Most planning applications are approved. However, some aren’t, or – if they are – have stringent conditions attached that the applicant thinks are unreasonable. It’s in those circumstances that you have the option of appealing.
At the outset, it’s important to understand that only the original applicant can appeal. Nor is there any right of appeal by third parties against the approval of planning permission; for example, if your neighbour disagrees with the planning authority’s decision to allow your house extension, he or she cannot appeal against that decision. In rare cases, they might be able to construct a case for a judicial review; but that’s very rare, at least in relation to minor developments.
The rules and procedures vary a little between England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, but the basic principles are the same. If the planning authority has taken a decision to refuse planning permission, or if one (or more) of the planning conditions attached to an approval is unacceptable to you, the applicant, you can appeal. Appeals are also possible in other circumstances; for example, you might want to appeal against an Enforcement Notice, or against the refusal of Listed Building Consent.
We’re talking here about the position after the Local Planning Authority (in most cases, the local Council) has made its final decision. That may follow some kind of local review or hearing, at which the applicant and objectors will have been able to have their say. The appeals system is not a local function: you’ll be dealing with a central government agency.
Should you appeal? That’s a decision only you can make, and you should certainly take appropriate advice from whichever professional(s) are most relevant to your case. If you employed a planning consultant, an engineer, an architect or a surveyor to prepare and submit your planning application, they may be able to help you through the appeal. However, it may also be helpful to seek a second opinion about your chances of success from a professional planning consultant (someone who is a member of the Royal Town Planning Institute or a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Planning and Development Group)). If they know the local area and are familiar with local planning policy, they should be able to give you an indication of the strength of your case.
If you prepared and submitted the planning application yourself, you may feel that you want to deal with the appeal on your own, but if you need advice you can readily obtain it, either from a planning consultant or, perhaps, from another specialist. For example, if the refusal is on the grounds of road safety, it could be helpful to speak to a traffic or roads engineer.
After listening to these specialists, you might decide that there is no realistic chance of gaining permission for your original proposal. You might then decide either to modify the proposal (taking advice from your local planning department) or to abandon it altogether.
There’s something you should bear in mind if you are thinking of appealing against a planning condition that you think is unacceptable. When you submit the appeal, the person who considers it (in Scotland a Reporter, elsewhere an Inspector) is entitled to consider not just the condition that you’ve appealed against, but the whole planning permission. If he or she decides that the proposal as a whole should not be granted planning permission, with or without the condition you didn’t find acceptable, the outcome might be a refusal. If you have the feeling (perhaps from the Council planning officer’s report, or from the debate among councilors at the planning committee) that the decision to grant permission was finely balanced, you’d be wise to think twice before putting the whole permission at risk in that way. It may, in other words, be safer to accept a condition that you don’t like.
Right: let’s assume that you’ve decided that you really do want to appeal. What happens next?
There is no guarantee of success in any appeal. However, you can improve your chances if you take adequate advice before you begin. It’s also important to ensure that all the documents you provided in relation to the original application, and any that you submit for the appeal, are as clear as they can be. Among other things, that includes getting the best quality maps you can, like the ones available from this website.