Have your say on planning applications

Planning applications for building, extending or converting homes, offices or shops are handled by Surrey's borough and district councils.

We, Surrey County Council, only deal with applications for minerals or waste-related developments, and for developments to our own property, such as schools and libraries.

All valid applications for planning permission made to us are open for public consultation. Anybody who hears of a planning application may make comments on the proposal.

Below are answers to some commonly asked questions:

How do you know when a planning application has been submitted?

We are required to publicise planning applications in line with our Surrey's Statement of Community Involvement (SCI). The amount of publicity will vary depending on the type and scale of the planning application. Publicity will often involve posting a site notice(s) and sending letters to immediate neighbours who may be affected by a proposal. This usually includes all properties who share a boundary with the application site or are within 90m of the site. It is not economic for us to individually notify thousands of households about every single application you may not receive a neighbour notification letter even if you are fairly close to a site.

For large application sites several notices will be posted nearby. For very large schemes, or where the proposed development means that more than the immediate neighbours may be affected, a formal notice will also be placed in a local newspaper.

Newspaper adverts are required for certain types of application. These are applications:

  • for all minerals and waste developments (except those just dealing with conditions);
  • for County Council developments over 1,000 square metres;
  • falling within or would affect the character of a Conservation Area; or which would affect the character or setting of a Listed Building;
  • accompanied by an Environmental Statement;
  • where the development affects a public right of way; or
  • for developments that are in conflict with adopted planning policies (departure applications), for example development in the green belt.

In special cases, we will also issue a press release outlining a proposal.

Information is available on our online register about planning applications and decisions. You can also use it to check on the progress of applications under consideration.

Where do you get information about a planning application?

Copies of the application documents will be available for inspection at

  • the relevant borough/district Council offices where the site is located
  • Surrey County Council offices

Planning application documents received or validated after the 1 June 2015 are available to view or download from our online register.

Borough/district councils hold the official planning registers. They also usually put application documents on their websites.

If you are unclear about where the application site is, or what is being the proposed in the application please contact the person named in the publicity, who will explain it to you.

In some cases, applicants may prepare their own publicity materials, or exhibitions explaining the proposals. These will be publicised by the applicant.

How can you influence planning decisions?

You can have your say by:

  • Contacting your local County Councillor who will be able to take views on applications within his or her area to the Planning and Regulatory Committee.
  • Contacting your District Councillor who may be able to help.
  • Sending a comment through our online register.
  • Sending your comments in writing to the Planning Development Team by post (Planning, Surrey County Council, PO Box 478, Reigate RH2 8EF) or by email to mwcd@surreycc.gov.uk (please quote the planning reference number).
  • Petition - the acknowledgement will be sent to the organiser or the first name appearing on the petition.
  • Take part in their discussions about the application with a local interest group. Sometimes it is possible for groups to meet with the applicant or representatives of the council to discuss concerns and find solutions.

Please note, we cannot accept anonymous or 'in confidence' representations, as they must be made available for public inspection. For your representation to be taken into account you must include name and full postal address. Every representation will be acknowledged and considered in the course of deciding the application. It is, however, not possible to respond individually to each representation or questions.

Data protection

Planning is a statutory function and any information is held on the lawful basis of public task (in accordance with the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, as amended, related orders and regulations). When you make a comment on a planning application, your name, address and contact details will be saved in our files, electronic and paper. We do this so we can notify you of amendments to the proposal, the outcome of the application, if an appeal is lodged against the application, and subsequent applications in respect of the site.

Additionally, all comments will be sent to the relevant borough or district council to be placed on the Planning Register, as this is their responsibility. In the event of an appeal or a 'call-in' by the Secretary of State, your submissions may be copied to the Planning Inspectorate or the National Planning Casework Unit.

Comments may be anonymously quoted within an officer's report, but usually the report contains broad themes from all the comments received. Comments are kept at least four years after the application has been determined and it is possible they are retained longer in certain circumstances, such as when an application goes to appeal.

For more details see our privacy policy.

What should you comment upon?

Decisions on planning applications are limited by law to issues known as 'material considerations'. It is, therefore, best if you keep to these issues, since anything else must be ignored. The most important thing to keep in mind is that your comments must relate to the use of land and should be directed to policies contained within the national and local planning documents. The adopted development plan, such as the Waste, Minerals or Local Plan is the starting point.

If an application goes to committee then members must take local views into account when making their decision. Local opposition or support for a proposal is not, in itself however, a reason for refusing or granting planning permission.

Each planning application is judged on its own merits. What is important in each case will differ, therefore. Generally, however, the most common issues are the following:

  • location and setting;
  • traffic that might be generated by the scheme and the impact on the road network;
  • design, layout, landscaping and external appearance of buildings;
  • impact upon the neighbourhood and existing infrastructure;
  • the possible effects of pollution on land;
  • the proposed after use of the site and restoration of the land;
  • hours of working, noise, dust and other factors affecting amenity.

Is there anything that you may not comment upon?

It is important to note that the planning system does not exist to protect the private interests of one person against the activities of another. Reduced property value, for example, would not be a 'material consideration'. However, the protection of individuals is an important aspect of the public interest as a whole. The basic question is not whether individuals would suffer loss from a development, but whether it would unacceptably affect amenities which ought to be protected in the public interest. Good neighbourliness and fairness are among the measures against which proposals can be considered.

In the UK, the planning and pollution control systems are separate but complementary. The Environment Agency controls pollution and the planning system should not duplicate its duties. Therefore, if you have concerns about detailed pollution matters, please contact the Environment Agency directly (general enquiries number: 03708 506 506).

How long do you have to respond?

We are required to give the applicant a decision within 8 to 16 weeks of validation, depending on the type of application.

In practice, it is recognised by planning authorities and developers alike that some proposals are more complex and will take longer to process. In these situations, an extended time period to determine the application is often agreed by both sides to allow the application and issues raised to be properly considered.

The period for sending your representations on an application, however, is shorter. The application's publicity (site notice, advert, for example) will specify a date by when your comments should be sent to the Planning Department. This time period is set out in regulations and cannot be changed or extended beyond making adjustments for weekend end dates and bank holidays, in some circumstances. It is, however, our policy to take account of any late views received up until a decision is made, but this cannot be guaranteed. Generally the earlier we receive your views the more impact they are likely to have on the course of the application. We will endeavour to ensure all relevant comments are made available to the decision makers (Planning and Regulatory Committee or Head of Service, if decisions are being made under delegated powers).

For planning applications being determined by the Planning and Regulatory Committee the deadline for receipt of representations to be taken into account is midday (12 noon) on the day before an application is reported to committee. Delaying your representation means that your comments might not be incorporated into the written report.

Written comments are publicly available and cannot be treated as confidential. Please note that in order to speak at the Committee we must have received a written representation from you on the planning application in question at least 5 days in advance of the meeting. Full details can be found in our "Have your say - speaking at Committee" leaflet. Please note, the arrangements for public speaking at committee have recently changed.

Further advice

If you require further advice, you can contact Planning Aid, a voluntary service offering free, independent and professional advice on town planning matters to community groups and individuals.

How do you find out what the council's decision was?

When a decision has been made, anyone who has made representations in writing (and provided their name and full postal address) will be sent a letter informing them of the decision or by email if applicable. Where a petition has been submitted, the organiser or first name appearing on the petition will be notified. Newspaper adverts are placed to publicise decisions on applications accompanied by environmental statements. Decision notices will be available for inspection during normal working hours at the borough or district council offices (please check before you travel), or by appointment at our planning offices: Quadrant Court, Woking. Decisions taken after 1 December 2005 will also be available to view via our online register.

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