Planning Application Process
Advice on the planning application process, including how we approach negotiations during the consideration of an application.
We are currently taking action to address a backlog in applications. Please visit our Planning Applications Backlog page more information.
Planning can be a complex process, and it can be hard to know where to start. The Planning Portal provides detailed information on how planning decisions are made. You may also find the following useful for understanding how West Berkshire deals with planning applications.
The following steps are explained in detail below:
- Check if you need planning permission
- Get pre-application advice
- Make a planning application
- The application process
- Negotiations and amendments
- The decision
- After the decision is made
Please note in particular the section relating to negotiations, as this changed on 17th October 2022 and will apply to applications received from this date. Our approach to negotiations on applications received before this date will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
You will probably need planning permission if you want to build something new, make a major change to your building (such as an outbuilding or extension), or change the use of your building or land. If you live in a listed building, a conservation area, or near protected trees, even small alterations may require permission.
Development does not in all instances require a planning application to be made for permission to carry out the development. In some cases, development will be permitted under national permitted development rights.
The Planning Portal provides advice on permitted development rights. Our duty planning officer can give clarification on general enquiries relating to permitted development. This is informal advice, as they cannot give formal confirmation as to whether an application is required. To receive a formal confirmation of whether planning permission is required, an application for a certificate of lawful development can be submitted to a local planning authority.
It is essential that you find out whether you need planning permission, to send us a notification, or require any other consent, before starting any building work. Otherwise you may be breaking the law and we may take enforcement action against you. You should also check whether you need Building Regulations approval.
Early engagement with the council has the significant potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application process for everyone involved. Good quality pre-application discussion enables better coordination between public and private resources and improved outcomes for the applicant and the community.
We offer a pre-application advice service to anyone wanting help with a development before the submission of a planning application. The aim of our pre-application advice service is to provide responsive, consistent and timely advice that minimises the risks associated with the process, and reduces the time taken to deal with your application through the formal application process.
We strongly encourage you to make use of our pre-application advice service. The more issues that can be resolved at the pre-application stage, the greater the chances the development will be acceptable, or can be made acceptable, and the more likely that a planning application will be successful.
When you are ready to make an application, we strongly recommend that you use a planning agent to assist you through the process.
We strongly recommend that you make your planning application online via the Planning Portal. Registration is easy and you can complete your planning application form, upload supporting documents and pay fees online by credit or debit card, or pay over the telephone. If you cannot apply online, you can find paper forms on the Planning Portal or our planning forms page.
Information required with your application
We determine all planning applications against national and local planning policies. Further information for these can be found on our Planning Policy pages.
In order for an application to be valid and thus registered, you will need to meet both national and local validation requirements. During the course of your application we may also request additional information in order to determine your proposal.
Please read the relevant validation checklist and guidance documents to accompany your application, as this will inform you of everything you need to submit a valid application with West Berkshire Council.
We have been working on updating the Local Validation Checklists and Local Lists of Requirements. We have produced a combined consultation document and we are consulting with relevant stakeholder groups until the 15th September 2023. We want to get quality information submitted at the outset to avoid delays during the consideration of the application, or finding at a later stage that we cannot positively determine schemes due to inadequate information. If you are a regular user of our service, please check this section before submission to ensure you have the latest information on submission requirements. Please return any comments on the Validation Checklists consultation document (see link below) to firstname.lastname@example.org by 15 September 2023.
You can find a copy of the cover consultation letter
You can find the WBC Validation Checklists Consultation Document
While every proposed development is different, the process that all planning applications go through is broadly the same, with some minor differences for different application types.
Validation and registration
Once you have submitted your application, we will check the documentation for completeness to ensure we have received everything you say you have submitted and there is nothing missing. We will validate it if it appears that all required documents have been submitted. However, please note that if at a later stage it becomes apparent that certain required information or documentation is not included, then the application may be invalidated and we will inform you accordingly.
The application will be registered and given a unique reference number which you can use to follow its progress via the council's website. Your application will be acknowledged to give you details of the registration and of the case officer initially dealing with the case. Please note that if you use an agent, all dealings on your case will be through your agent.
We will undertake a period of consultation on most applications where views on the proposed development can be expressed. The formal consultation period will normally last for 21 days, and we will identify and consult a number of different groups. This normally includes:
- Public consultation: consultation with neighbouring residents, premises and community groups - this is usually through the display of a public notice displayed on or near the site; for certain types of application, we will also include a notice in the local newspaper
- Statutory consultees: where there is a requirement set out in law to consult relevant experts such as the Highway Authority or Environment Agency, or local representatives such as the Town or Parish Council
- Non-statutory consultees: where there are planning policy reasons to engage other consultees who, whilst not designated in law, are likely to have an interest and/or relevant expertise in a proposed development
Any comments made in response will appear on our public website, although we will remove any personal contact details from the details we publish.
During the consultation phase of your application we would ask that you do not contact the case officer who will not be able to provide any guidance on your proposal until all responses are received. You will be able to see any comments made via the public website as they are received and uploaded.
Owing to the large volume of correspondence received on planning applications, we will not respond to any third party representations. However, your comments will be acknowledged and taken into account by the planning officer in their assessment of the proposal, summarising relevant comments, which will be addressed within the report. Planning officers will not be available to meet with third parties.
Planning officer site visit
For many applications the case officer will make a site visit. This will normally be carried out unaccompanied and the case officer will usually not be making specific arrangements due to the number of visits required for planning applications.
If the case officer has not made any previous arrangement and upon visiting the site considers that it is necessary to enter the property, they will knock on the door unannounced and kindly request whether that would be possible. If that is not convenient or appropriate at the time they will seek to make alternative arrangements for a future site visit date if necessary.
The site visit is an opportunity to inspect the site and assess the application proposed against national and local planning policies. Where relevant we will also take photographs to help in the assessment. Occasionally other council officers with different expertise may need to undertake a site visit to respond to a consultation request. Council officers undertaking site visits will carry identification cards and always be courteous.
End of the consultation period
Once all comments are received and the site visit has taken place, the case officer is in a position to assess the proposal, taking into consideration all the material facts. The case officer may be able to proceed with making a recommendation, or may wish to obtain more information or to negotiate amendments.
Negotiations on proposals when the planning application is under consideration can be a useful part of the planning process, but this is not a substitute for a well prepared, clear and complete planning application submission.
The decision on whether to negotiate or not is at the discretion of the planning officer. Amendments will be sought only in specific circumstances where decisions can realistically still be made within statutory time frames or where an extension of time for the decision to be made can be agreed.
The council will usually only accept minor amendments or submission of additional details in relation to applications after they have been submitted and validated, during the course of considering a planning application in the circumstances set out below. Where significant amendments or additional information are required, a re-submitted planning application will normally be necessary. In the case of strategic or particularly complex development proposals, Planning Performance Agreements should be used to agree a work programme including negotiations and any amendments during the consideration of the application.
All Householder and non-major applications
One set of amended drawings and/or one set of further technical reports will usually be accepted after the consultation process has ended if a positive change is proposed, or if it is in response to a comment received. No further amendments will be accepted.
In view of the fact that these amendments may well result in further consultation with consultees or neighbours, we will only accept amended plans if a sufficient extension of time to determine the application of at least 1 month is given in writing, to allow for this further consultation. However, we would seek to determine the application as swiftly as possible.
If no extension of time is agreed alongside the amended plans, you are advised to either withdraw your proposal and resubmit, or the application will continue to be determined by disregarding any amendments and only having regard to the plans and documents originally submitted.
Usually only one set of amended drawings and/or further technical reports will be accepted after the consultation process has ended. This applies only if a positive change is proposed or if it is in response to comments received. You are therefore advised to wait until all consultee comments have been received in order to address all outstanding issues in one set of amendments, rather than amending your proposal to address different consultee comments one by one. The case officer will normally decline to accept the drip-feeding of amendments made incrementally.
Please note that further additional submission of technical documents or further sets of amended plans will only be accepted at the case officer's discretion and in the interests of expediency. Should any proposed amendments have a large impact on the application, we will advise that the application should be withdrawn and re-submitted.
For major applications you should consider using the pre-application process to ensure that your application addresses the relevant technical details at the outset. We will not normally accept the following as amendments:
- Changes to the redline site area - this would require the application to be withdrawn and resubmitted
- Increase in site area or if the number of dwellings is increased, or increased floorspace is proposed for commercial development
- Introduction of different new land uses, other than open space, amenity, ecological, nutrient mitigation or landscaping areas
- Significant changes to the proposed position or the raising of the height of buildings
- Proposals which would require further statutory notices to be displayed
- Amendments which, in the council's opinion, do not address issues previously raised as a concern by the council or consultees which would prevent the application being dealt with in a timely manner
- Where a proposal is unacceptable as submitted, being clearly contrary to adopted policies and where it is unlikely that negotiations or amendments can overcome this
If by accepting additional reports or amendments it is likely to require further consultation with consultees or neighbours, we will only accept additional information or amended plans if a sufficient extension of time of at least 2 months is provided.
An extension of time may also have to account for reporting to the planning committee and/or the completion of any legal agreements required for the decision to be issued. If this is not provided alongside the amended plans or technical reports, you are advised to withdraw your proposal and resubmit. Otherwise, the application will be assessed and determined on the basis of the plans and information originally submitted and any subsequently submitted information shall be disregarded.
If your planning case officer asks you to amend your plans or proposal, we ask that you submit these plans or additional information within a maximum period of 4 weeks from the date of request. If this cannot be achieved, you will need to agree an alternative date for submission in writing with the case officer. An extension of time request will be required to allow a minimum 2 month period beyond the date of the agreed submission. Failure to submit by the date agreed in writing will result in the application being determined based on the details provided to date.
Time sensitive applications
Some applications we deal with are time sensitive with consent being deemed to have been granted automatically if a decision is not made within the original time frame. These include a number of prior approval applications for permitted developments. We will not normally negotiate or accept amendments on these applications.
A planning application can be determined (decided) in one of two ways: a decision made under delegated authority, or a decision by Planning Committee.
Decision under Delegated Authority
The first way a planning application can be determined, which applies to the majority of applications, is under 'delegated powers'. This is where an appropriate senior officer is authorised to make and issue the decision which speeds up the process. This route is usually taken for minor or household applications, as well as any application that the council's constitution does not require is considered by committee.
In practice, an allocated planning officer will deal with the application and, normally after making a site visit to the location of the proposed development, they will consider:
- Whether the proposal complies with the relevant national, strategic and local planning policies
- The effect of the proposal on the character of the area and any neighbouring developments
- Comments from members of the public (known as representations) received
- Responses from statutory consultees (council and external specialists who must be consulted about planning matters) and other interested parties, including Parish and Town Councils who are notified of all planning applications within their boundaries
The planning officer will provide a recommendation in a written report, setting out the relevant planning considerations, consultation responses, and an assessment of the proposal against relevant planning policies. This is then considered by the authorised senior officer to make the decision on behalf of the council.
Decision by Planning Committee
The second way a planning application can be determined is by committee. Planning committees in West Berkshire are split into the Eastern Area Planning Committee and Western Area Planning Committee. Planning decisions made at an Area Planning Committee are usually related to major developments, council-owned land, or applications that have given rise to petitions or a number of letters of objection from the public or other interested parties.
West Berkshire Council'scontains full details of the circumstances a decision might be referred to a planning committee for a decision. You can find more information in our .
You can contact your local councillor to speak on your behalf. Your councillor may also be able to offer help or advice regarding a planning application.yourself, or
You might also find it useful to read our guidance on objecting to or supporting a planning application.
The outcome of the decision will be either:
- Approval (most of the time subject to conditions controlling things such as the use of external materials)
- Refusal (with explanatory reasons)
Once the decision has been made, we will send a decision notice to the applicant or their agent electronically.
Where planning permission is granted with conditions (such as stating which materials should be used, the replanting of trees, or similar obligations), some of the conditions imposed may require the submission of further information, such as details of landscaping. There is then an additional process to submit the additional information required by conditions, to discharge and confirm compliance with these conditions before the development has full planning approval.
How to find a decision notice
You can use our Public Access system to find out about a current planning application under consideration, or a planning decision for a development you are interested in.
Search by entering either the planning application reference number or the postcode, a single line of an address or a keyword. Select the 'Documents' tab and then click on 'View Associated Documents' to look for the decision notice once the decision has been made.
If an application has been approved, any conditions on the decision notice will need to be complied with. Some of the conditions are 'pre-conditions' which require that some specified action must be undertaken, and/or relevant information needs to be submitted by completing the appropriate application, either before work starts on the site (including site preparation, excavation and demolition), or by the time or stage of development specified in the condition.
Where the condition specifies that details must be agreed in writing by the Local Planning Authority, this must be dealt with as a formal application. The application would either be an 'Approval of Details Reserved by Condition', or 'Removal or Variation of Condition (S73)'.
Please ensure these types of conditions have been satisfied and that, where specified in the conditions, you have received formal written approval from the Council, either prior to the work beginning or by the specified stage of development as required by the respective condition. Failure to do so could invalidate the planning permission and render any works unlawful and liable to enforcement action.
Making changes after permission has been granted
When planning permission is granted, development must take place in accordance with the permission and conditions attached to it, and with any associated legal agreements.
New issues may arise after planning permission has been granted, which require modification of the approved proposals. Where these modifications are fundamental or substantial, a new planning application under section 70 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 will need to be submitted. Where less substantial changes are proposed, there are the following options for amending a proposal that has planning permission:
- Making a non-material amendment
- Amending the conditions attached to the planning permission, including seeking to make minor material amendments
Applicant's right of appeal against refusal or planning conditions
You have the right to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate if you are the applicant and you are unhappy with our decision on your planning application. This might be because you feel it's been refused unfairly or because you disagree with conditions that have been imposed.
If your appeal is rejected, you may wish to obtain your own expert advice. You may then wish to make an amended application, or resubmission.
Re-engaging with the Council
Whilst there is a right of appeal against refused planning applications, the government strongly encourages applicants to re-engage with the local planning authority to see whether concerns can be overcome by a re-submitted application. Planning appeals should not be used to change proposals, and the Planning Inspectorate will not normally accept amended plans.
The decision notice will give clear reasons for refusal, and the officer's report will also provide an explanation of the assessment and the council's concerns or objections. Applicants can also re-engage with the Council using the pre-application advice service, prior to re-submitting an application.
If you are unhappy about a planning decision in respect of someone else's application, you cannot appeal on planning grounds as there is no third party right of appeal.
However, if you think that the application was not handled correctly, you can make a complaint to the council by referring to our complaint procedure. This will, however, only consider the processes involved in reaching the decision and will not consider the council's planning assessment and decision, nor can the decision itself be reconsidered through the complaint procedure.