How Do I Lobby The Councillors Making The Decision?
Ultimately it is the Councillors on the planning committee at Teignbridge District Council 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.
It used to be the case that local councillors could not take any action that implied how they might vote on a planning application before it was discussed by the local planning committee. Changes made by the Localism Act however have changed this, so local councillors should be able to get more involved with campaigns on local planning applications.
Whether you’re supporting or opposing a planning application, give councillors the reasons for this. You might also want to suggest conditions that should be attached to any planning permission granted.
Your goal is not only to convince the councillors that you have a case in planning terms, but to demonstrate the support your case has in the local community. Planning is not a science and councillors may judge the issues differently from planning officers.
As a general rule, the only safe way of ‘lobbying’ councillors is to write an identical letter to all members of the planning committee (listed below), and make it clear in the text of the letter that this is a letter which is being written to all the members.
You cannot be sure that the councillors will actually read the letter or take any notice of it, but you will at least have communicated your views direct to councillors, rather than having them ‘filtered’ or summarised by officers in their committee report.