Campaigning to curb supermarket power

A planning application has been submitted for a new supermarket. What can I do about this?

If a planning application has been submitted for a new supermarket, you will have opportunities to object as a resident or business of the area in which the supermarket will be built. Even if you are not a resident or do not have a business in the area, you can object.

Keep an eye on the deadline

The first thing to do is to find out from the Council how much time you have to object, and the date on which the application will be considered. Often the Council will apply standard timescales for consultation, based on the application being determined within the standard 13-weeks. This timetable is rarely kept to because there are so many issues for the planning officers to consider.

The case officer will usually accept objections right up to when he or she writes the committee report which states what their recommendation is. This is usually about 7-10 days before the planning committee meets. However, particularly if you have very important points to make, it is best to get your objection in with sufficient time for the officer to give it full consideration. You can keep in touch with the case officer who will usually give you an idea of when they think the application will go to the planning committee.

Talk to councillors and planning officers

It is worth talking to councillors and planning officers about the application and about the local policies that will be relevant. You will be able to find out who your ward/parish councillors are by looking at your Council’s website or by telephoning the Council. Call the Council’s planning department, which should tell you which officer is dealing with the application.

Examine the documents

All the documents submitted as part of the planning application will be available in hard copy at the Council offices. It is also usually possible to get a copy placed in the local library. The Council will usually request that you ask the applicant direct and in most cases, the applicant will do this to try and retain goodwill. Alternatively, most applications are now put on the Council’s online planning application system. It is worth checking with the case officer as some very large documents may not be put on the website.

Usually the application will consist of a raft of different, often very technical documents. Try not to be daunted by this but do be prepared to spend a lot of time ploughing through them. If there are documents which you do not understand but feel are important, there are experts available to provide advice, often for free. For more information on Planning Aid and other possible sources of help, click here.

The government produces national planning policy to assess new types of development, and this is provided by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF). The government requires local Councils to produce local planning documents (called either Local Plans or Local Development Frameworks, with the main document in the case of the latter being the Core Strategy) which new applications have to comply with. You should use these policies in the objection you submit to the council.

Submit your objections

You should write a letter that is brief, courteous and measured. Refer to the planning application reference number, and be as specific as possible. Make clear in the first sentence that you OBJECT to the application. You should make reference to national and local planning documents to back up your comments and make your submission more robust. Stick to issues that the planning process encompasses (see the section on issues considered by the planning committee). Do mention specific effects on you as a resident or trader, and mention local characteristics and circumstances – for example, if the neighbourhood has robust and thriving local shops that may be damaged by the supermarket, or if these are important for the area's tourism.

Try to submit your letter on time, based on the deadline for submissions given by the Council. You can often submit objections after the deadline, and the planning officers will still have to consider them, but the earlier your concerns are made the better.

Try to encourage others to submit letters of objection as well. These can be based on a template if you prefer but some Councils see these as representing just one letter. It is therefore best if people write their own letter.

You may find it useful to look at objection letters submitted by other campaigners against store applications in their areas.

You may also wish to put together a petition which has to be considered by the Council, provided everybody signs the letter. It has more weight if everyone puts their address or sufficient parts of their address (house number and full postcode) to confirm that they live in the area.