Planning applications are determined by the district council. North Devon Council has a dedicated planning department and all planning applications can be viewed on their online portal available at: http://planning.northdevon.gov.uk/search.asp.
The Parish Council's Role
The parish council is a statutory consultee for all planning applications within the parish, this means that the planning department will contact us to give us the opportunity to comment on applications. Usually our role in the process is to highlight local information relevant to an application that the planning department might not otherwise be aware of.
For the avoidance of doubt the parish council does not directly determine the outcome of applications, but the views of the parish council can help to sway the decision of the planning department or planning committee.
The parish council can only make decisions about a planning application at a public meeting, we normally review applications at the monthly parish council meeting at the village hall. For awareness each councillor needs to keep an open mind before reviewing and voting on applications at public meetings, while it is likely that each of us will have a view prior to a meeting, we should not have decided which way to vote until we have reviewed everything at a meeting.
If you ever have a strong view about an application, whether in favour or against, it will help the parish council if we are aware of the strength of opinion, for example a large turnout at a parish council meeting can be referenced in our formal response to an application.
We normally allow some 'chat' between the parish council and members of the public when reviewing applications, though if there are a lot of people who want to share their thoughts we sometimes have to be a little more formal so that everyone has an opportunity to share their thoughts.
If you want to raise a specific matter at a meeting it is always helpful if any supporting information is made available in advance, this ensures that references to legislation, or similar, can be read prior to the meeting and potentially included in our consultee response.
If you do not want to support or object an application in public you can speak directly to any of the parish council and they will be able to raise your concerns anonymously as part of the discussion.
Everyone is also able to respond directly to an application in their own right, this can be done via the planning tracker, or email / post to the planning department.
When there are 'popular' planning applications a more formal approach than normal may be necessary.
To ensure everyone attending the meeting knows what to expect the following is an overview.
- Chairman - Summarise how the meeting will run i.e. run through this list (for those who have not seen this page or been to a parish council meeting before).
- Chairman & Parish Council - Summarise any history associated with the application to provide context and background.
- Members of the Public - Everyone's opportunity to raise questions about the application or provide reasons why you think the Parish Council should or should not support an application, unless you have spoken to a councillor previously this is your main opportunity to influence the Parish Council's decision.
- Parish Council - Review the planning application, this stage of the meeting is not an open debate for everyone it is only for councillors. Sometimes it can be helpful to have dialogue with whoever has submitted the application to gain clarification about some aspects, but in general there is no involvement from members of the public during this discussion.
- Parish Council - Vote on the planning application; only councillors vote.
If you intended to raise issues of a 'legal' nature about an application for example new research that indicates something is harmful contrary to current guidelines, please ensure the information is made available in advance of the meeting, if there has not been an opportunity to validate information we won't be able to consider it properly.
Usually planning decisions are made by the planning department, but under certain circumstances applications will be decided by the planning committee, which is made up of several district councillors.