Customer advice note

Our customers fall under many categories, including those applying for planning permission and making representations on applications, town and parish councils, the business community, councillors, other council services, statutory bodies, interest groups and other organisations interested in planning applications and the planning process.
We aim to provide a professional, courteous, and timely service and strive to maintain high standards. This enables us to make the best possible decisions for our communities.

The purpose of this document is to provide advice to those considering submitting a planning application. This note will apply to any application received after 1 August 2022. The content is broadly consistent with the approach being taken by several other councils but reflects the circumstances currently prevalent in Arun.

Our commitment to customer service

This includes the following:

  • keeping applicants and agents informed of progress on their applications, communication will be received from case officers no later than six weeks after an application is submitted
  • planning conditions will only be attached where they are necessary and proportionate, we will not generate unnecessary work for ourselves or applicants
  • where necessary, pre-commencement conditions will be sent to all applicants/agents to agree before the determination
  • a site visit will take place on all planning applications three weeks from the date of validation
  • determination of pre-application advice applications is generally a lower priority to planning applications however we aim to determine them within six weeks, if this is not possible and there are capacity issues, they will be determined in good time with communication throughout
  • contact details for case officers will be on all correspondence and can be found on our contact planning web page
  • phone calls and correspondence to case officers from applicants/agents will be responded to within four working days
  • encouraging public representation on applications via the online form for each application, representations on applications will not receive responses, they will be reported as representations in the determination of applications
  • general enquiries submitted to our planning team will be responded to within five working days

Submission of amended plans and additional information

We accept that negotiations on proposals are an important part of the application process. However, amendments are not an alternative to well-thought-out, consulted, and properly prepared schemes in the first place. We continue to recommend that applicants use the pre-application service so that issues can be identified and addressed early on. This means that follow-on applications can be determined with the benefit of the pre-application advice if it has been followed and is within reasonable timeframes. This is subject to the caveat set out in the ‘Pre-application Advice’ section of this note.

It is the responsibility of applicants and agents to ensure that the correct information is submitted with applications. Failure to do so will result in applications either being unvalidated or refused, due to missing information. The validation checklist is contained on our planning validation web page. We will only accept any amendment to the red line site area after an application is validated, where the change relates to the location of the proposed access or involves the reduction in the site area to resolve ownership issues. Any other changes required to the red line will require the application to be withdrawn and resubmitted.

We published our protocols relating to when amendments will or will not be sought and how applications will be determined in 2019. We only accept amendments or additional information after the initial submission and validation of a planning application and during its consideration in the following circumstances:

  • pre-application advice was not obtained or followed, it is unlikely that we will negotiate any changes and the application will be decided based on the information originally submitted
  • pre-application advice has been sought and the proposals do not follow the advice issued, the application will be decided based on the information originally submitted
  • pre-application advice has been sought and the advice has been followed, we will negotiate on minor amendments if required
  • in the case of applications for matters reserved by condition we will only allow one attempt at amending the application before issuing our decision, all decisions on Discharge of Conditions will be made within a maximum of 12 weeks
  • in the case of householder and non-major applications, case officers may seek one set of amendments to make a scheme acceptable and which would not result in the need for re-consultation and allow the application to be determined within the statutory time limits
  • in the case of major applications, case officers will only seek amendments that do not fundamentally change the form of the proposals and if it is a minor matter in response to consultation responses that can be dealt with within the statutory time limits, any amendments that would result in the need to display new notices will not normally be accepted
  • in all cases, if there is an objection to the principle of development, the application will be determined on the information originally submitted
  • if a retrospective application is refused, we will take formal action immediately after the decision is issued

Major applications (with a Planning Performance Agreement)

The same process will be applied as for major applications without a PPA but where a PPA has been entered into, then at the discretion of the case officer, usually only two sets of amended drawings or one bundle of additional information will be accepted.

Extensions of time will be used in the following circumstances:

  • where there is a legal agreement that needs to be completed where progress is being made towards completion, in instances where no progress is being made to complete an agreement, applications will be determined without delay
  • where the application needs to be considered by the Planning Committee
  • where it is appropriate to negotiate or seek additional information
  • where there are outstanding consultee responses critical to the determination of the application

Where a breach of condition is identified, any decision where no further action is recommended will be agreed upon by the group head of planning.

Where a planning obligation is required, we will clearly define a project where a contribution is to be spent and define who is spending that contribution.

Pre-application advice

Our pre-application service is a useful way of ironing out issues before the submission of applications. We encourage applicants to make the most of, and benefit from, the service. Where the advice given is considered by applicants it should enable applications to run a smoother and speedier course.

Design Principles

As a result of the changes to the NPPF, the publication of the National Design Guide and the adoption of the Arun Design Guide in 2021 we will now need more details regarding design. This will include your design principles which you should be including in your design and access statements. We would particularly draw attention to the requirement to provide, when relevant, open space, landscaping and planting areas, footpath and cycle connections for health and wellbeing and the need for biodiversity measures to be included as an integrated part of design. Trees are specifically referenced within the NPPF including the importance of street trees.

Attention should be paid to paragraph 73 in the NPPF regarding the use of masterplans and design guides.

For householder extension applications, it would be very useful to include the 45 and 60-degree lines set out on page 118 of the Arun Design Guide.

Registration of planning applications

To improve the quality of the applications submitted, we will review the local validation checklists regularly. Currently, about 70% of applications are invalid on receipt. These take time to process and divert resources away from processing applications quickly. All application documents will be checked before being uploaded to the website for any personal identifying data including signatures, phone numbers and email addresses. Where such data is present in the document this is then blocked out using software. However, this software outputs in black & white which may then affect the appearance of your submission on the public website. If you want to preserve the original colours of documents, please ensure this data is removed before submission. From 1 September 2022, all information relating to an invalid application will need to be provided within two weeks of the request unless otherwise agreed in writing. Where information is not submitted, the application will be returned and refunded, with a fee of £40.00 per application being retained to cover the costs of administering the return.

Decline to determine

Where we decide to decline to determine under s70A, 70B & 70C of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990, the planning application fee will not be returned. This is following the recent High Court decision (June 2022) Piffs Elm Limited v Commission for Local Administration in England.

Photographs accompanying planning applications

During the COVID-19 lockdowns applicants and agents helpfully supplied photographs with their planning applications showing the sites and their surroundings. This proved to be extremely beneficial, meaning many applications were processed more quickly than would otherwise have been possible. Given this success, we are continuing to ask applicants and agents to provide photographs. These photographs will aid determination and will rarely be a substitute for an officer site visit.

If submitting photographs, please try and exclude personal identification data such as car registrations and faces.

Community consultation

Our planning department does not carry out individual neighbour notifications. A site notice will be displayed for planning applications. Members of the public are encouraged to use our automated planning finder service where they will be automatically notified of new planning applications within a defined search area. 

We will publish comments made on our website for all live planning applications and take these into account in the determination of applications unless the comments are offensive, racist, discriminatory, threatening, or anonymous.