Making a comment

Introduction | Types of Application | Making your views known in a concise and timely form. | How to compose your views | Material considerations | Alternative Matters | Consultations | Petitions

Introduction

The following notes are designed to assist the layman who may be unfamiliar with the planning process and therefore the detail required to justify valid and substantive comment (representation) to a planning application. They will hopefully assist an objector in assessing the merits of an application and therefore have a clearer understanding on how best to present and define the merit of their comment.

Firstly the basic principles of town planning and its supporting legislation are set down to control and enable development in keeping with PUBLIC interest. Planning does not serve to protect the private rights of an individual or issues of a civil matter. An objection to planning application MUST be based upon merit and not used as a personal method for aggravating or escalating neighbour disputes.

What is special to the planning process on the Isle of Man is the award of ‘third party’ rights to certain objectors. These rights can be extended to individuals whom have commented on a planning application provided they are deemed to meet certain criteria. The rights can afford them third party powers to appeal against a planning decision should they wish to do so. The criteria in assessing the objector’s status may be where they reside, if they own land in proximity to the site or that their cause for objection is appropriate in planning terms. Criteria for party status is specifically defined under a planning circular downloadable from the following hyperlink.

Planning affects land and property interests, can permanently affect the built environment, help or hinder the economy and affects people’s lifestyle and well-being. It can affect people’s personal hopes and dreams and is therefore highly emotive.

Planning decisions, along with how that decision was reached, MUST BE OPEN and TRANSPARENT. Accordingly all planning administration is applied with this in mind.

All Officers involved in the process must be fair and impartial in their decision making, and how they arrived at their decision must be fully documented.

Planning is not an exact science. It involves judgement, which is sometimes subjective. It is important that reasons are given for judgements and recommendations and all such are readily available to the public.

Types of Application

Applications can be made for the following:

  1. Planning permission, this applies to most forms of development including change of use and conservation area consent - there are greater development controls in conservation areas including demolition;
  2. Registered Building consent – again there are special controls relating to Registered buildings, including internal alterations and demolition.
  3. Variation of planning conditions.
  4. Certificates of Lawfulness (where someone wishes to seek formal confirmation that an established development or existing use is lawful).
  5. Advertisement consent.

Making your views known in a concise and timely form.

The merits of any comment must remain

  1. constructive
  2. concise
  3. impersonal; and
  4. reflect matters which are a material planning consideration.

Whilst there is a limited amount of time in which an interested person can submit comments to the planning office, comment can be made at any point prior to a decision being made.

The Department can issue a decision 21 days after the application has been advertised, it is therefore important that a person wishing to make comment seeks to meet that 21 day deadline. Failure to do so may result in the comment being received after a decision has been issued and therefore not being taken into account.

It is important that any person making comment on a planning application must do so by way of written representation and is fully aware that their comment is available for scrutiny by the applicant, their agent, or any member of the public who may ask to view it at the Department's central counter at Murray House, Mount Havelock, Douglas.

  1. Eventually the comment will make up the electronic planning archive which is will be available to view via online Government services.
  2. Any person wishing to make comment must provide a postal address (if they wish to be copied the decision notice in hard copy). Please note that any anonymous representations will not be considered as part of any planning determination;
  3. Any person making comment must clearly indicate the relationship between their land or building(s) and the land or building(s) that are the subject of the application; and
  4. Provide details of their interest in the subject matter of the application.
  5. Notice of a decision where a neighbour has commented is mostly issued by post in hard copy. However where an email address is provided notice of the decision may be issued electronically to that email address.
  6. The decision notification will advise the recipient if they have been afforded third party rights of appeal.

The Department is now issuing notice of any decision in an electronic form and assumption will be made that where an email address has been provided an electronic notice to the applicant, their agent or party to an application will suffice.

Persons who are interested in an application and who have expressed an interest by contributing to its consideration, should be aware that any later submission or replacement planning application is treated as a NEW and fresh consideration. Accordingly, any comment relative to a development MUST be reiterated if the parties interest and concern remain and where participation in each application is to be maintained.

Assumption should not be made that by commenting on one proposal will ensure an interest will continue on to a replacement application.

How to compose your views

Weight is given to consultation responses from members of the public or any other body or authority provided the comments relate to planning matters. The volume of objection and or support to a consideration bears little weight unless there is valid planning merit to the representation.

Applications are determined in accordance with the adopted policies unless MATERIAL CONSIDERATIONS indicate otherwise.

When composing comment on a planning application representations should be based upon planning merit and material considerations, these can sometimes be difficult to discern but the main issues include;

Material considerations

  1. highway safety
  2. local amenity
  3. noise
  4. privacy
  5. visual impact (public)
  6. wider economic impact
  7. planning case law
  8. loss of light or overshadowing (impact would need to be explained)
  9. previous decisions

Alternative Matters

Alternative matters which are not material considerations:

  1. ownership and ownership disputes (including boundaries)
  2. property values
  3. scenic views
  4. business competition (unless wider impact for vitality)
  5. moral considerations (religion, pornography)
  6. restrictive covenants
  7. right to light (civil)
  8. personal circumstances
  9. personal aesthetic taste
  10. matters controlled by other legislation.

Consultations

Consultation responses from other authorities are submitted or sought when necessary. For example – the Manx Utilities Authority (MUA) ‘Water Division’ would be expected to comment when a build is within 9 meters of a riverbank. MUA Drainage should be consulted with regard to proposals on flood plains and the like.

The MUA Electricity may offer comment on a planning application regarding the proximity of a proposed build to a high voltage electricity cable. This type of objection is not a material consideration in planning terms and would not necessarily justify a refusal. The theory being that such cause for objection by the MUA could possibly be resolved by discussion, agreement and relocation of the cables. Equally Fire and building regulation issues are not material planning considerations and outside the remit of planning concerns.

Petitions

Where petitions of objection/support are submitted – say, 100 people rally in their objection to a planning application, even as a group the planning merit must be stated. Sheer volume of signatures with no stated reason devalues the planning weight of the submission, regardless as to the number of signatures.

Petitions must a) give the material reasons for the objection and b) reflect each signatory’s home address, especially if each petitioner wishes to be considered for party status and maintain an active interest in the planning process.

If a person seeks to initiate a petition, whether in support or objection to a planning application, it is helpful for planning administration, whilst recognising the number of signatories, that a spokesperson is appointed to be the recipient and act on behalf of the signatories in all matters relative to the consideration.

Note - by practice petitioners are unlikely to achieve party status as quite often their postal address and merits for objection have not been included. Petition administrators are also unlikely to achieve third party powers and would be unable to seek or participate in an appeal. It is recommended that if you feel strongly on a proposal, comment is submitted independently

All representations must clearly state the reason for commenting on an application and what their interest is in relation to the site. For example, if you live nowhere near but own the property next door you must clearly state this detail within the body of your objection. If you share an access with the site, this must be stated.

No relationship to the site by an objector can be assumed, they must be clearly stated by the person submitting comment.

If you live next door to a site but do not give material grounds for your objection you are unlikely to be afforded party status.

Objections stating ‘I don’t like it’ bear no material weight, nor do objections based on design or commercial competition.

Alternatively if you live some distance from the development but wish to maintain involvement in the process or just to be informed of the decision, please indicate this in your representation.