Planning applicants and neighbours can track the progress of an application, new comments received and any changes made online. A number of steps are involved in processing a planning application.

1. Apply for permission

Detailed notes setting out the information needed with an application is found on the Applying for permission. The information required for each type of application varies.

2. Validation

On receiving a planning application, it is checked to ensure it contains all the necessary plans, information and the correct fee. Any missing information will be requested before we start to process the application. Once we have the information copies of applications are made available to view online.

3. Consultation

Consultations are often sent to other council departments or outside bodies such as Environment Agency and Parish Councils. Consultees have 21 days in which to reply. Copies of these replies are available to view online.

4. Asking the neighbours

We tell neighbours about new applications by letter, site notice or newspaper advertisement. A Icon for pdf guidance note has been produced detailing when neighbours are notified of the different types of planning application.

Neighbours adjoining the application site are notified about an application by letter. It is not the council's practice to notify previous objectors as a matter of course. If you think we have failed to notify you when we should have, please let us know. However, you do not need to wait for a letter to write to us with your views or objections on a current application.

We put up a site notice where the occupier of the land cannot be readily identified, for example an open field. A site notice is also put up on or near the site for:-

  • Applications for listed building consent
  • Development affecting the setting of a listed building or the character and appearance of a conservation area
  • Applications accompanied by an environmental statement
  • Applications which do not accord with the local plan
  • Development affecting a public right of way
  • Applications for approval of matters reserved by condition as part of a listed building consent.

A site notice may also be used to tell local people that a Development Consultation Forum will be held before a planning application for a major development is submitted.

Some types of planning proposal are advertised in a local newspaper. These include:-

  • Erection of ten or more homes or housing development on a site of 0.5 hectare or more
  • Erection of a building or buildings where the floor space to be created is 1,000 square metres or more
  • Other development on a site of 1 hectare or more
  • Developments that are likely to be of wider concern
  • Applications affecting a conservation area or a listed building

We take account of any views received within the time specified in the letter, notice or advertisement. Failure to meet the deadline could mean your comments are not considered when the application is determined.

When neighbour comments are received they are published on the website. By law, all comments received must be open to public inspection, which will include publishing them on the internet where they can be seen by anyone, including the applicant. Private information, such as names, addresses, signatures, email address and telephone numbers will be redacted so that they are not visible. Please see our How to comment on a planning application page for further details about commenting on planning applications.

5. Planning Officer Review

Where more information is needed the Planning Officer may contact the applicant, or his/her agent.

The Planning Officer will visit the site but not neighbour's properties. Where necessary the applicant may be asked to provide access to the site.

If problems are identified with the application and there is scope to address these through changes, the planning officer will contact the applicant to discuss changes. Depending on the change made, consultation of the application may take place again but for a shorter period of time. Whether you are notified about a change will be dealt with on a case by case basis. In determining this we will look at:

  • Will the change proposed affect a neighbour?
  • How substantial were objections received at an earlier stage?
  • Does the change overcome a problem previously raised?
  • How significant is the proposed change?

All the information and any views received in writing, are considered taking into account national planning guidance, the Development Plan and Planning considerations for the area. The Planning Officer will write a report making a recommendation on whether a conditional planning permission should be granted or permission refused.

6. Application Considered

The Planning Officers report and recommendation will be considered by the Development Management Committee or an officer to whom authority to make a decision has been delegated.

The Development Management Committee is held in public and anyone can attend and see the decision being made. Public speaking is also permitted at the meeting.

Most applications are decided by officers. Planning applications can be approved by officers provided that:

  • They accord with planning policy.
  • The application has not been "called in" by a Welwyn Hatfield Councillor within the parish notification expiry date (to find this date, please view the Weekly list of planning applications).
  • The decision would not conflict with any objection received from a Borough Councillor, Town/Parish Council or adjoining Local Authority
  • It is not considered, by officers, that the application should go to the Development Management Committee.
  • The application is not a major application where Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council is the applicant and/or has interest in the land/property covered by the application.

Planning applications can be refused by officers, where they conflict with planning policies and cause harm, provided that:

From 1 October 2017 the following approach will be adopted in respect of negotiation during the consideration of planning applications:

  • Acceptable as submitted - we will approve without negotiation;
  • Unacceptable as submitted but only minor amendments are required which do not materially alter the proposal - we will seek minor amendments as long as further consultation is not required with neighbours or consultees and the amendments are received within the statutory period for determination.
  • Unacceptable as submitted but minor amendments are required to respond to issues identified.  The invitation for amendments will be at the discretion of the case officer and will be determined on whether such amendments/further information can be submitted, further consultation undertaken and the case officer can consider the response within the statutory period for determination; and
  • Unacceptable as submitted e.g. contrary to policy or further consultation is required - we will refuse without negotiation.

It is anticipated that this change of approach will reduce the amount of time that planning officers are required to spend in negotiation on applications that cannot be amended within the statutory timeframe for decision. It should also lead to the determination of a greater number of planning applications within designated statutory periods.

7. The Decision

The planning officer's report is available online so everyone can see how a decision was reached.

If permission is granted, it can be subject to Conditions placed on approved applications , or it require the completion of a legal agreement. Sometimes details to agree these conditions or legal agreements need to be submitted to the council for approval, which involve the submission of a further application.

If changes are needed to the scheme once planning permission is granted then they could be dealt with as:

(a) a non-material change.

(b) by a further planning application.

If permission is refused the council will give reasons why the application is refused. The planning officer's report will give further details. The applicant may be able to change their proposals to overcome the problems. If so a new application can be made. Before making a new application, it is advisable to enter into Pre-application advice.

If the council refuses planning permission, the planning conditions are not acceptable, or the council fails to reach a decision within the target date for the application the applicant has a right of appeal.

If the council refuses Welwyn Garden City Estate Management Consent the applicant has a right of appeal.