Stakeholder engagement and consultation

Why is Statutory Consultation important?

Statutory consultation is a legal requirement to consult specific groups or bodies during the process of applying for planning consent or permitting.

Local planning authorities require a consultation period which is normally a minimum of 8 weeks, but could stretch to months, or even years, depending on whether an Environmental Impact Assessment or other technical studies are needed. Once the consultation has closed, the views of those approached as part of the statutory consultation are considered and should play a strong part in the planning authority’s decision as to whether or not to approve a planning application.

In England, consultees include:

  • Environment Agency
  • Fire and Rescue Authority
  • Health and Safety Executive
  • Historic England
  • National Health Service and Clinical Commissioning Groups
  • Natural England
  • Police and Crime Commissioner
  • Relevant Parish Council(s)

The Marine Management Organisation (MMO) also has to be consulted in any applications which may have an impact on marine areas. It may also be compulsory to include other organisations or individuals depending on the type of development being proposed.

Statutory consultees are not obliged to respond, and if any reports are missing, the Planning Inspector must be told to make their decision without the guidance of that particular body.

Can an applicant do anything to speed up the statutory consultation process?

While the time allocated for responses is set by the local planning authority, putting in some work beforehand can make the whole process quicker and easier.

Before any application is made, developers are encouraged to get in touch early on with the planning authority and any statutory consultees to find out what issues or concerns might occur, and if there are opportunities to improve things. It’s expected that applicants will refine their plans according to the feedback they get from statutory consultees and others before they submit their plans.

Those being consulted also need to make it clear from the outset what information they require in order to give an adequate response, so looking at these guidelines and providing the relevant details from the start can avoid last-minute requests, which may slow the process.

If you’re intending to submit a planning application, you’re allowed to contact those likely to be statutory consultees to find out what kind of information they will need before you submit. However, in some circumstances, these people or bodies might be able to charge for any extra advice or information you request. If they are going to charge, this information should be easily available on the consultee’s website.

Using the services of a consultancy can help you make your way through this process, as they will have expert knowledge of what details are needed at which point of the pre-application process, and may be able to pre-empt difficulties, saving you both time and money.

What information do statutory consultees give to local planning authorities?

All statutory consultees are given a fixed time period to provide a ‘substantive response.’ This deadline varies according to the circumstances. A ‘substantive response’ to an application must be detailed enough for the planning authority to make a well-informed decision.

Those asked to respond to the consultation must also give the reasons for their opinions so that any planning decisions can be seen to be fair and transparent at every stage of the process.

What can you do if you disagree with the statutory consultees?

The information given by statutory consultees is provided to help guide the final decision as to whether or not to grant consent, so any statement for or against your plans may not align with the final decision made. However, Local Planning Authorities are expected to be heavily influenced by the expert opinions and information presented to them.

You can only appeal a planning decision if you are the one who applied for planning consent. In this case, you have 6 months to apply to the Planning Inspectorate in the first instance. Depending on whether you believe there was an error in the actual application process, or if the decision itself is wrong, you can also go through the local authority’s complaints procedure, the Local Government Ombudsman or apply through the Courts for a Judicial Review.

However, in general, the whole application and decision-making process is transparent and the reasoning behind decisions is made clear. The key to making the process as easy and painless for all involved is to speak to all relevant parties at as early a stage as possible. This gives you the chance to discuss your plans and accommodate any changes you may need to make before your documents get as far as the Planning Committee.

Getting expert advice or support around statutory consultations, preparing documentation for submission and other aspects of the planning process can help to make the process smoother for all involved.

To discover how our environmental experts can help, contact Engain on +44 (0)1225 459564 or enquiries@engain.com

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