Ultimately it is the Councillors on the planning committee that make the decision on whether to permit or refuse a development. They are not trained planners and do not have as much of a grasp of planning as the full-time officers making the recommendation. But they have the power to disregard the officer’s recommendation, provided they have sound reasons for doing so.
It is therefore vital that you get your message across to the Councillors on the planning committee. The planners will only listen to technical arguments directly related to planning but Councillors are elected representatives that are more concerned about doing what local people want. A powerful lobbying campaign can be very effective.
Find out who is on the planning committee. A list, along with contact details should be available on the Council website, or you can ask for this by ringing the Council.
Councillors are not permitted to discuss applications prior to determining them but they certainly are allowed to receive information provided by interested parties. Putting together a pack of information to make your case can be very powerful. This could include:
• press clippings highlighting bad practice by the supermarkets
• your own local surveys of traffic, shopkeepers, and local residents
• information about the local area and what makes it special – you could get local school children to each write a short piece about what they like about their local town.
In short, provide anything you think might help your case. Put together a pack and send it to each Councillor. Some will represent areas over the other side of your district so may not know your town very well. The information you provide will help them to picture it and you may be surprised with the number that walk into the planning committee meeting with your pack under their arm.
Also lobby your local MP. Members of Parliament do not like to see local opinions not being heard and can have a powerful influence. Get them on your side, even if it is only on one aspect of your objection. If you can manage it, get your MP to write to the planning committee to say that they will try to get the application called-in if it is granted permission. This will then take the decision out of the planning committee’s hands and place it in the hands of the Planning Inspectorate. But this is not easy as a call-in is only supposed to be used in exceptional circumstances.