An explanation of the planning application process, from an initial development idea, through to the determination of an application and beyond.
Our planning application process diagram shows the process through which applications are registered, consulted on, considered and determined.
The process has the following key steps, which are explained in detail below:
Once a land owner, developer, potential purchaser of a property or another party have an idea of a potential proposal for the development or the reuse of an existing building or land, they will need to undertake a number of stages before submitting an application.
The first stage should be to confirm if planning permission or any other form of consent is required. Advice can be sought from a private planning agent and/or from the Local Planning Authority (the council) through our pre-application planning advice service.
If consent is required, research should be undertaken into the site, its surroundings, and relevant planning policy to identify any factors which may affect the type, scale, form and appearance of any development on the site. These factors should be used to inform the design process and the scope of development proposed.
Guidance on whether a scheme may be acceptable (or not) can also be sought through our pre-application planning advice service.
On schemes that are larger, more complex or potentially more controversial, early community consultation is also recommended, as advocated by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).
Some schemes, such as larger proposals, single-dwelling schemes proposed under Paragraph 79 of the NPPF and other proposals where design is likely to be particularly sensitive, maybe reviewed by the Suffolk Design Review Panel, as part of this pre-submission stage.
Once an application considers that their proposal is ready, they will submit a formal application to the Local Planning Authority for consideration.
The formal application process starts with the submission of a formal application to the Local Planning Authority.
The onus rests with the applicant (or their agent) to ensure that they submit all the necessary information required to validate their application, and ensure there is sufficient information to enable a positive determination if the scheme is acceptable in all other respects.
Once an application is received, our support team will register the application with its own unique reference number and check whether all necessary documents and the required application fee has been submitted.
The necessary information will be dependant upon the type and scale of the proposal, and the location of the site. Therefore, as part of the validation process, our support team will identify any potential constraints affecting the site (e.g. is it in an area at risk of flooding?) and check if any additional documentation is required as a result of those constraints (e.g. a flood risk assessment).
If all the required information and required application fee has been submitted, the application will be valid from the day on which it was received. An acknowledgement letter will then be sent to the applicant (or their agent if they have one), advising them of the application reference number and the that the application is valid.
If further information or a fee is required for the application. A letter will then be sent to the applicant (or their agent if they have one), advising them of the application reference number and explaining what additional information and/or fee is required. This will also set out a timeframe for these documents/fee to be submitted. If the missing information is not submitted, the application will be then returned to the applicant (or their agent).
Once an application is valid, it will be uploaded on to the East Suffolk Website. The application, including the application form and submitted plans will then be visible via the Public Access system.
If you have registered on Public Access, undertaken a search and used the ‘Save a Search’, you will be given the option to allow the system to automatically email you if/when there is a change to the search, e.g. the status of an application changes or a new application has been received within the geographical area selected. This means that if a new application is uploaded to the website meeting your search criteria, you will then be notified.
Once the application is visible on the website, on all applications that require a formal consultation process, notifications will be sent out.
This consultation process will be undertaken in accordance with our Statement of Community Involvement (SCI) and the National Regulation requirements, as set out in the General Development Procedure Order (as amended).
The consultation process varies depending upon the type of application, the proposed scale and form of development, and its location. It can include all or some of the following:
Advertisements in the press are only undertaken where there is a requirement under national legislation, as the site is potentially affected by a designation such as a conservation area, or is close to or contains a listed building, a site of potential Archaeological Interest, Tree Preservation Order or Public Right of Way.
There are some forms of application where formal consultation is either limited or not required by either the Statement of Community Involvement and/or the National Regulations. These include applications which seek non-material minor amendments, and the discharge of conditions on previously consented schemes.
The consultation period will last at least 15 working days from the last method of consultation (where formal consultation is required). In most cases the last method of consultation will either be the placing of the site notice or the advertisement in the newspaper.
If you wish to comment on an application, you will need to do so in writing.
On the majority of applications, such as those which are seeking planning permission, listed building consent, or advertisement consent, a site visit is undertaken by the case officer, in order to assess the site and its surroundings.
As part of this visit the officer(s) will view the application site and look the relationship with any adjoining properties and the wider character of the local area. In many cases they will need to enter the land that forms the application site.
In most cases, the site notice will be posted by the case officer when they undertake this visit.
A site visit does not usually take place for applications which are seeking approval for something on a previous consent e.g. discharge/approval of details reserved by a condition.
When making planning decisions, Section 38(6) of the Planning and Compulsory Purchase Act 2004 requires that regard is to be had to the Development Plan and that the determination shall be made in accordance with the plan unless material consideration indicates otherwise.
The decision should also be made in accordance with the National Planning Policy Framework unless there are material considerations to indicate otherwise.
As part of the determination of applications all consultation responses are read. However, in terms of their content consideration can only be given to the points that are ‘Material Planning Considerations’. Other points raised within consultation responses that are not ‘Material Planning Considerations’ cannot be considered.
For guidance on what matters can be considered as ‘Material Planning Considerations’ please refer to the ‘What should be included in comments on applications’ section on our Commenting on a planning application page.
All planning applications are delegated to the Head of Planning Services, unless defined ‘triggers’ are met.
Once the case officer has formed a ‘Minded to’ recommendation on the application (on behalf of the Head of Planning Services), the determination process route the application will then take is set out in the Scheme of Delegation.
The Scheme of Delegation is defined in full within the East Suffolk Council Constitution.
In simplified terms, planning applications are either:
Our Planning application referral process diagram illustrates the process for deciding which type of determination route an application will take. This process is explained below.
Applications which are ‘delegated’ are determined by officers.
The case officer makes a recommendation based upon an assessment of the proposals, relevant planning policy and material planning considerations, which is then reviewed by an officer who has been given delegated ‘signing off’ powers by the Head of Service.
If the reviewing officer agrees with the case officer’s recommendation, the decision will be issued as recommended.
If the reviewing officer does not agree with the case officer’s recommendation, the application and recommendation will be reviewed in further detail, generally with input from other officers before a final decision is made.
Applications are triggered and taken to the ‘Referral Panel’ in situations where the officers ‘minded to’ decision is contrary to either:
The ‘Referral Panel’ is made up of the chairs and vice-chairs of the North and South Planning Committees. Prior to an application being taken to the ‘Referral Panel’, a report to the panel members is prepared by the case officer setting out the key issues for consideration including planning policy and the consultation responses.
During the Referral Panel meeting, the members see plans of the proposal, and photographs, before deciding on the process route the application will take. They can decide to either delegate the determination of the application to officers or refer the item to Planning Committee for determination.
The Referral Panel do not determine the outcome of the application, simply the process route it will take.
The East Suffolk Council Constitution sets out the procedure for Planning Committee meetings.
There are three triggers, which require a planning application to be taken directly to Planning Committee (i.e. by passing the Referral Panel and Planning Committee Member call-in process):
As explained above, applications can also be referred to Planning Committee by the Planning Referral Panel.
There is also an additional method by which a Planning Application can reach planning committee. If the comments from the Town or Parish Council are contrary to the recommendations of officers and the ward member makes a request for the item to be referred to planning committee during the 21 day consultation period, a Planning Committee Member call-in process is then triggered. That process includes a 5-day consultation period with the members of the North or South Planning Committee, who can then respond to potentially call the application into Planning Committee. Full details of this process are set out in trigger point 5 of the Scheme of Delegation within the East Suffolk Council Constitution.
The above routes by which a Planning Application can reach Planning Committee are illustrated in the routes to planning committee diagram.
If an application is to be determined by Planning Committee, a report will be published on our Committee pages, at least five clear working days prior to the meeting.
At the Planning Committee meeting, the case officer presents the application to members. There is then the opportunity for public speaking, for those who have pre-registered.
Following the public speaking, the application is debated by members before a determination is reached.
In some cases the Planning Committee will defer the determination (sometimes in order for members to undertake a site visit).
The minutes of the meeting will subsequently be published online alongside the reports for the meeting.
Those wishing to watch the meeting online can do so via our YouTube channel.
Once a determination has been reached (either at officer level or at Planning Committee), the application will proceed towards a final decision notice being issued.
All reports and recommendations, including the wording of any conditions, or reasons for refusal are drafted by the case officer. They are then checked by a ‘signing off’ officer, before the final decision notice is issued by our Planning Support Team.
Once issued, a copy of the decision notice is sent to the applicant (or their agent if they have one), and a copy is uploaded to the Public Access system. In the case of delegated items, a copy of the officers report is also uploaded to Public Access.
If permission is granted, the applicant is likely to need to undertake a number of other steps before starting work on site.
Some forms of development are Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) liable.
When permission is granted, it often contains a number of conditions relating to the proposal, which will need to be complied with during and after construction. In many cases this can include conditions, which require the submission and agreement of details such as precise external materials, through ‘Applications for details reserved by condition’ (also sometimes referred to as ‘Discharge of Condition Applications’). Depending upon the wording of the condition(s) these may be required to be discharged before or after works commence onsite.
Some consents are accompanied by a legal agreement, which will require certain actions to be undertaken either before, during or after construction.
If the applicant decides they wish to make changes to the approved scheme, they may need to submit further applications either in the form of an application for a non-material amendment (for very minor changes), a variation of condition in order to vary the approved plans or a full application for a completely fresh consent.
In addition to planning related consents, other consents may be required under separate legislation and/or in relation to private/civil rights. This can include, but is not limited to Building Regulations, agreements from land owners, and/or a licence. Alcohol licences are matters for our Licensing Team. Caravan and camp site licences are matters for our Private Sector Housing Team.
If an application is refused, the applicants have the right to appeal. Similarly, if the applicant does not agree with a condition imposed on a consent, they also have the right to appeal that condition.
In either case, if the applicant wishes to appeal must submit their appeal to the Planning Inspectorate within a specified timescale, which is dependant upon the type and scale of application.