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Why is the planning system important?

The planning system exists to ensure that development is in the public interest.

Local planning

Why is the planning system important?

England's planning system shapes new development all over the country, making sure it's positive for people, the economy and the environment.

The system exists to ensure that development is in the public interest, weighing up its economic, environmental and social benefits and drawbacks. It plays a key role in making sure the places where we live and work are attractive, vibrant and well designed.

speechAlways remember, if in doubt, speak to your local planning authority - your local plans team will be able to help

The planning system can make sure that development supports regeneration which meets the needs of local communities. It can support the development of affordable housing. It can make sure that new development in historic areas takes into account its surroundings. And it can prevent development where it would cause unacceptable environmental damage.

Most significant development in England needs planning permission from a local planning authority to go ahead. The first stage of this usually involves the person or organisation that wants to carry out the development submitting a planning application. Around 500,000 planning applications are submitted every year.

The planning system aims to ensure that all views on new development are taken into account. Members of the public are entitled to see and comment on all planning applications. This is your chance to press for planning decisions that are positive for your local community.

How this guide can help you

We've put together eight simple steps to take if you want to find out more about a planning application, and support or challenge it.

Whether you have a special interest, like archaeology or wildlife, or more general concerns about the kind of development your area needs, this guide will help you present your views appropriately, effectively, and to the right people.

The planning application process: a summary

When a local planning authority receives a planning application, it is bound by law to publicise it. For applications for major development it must publish a notice in a local newspaper and either post a notice on the site that passers-by can see, or notify the occupiers and owners of adjoining properties.

Alongside inviting the public to comment, local planning authorities have to consult a range of organisations whose interests may be affected by a proposed development. These can include, for example, the local highways authority if the development could mean an increase in traffic. Issues concerning waste, water or air pollution are referred to the Environment Agency, and Natural England assesses applications that could affect wildlife.

Members of the public have a few weeks to comment on a planning application. The deadline for comments is 21 days from the date a site notice is put up or notice is served on neighbours, or 14 days from when an advert appears in a local newspaper. Parish and town councils have 21 days from the date they were notified to make an official comment.

Local planning authorities will either approve the application, sometimes with conditions or obligations, or refuse it. In either case, the authority must give reasons for its decision.

Local planning authorities should usually make a decision within eight weeks. If it takes longer, the applicant can appeal to the Secretary of State with responsibility for planning.

In some circumstances, for example if the application concerns development on or around Green Belt, outside of town centres, on playing fields, in World Heritage sites or in flood risk areas, and the local planning authority intends to approve it, they will, in some circumstances, have to inform the Secretary of State with responsibility for planning. The Secretary of State may then 'call in' the application and make a decision on it following a public inquiry, taking the matter out of the local planning authority's hands. This call-in right applies to any planning application, but is generally used only for major development or in particularly controversial cases.

NextStep 1: Look at the planning application