Alex Seabrook, local democracy reporter
Campaigners in Cardiff have created a jargon-busting guide on how communities can oppose unpopular planning applications.
Developers must apply for planning permission from the local council before being allowed to build new developments, like student flats for example.
When applying, local people have a lot of opportunity to have their say on the plans. But the planning system can be confusing, with lots of jargon words and only specific reasons why applications can be rejected.
Lyn Eynon, of Cardiff Civic Society, has written a guide to help people understand the sometimes confusing planning process, and how to better make their voices heard.
He said: “Communities are at a huge disadvantage when presented with a planning application. They do not have the financial resources that a developer has access to in presenting their case.
“Communities have only 21 days from being notified of a planning application to submit responses. This is a huge ask, as those objecting have a punitively small window in which to drum up local support, and put together their objection.”
Planning law strictly limits the reasons why applications can be rejected. These are called ‘material planning considerations’. Often, local people opposing applications give reasons that don’t fall into this category, which must be dismissed according to the law.
Some ‘material planning considerations’ include: direct impact on neighbouring properties, transport issues like congestion, and environmental impact like in conservation areas.
The guide also points to other useful resources in demystifying the planning process, like Planning Aid Wales, a Welsh Government funded charity which aims to get communities more engaged in planning. The charity’s website has a wealth of free information.
Mr Eynon said his guide was “adding a Cardiff spin and drawing on our own experiences”.
He said he first got involved in campaigning on controversial planning applications in 2017, when developers wanted to build Dolffin Quay, a 24-storey of flats on a park opposite the Norwegian Church at Cardiff Bay.
The unpopular plans were eventually scuppered when Cardiff council stepped in and bought the land where the flats were proposed. But that land has recently received planning permission for another highly unpopular development: a Museum of Military Medicine.
Mr Eynon said: “It’s a difficult area for people to engage with, and the process can be extremely frustrating. I learned a lot of this stuff is quite impenetrable.
“Many people are faced with this huge massive documentation and don’t know where to start with it. But you don’t actually need to read everything.”
Cardiff Civic Society is also lobbying to change the planning system, along with campaigners Reclaim Cardiff.
Nerys Lloyd-Pierce, chair of Cardiff Civic Society, said: “The current system is stacked against communities, but Lyn Eynon’s clear and comprehensive guide will help provide them with the best possible chance of winning the fight.
“Ultimately however, we are lobbying for a fairer planning system, where the concerns of communities are given equal consideration to the demands of developers.”