neighbours and other interested parties will be compiled into a report by the Case Officer and presented to the Planning Committee. At this meeting at the discretion of the Chairman, residents have the opportunity to address the Committee to present their reasons for objection. 4 minutes are allowed for this. Usually there will be one speaker. There can be more but the total time allowed remains at 4 minutes. In addition, a local Ward Councillor may also speak for 4 minutes in support of the objectors. After this the applicant (or anyone else who wishes to support the application) may also speak for 4 minutes.
The Committee members will then debate the proposal and then vote on whether the application should be granted. In the event of the votes for and against being equal, the Chair will have the casting vote.
If you wish to speak at Planning Committee meeting you should contact LBS Committee Services in advance of the meeting. They can be contacted at email:
email@example.com or tel: 020 8770 4990.
The agenda for any Planning Committee meeting is published approximately 10 days prior to the meeting. The agenda is available on the Council website and can be seen by clicking here.
Appeals against Refusals
If an application is refused by the Council, the applicant can appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against the decision. With their appeal they must submit their grounds for appeal which should focus on the Council's reasons for refusal.
If this happens the Case Officer will submit to the Inspectorate a report that justifies their reason for refusing the application. It is not necessary to send in your objections again as all the original letters of objection will be included with the appeal documentation.
Some appeals are dealt with under a FastTrack process in which case no further representations will be allowed by the Inspectorate. Others are typically handled by the Written Representations process (Hearings are very rare). For Written Representation appeals you should write in if additional relevant reasons for objection have emerged since your objection was first submitted or if you disagree with statements made by the applicant in their grounds for appeal.
You can see the status of an appeal on the Planning Inspectorate website . You should use the Advanced Search option to find the appeal. The LBS Planning Portal will have the documentation for the appeal under the Appeal Tab on the main search page.
As an objector, you cannot appeal against a granted application, nor against the decision of the inspector. This can only be challenged in the High Court (at significant cost!).
Party Wall Act
While not a planning consideration, many of our members are concerned about what happens once a planning application is approved. For applications that involve excavation within 3m of any part of your property or which affect a shared (party) wall, the Party Wall Act comes into force.
Click here for a summary of the Act. Contact us if you need more advice.