South Hams District Council
Follaton House
Plymouth Road

01803 861234


South Hams District Council has put together a leaflet so that the public can engage more effectively with the Local Authority on planning issues. Although there is a wealth of information on their website, the following brings together some of the more relevant points and sign posts to more information:

South Hams District Council

Making Your Voice Count in the Planning Process

1 Introduction

1.1 The Role of the Council

The Council has two main roles in planning:

1 It makes plans guiding the location, scale and type of development that will be needed over the next 15-20 years; and

2 It makes decisions on planning applications.

These roles only cover the area of South Hams outside Dartmoor National Park.

1.2 Understanding the Planning System

A Handy Guide to Planning has been prepared by the Royal Town Planning Institute and provides more information about the planning process. It can be viewed on

The Planning Aid web site also has a series of fact sheets presented as a Planning Pack which explain aspects of the planning system to help you get involved and influence what happens. They can be accessed from this link:

The Council's Statement of Community Involvement sets out when and how we will involve members of the community in preparing development plans and processing planning applications. To view the document, please follow this link:

2 How Can I Be Involved in Plan Making?

2.1 Why is it important?

Every Local Authority is required to have a Development Plan (often referred to as the Local Plan). The preparation of the Local Plan follows a process of evidence gathering and public debate about its contents. The Local Plan is prepared by the Council, but scrutinised at an Examination in Public held before an independent Planning Inspector. A Local Plan will contain:

  • A strategy for the sustainable development of the District
  • Levels of development to meet the need for housing, employment, services, facilities and infrastructure
  • Policies to guide particular types of development
  • Allocations of land for development

The Local Plan is important because:

Planning law requires that applications for planning permission must be decided in accordance with the Development Plan unless "material considerations" indicate otherwise. More information about what is a "material consideration" can be found below.

2.2 What Do I Need To Do?

  • Make yourself familiar with the Local Plan timetable. Learn when the Council is planning to involve the public and how they will do this.
  • Ask to go on the Council's consultee database, so you will be automatically notified when there is a chance to be involved.
  • Look at the evidence and background documents that are prepared.

2.3 How Can I Make Effective Comments About Planning Policy?

Here are some suggestions about how to make sure your comments about an emerging Local Plan or policy are effective.

2.3 How Can I Make Effective Comments About Planning Policy?

Here are some suggestions about how to make sure your comments about an emerging Local Plan or policy are effective.

  • The earlier you are involved in the plan making process, the more effectively you can influence the contents.
  • The Council is interested in the parts of the Local Plan you support, so remember the opportunity to get involved is not just about objecting to the plan or policy.
  • Make comments on time – keep your comments brief and succinct and keep an eye on the date you will need to submit them by. This is particularly important as a plan nears its final stages.
  • Where possible link your comments to the evidence that underpins the plan or evidence that you have gathered. This will be more effective than comments based on assertion or opinion.
  • Keep comments objective and measured. You may feel strongly about an issue, but be aware the Council makes all comments public.
  • Confine your comments to planning matters. These are issues about development, land use, infrastructure and the interactions between them. You may also consider how robust the evidence is that the Council has gathered and whether the Council's conclusions about the evidence are reasonable.
  • Consider joining forces with other people who are interested in a particular Local Plan topic, to share information, knowledge and resources.
  • If objecting to the plan or a policy in it, it is helpful to state how the plan should be amended to take account of your concerns.

3 Commenting on Planning Applications

3.1 How Do I Find Out About Planning Applications?

The Council publishes a list of planning applications received every week in the local newspaper and on its web site ( . Town and Parish Councils will also receive notification of planning applications affecting their area and many put these on Parish notice boards. SiSite notices are placed at, or near the site of a proposed application.

The Council's web site has a planning search and tracking facility, where you can view documents and the progress of the application through the process. This facility is available from the link above.

3.2 What is the Best Way to Respond?

The Council can only take into account written comments, submitted either by post, email or using the on-line planning application comment facilities.

You should supply your name and address so that your comments can be acknowledged and you can be kept informed about the decision.

3.3 How Can I Make Effective Comments on a Planning Application?

  • Make your comments using the "comment on a planning application" facility on the Councils' website or in an individual letter or email; standard letters and petitions are not acknowledged by the Council and you will not be kept informed of the progress of a planning application.
  • Be aware of the deadline date for comments.
  • Substantiate your comments with evidence; this will have more weight than assertion or opinion.
  • If you think there are things an applicant can do to reduce the impact of a proposal, then make this clear.Quote policies from national planning guidance and the Local Plan that support your views.
  • Comments should be related to "material considerations". Some examples of material planning considerations are:

National planning policy and policies in the Local Plan

Emerging plans

Pre-application consultation that may have been carried out by the applicant

Previous planning decisions on the site and appeals

Case law

Overlooking or loss of privacy

Design/effect on the appearance of an area or landscape

Adverse impact on nature conservation/biodiversity

Capacity of physical infrastructure

Highway and traffic issues

Effect on listed buildings

Layout and density of buildings

Loss or impact on trees; landscaping and boundary treatments

The following are examples of things that are NOT material considerations:

  • Matters controlled by Building Regulations or other licensing
  • Neighbour disputes
  • Opposition to the principle of development where this is set out in the Local Plan or has been established by an earlier permission
  • An applicant's personal circumstances
  • Loss of property value
  • Loss of view
  • Commercial decisions for the operator of the development

There is more information about material considerations in the Planning Aid Planning Pack Fact Sheet 7

3.4 What Happens Next?

All comments received about a planning application are taken into account alongside other material considerations, and a decision is made about whether or not to grant permission. If an application is refused, an applicant can appeal to the Government, who will arrange for the issues to be considered by an independent planning inspector. Only the person making the planning application can appeal. Planning Aid Fact Sheet 8 covers the appeal process in more detail

  • Find out who is the case officer for the planning application you are interested in.
  • Establish how a decision will be made: It could be delegated to the officer or it may go to the Development Management Committee for a decision.
  • All planning applications will have an officer report regardless of how a decision is made. Reports considered by the Committee are available five working days before the Committee meets. Delegated decision reports are published on the Council's web site after the decision has been made. All reports assess the issues raised and the representations made.
  • Check your views have been reported and taken into account.


  • Speak to your local Councillor about the planning application.
  • Find out about the decision in case there is an appeal. Keep checking the Council's planning application search and track facility to see if an appeal has been lodged. If you make a representation on a planning application you will be notified if there is an appeal.