National Organisation of Residents Associations


NORA Response to Streamlining the Planning Application Process




Question 1. Do you agree with the proposal to reduce the number of minor applications which require a Design and Access Statement by raising the threshold?


Question 2. Do you think that major development is the right threshold for requiring a Design Access Statement? If not, what should the threshold be?


Question 3. Do you agree with the proposals to require a Design and Access Statement for some smaller schemes in World Heritage Sites and Conservation Areas, in addition to major development and listed building consents?


Question 4. Do you agree with the proposed simplification of the statutory content of Design Access Statements?


Question 5. Are there any further changes that could be made in respect of Design and Access Statements?


Question 6. Do you have any comments on the changes to local lists and validation, as set out in paragraphs 39-46 and reflected in the draft legislation in Annex 2?


Question 7. Do you have any comments on the procedure for challenging information requests at the validation stage as set out in paragraphs 52-54 and reflected in the draft legislation in Annex 2?


Question 8. Do you agree with the proposal to remove the statutory requirement, when planning permission is granted, to provide a summary of reasons for approval and a summary of the relevant policies and proposal considered on written decision notices?

YES and NO

The vast majority of the nearly half a million annual planning applications are approved by determinations made either by planning officers using delegated powers or by councillors of relevant council committees in which the approval is congruent with the planning officers' recommendations. In either case the reasons for the recommendation that led to the approval are clearly described in planning officer reports, which are readily available on council websites. Anyone can easily discover the reasons for the approval without them being reproduced in approval notices. Accordingly NORA supports the removal of the need for giving detailed reasons for the approval where there is congruence with the recommendation for approval in the relevant planning officer's report.

NORA members' concerns are with the recommendation in paragraph 64, which refers to determinations that approve a planning application in direct conflict with the recommendation for a refusal in the planning officer's report.

NORA members' experience is that no more than 1 in a 1000 of approvals is in conflict with the relevant planning officer's recommendation for a refusal. The total number must be relatively trivial, so that on average in any one year in most Local Planning Authorities there are fewer than ten such approvals.

NORA members point out, that when a refusal has been recommended, it is often as a result of residents' concerns and objections, and is expected to be confirmed at the relevant planning committee. To find that an approval has been granted and the decision notice fails to include detailed reasons for it, unless they had attended the actual meeting, they would have no way of knowing the reasons for the approval by councillors at the planning meeting.

It is accepted that in many such cases residents would not seek judicial review, partly because the development proposed is not so disastrous and partly because residents do not have the funds to cover the costs of judicial review. When the development is considered to cause serious problems for residents and judicial review is being considered, without knowing the reasons why the councillors rejected the planning officer's recommendation, they are at a serious disadvantage.

The benefits to Local Planning Authorities (LPA) of the proposals are considerable. It is NORA's opinion that the burden on an LPA of having to provide adequate reasons for an approval when it is in conflict with the officer's recommendation for refusal is small in contrast to the disbenefits to residents. To make it an option at the discretion of the LPA is an inadequate remedy.

NORA members are seeking an addition of this type of approval to the list of other determinations - refusals, decision on listed buildings and approvals with conditions - that merit adequate reasons to be given in a decision notice.

Question 9. Do you have any comments on the assumptions and analysis set out in the consultation stage impact assessment in Annex 1?


Question 10. In particular, do you agree that £500 is an accurate reflection of the costs associated with creating a Design and Access Statement for minor development? If not, what do you consider to be a more realistic figure?


February 2013                                                Alan B Shrank - NORA chairman