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Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently asked questions

We have provided a list of answers to questions we are typically asked on the following topics. 

How do you make a decision?

The planning system is ‘plan led’. This means we have to make a decision on a planning application based on national and local planning policy. We assess an application against these policies and decide if it is in accordance or contrary to them. This is informed by the information that is sent in with an application, the planning history of the site, a site visit and any supplementary planning documents e.g. a design guide.

What does planning policy mean?

Planning policy refers to the set of policies that are in place and are typically set out in documents covering a plan period e.g. Wokingham is in the plan period of 2014 to 2026. There are two levels of policy: national and local. National policy is covered by the National Planning Policy Framework and this sets out what should happen with different aspects like the economy, the natural environmental, flooding, heritage or the Green Belt. Local policy is set out in the Core Strategy and the Managing Development Delivery Local Plan. These policies are specific to the requirements of Wokingham Borough and they govern how we want the Borough to develop over the plan period. After these two documents there are other ‘supplementary planning documents’. These contain guidance on specific matters e.g. ‘Borough Design Guide’ and ‘Sustainable Design and Construction’. You can find all these documents on the planning policy page.

How long does it take to make a decision?

The Government require us to determine applications within 8 weeks. For major development e.g. 10 houses or more this increases to 13 weeks. This always includes (as a minimum) a 21 day consultation period where we seek information from consultees and inform neighbouring land owners of an application. For householder applications e.g. extensions or dormer windows, the vast majority are determined within 8 weeks. More complex applications take longer but if we need to, we will agree a new determination date with you.

How many applications do you approve?

In terms of householder applications, approximately 90% are approved. If we refuse an application, you do have the option of appealing against this. For new housing developments this is approximately 60%.

How do you tell people about applications?

We send a ‘postcard’ to neighbouring land owners (where the boundary clearly adjoins the application site) and this starts a 21 day consultation. If a consultation contains a public holiday, an additional day is added. Whilst we do send a site notice to applicants, they are not required to display this. For large scale applications, we put up a site notice in accordance with legislation and advertise in a local newspaper. Anyone can comment on a planning application however and you can do so on our planning application search page.

Can I discuss my scheme with you first?

We offer a pre-application service and we really encourage you to take advantage of this. Further details can be found on our pre-application advice page. A pre-application request will give you more certainty about what is acceptable or not acceptable in terms of your scheme. We will also tell you if we need information about a specific issue e.g. we may need a bat survey if you are thinking of doing work to your roof. Pre-application requests will save you time and money in the long run as you will know how and whether to go ahead with your project.

How do I comment on an application?

Anyone can comment on a planning application and you can do this at any point whilst the application is pending a decision. We really encourage you to do so within the consultation period because after this, we may have made a decision and can no longer take your comment into account. If you want to comment on an application, visit our planning application search page. Comments are limited to 8000 characters (the equivalent of 16 sides of A4) so if you need to exceed this limit, email planning.enquiries@wokingham.gov.uk. Remember that we can only consider planning matters and for more information on this, look at our material considerations page

Do you share any of my information online?

When you make a comment on an application, we ask for your name and address and this will be displayed online. We are required to ask for these details by planning legislation and cannot accept anonymous comments.  We also ask for your email address so that we can notify you when a decision is made (or if an appeal is made) however this is not displayed online. Again, we are required to do this by planning legislation.

I want to submit an application. Where do I start?

We recommend that you employ a planning agent to help you. They will have knowledge about the planning process, where to get plans and can submit an application for you on the Planning Portal website. It is really helpful if you choose someone who is familiar with Wokingham in terms of the area and our planning policies. Perhaps ask someone who has had an extension or visit a trade’s people website. To find out what you need to submit, visit our how to submit a planning application page. 

                 

Will you visit the site and neighbouring properties?

An officer of the council will visit an application site and typically take notes and/or pictures. As multiple site visits are carried out on one day, it is not always possible to pre-arrange a visit. If there is an issue with access to a site, please inform us at the point you submit an application. We do not typically visit neighbouring properties due to the time/access issues related to this.

What is the application process?

An application is checked to make sure everything has been submitted, then considered by a planning officer and finally a decision is made. You can read more information on our application process page.

Will you let me know if my application is going to be approved or refused beforehand?

We won’t typically contact you during the determination process as a case officer can have more than 35 cases at a time. If a small change to a scheme is needed to make it acceptable however e.g. removing a window or reducing the size of an extension, we may contact you to ask to make this change. This needs to be resolved as soon as possible so the application can be decided in the agreed time. If a scheme is completely unacceptable, we may inform you of this but would not invite an opportunity to change the plans. However you can always submit a new application which overcomes the concerns or appeal against the decision.

What happens if my application is refused?

Look at the reasons why the application was refused which will be on the decision notice. You can always resubmit an application but it should show what changes you have made to address the issues that have been raised. Alternatively, you can appeal against the refusal. This means a separate government body, called The Planning Inspectorate, will consider the application again including the reasons why it has been refused. They will either allow the appeal and so you're development can go ahead or, dismiss it, and you will not be able to build your scheme. There is not a fee associated with an appeal but you need to submit everything within certain timescales; these are set out on the decision notice.  

What information do I need to make a planning application?

A planning application will always need an application form and a community infrastructure levy form. In addition we need certain plans and these will likely include existing and proposed floor and elevation plans. Depending on where your site is or what you are proposing, we may require a survey on a tree for example. To find out more visit our how to submit a planning application page.

Why do I need a bat survey and when can they be done?

Bats are protected by European Law (it is not expected that Brexit will change this). When it comes to planning, we need to be certain that a development won't have a negative impact on bats that may be roosting in a house or tree. The best way to do this is having a qualified ecologist carry out a survey.

There are 2 main types of surveys: a preliminary roost assessment and a dawn/dusk emergence survey. 

The preliminary roost assessment typically involves an external and internal assessment of your property to see if there is any evidence of bats and can be carried out at any point in the year. It may be that it concludes there is no evidence of bats and you can then submit the survey with your planning application. 

However, it may say evidence has been found and an emergence survey is needed to understand exactly how bats are using the property. This typically involves an assessor watching to see if bats use the property at dawn/dusk and reporting on the findings. It can only be carried out during May, June, July or August so it is important you take this into account. If you need this survey, please do not submit your planning application to us until the survey is complete. Without it, we will have to refuse your application as we won't have sufficient information. 

Should I talk to my neighbour?

We always encourage people to talk to their neighbours whether this is to inform them about a project or to raise queries. Whilst this may be daunting if you don’t know them, talking to your neighbour can avoid issues arising in the future particularly at the build stage. A chat with your neighbour may also highlight other matters which planning does not cover. For instance, if you share a drive will the works cause any problems with access? Or if you have builders, will they be able to park without obstructing your neighbour’s drive?

I think my neighbour’s extension will impact me. Will you assess this?

When we assess planning applications and their impact upon a neighbouring property, we look at three areas: overbearing, loss of light and overlooking.

Loss of light: The effect of a development or building on the amount of natural light presently enjoyed by a neighbouring property, resulting in a shadow being cast over that neighbouring property. Further information can be found in the Borough Design Guide on our planning policy page.

Overbearing means: A term used to describe the impact of a development or building on its surroundings, particularly a neighbouring property, in terms of its scale, massing and general dominating effect.

Overlooking means: A term used to describe the effect when a development or building affords an outlook over adjoining land or property, often causing loss of privacy.

What about my right to light or the loss of my view?

Whilst these aspects may be legally defined, they are not a ‘material planning consideration’. This means that case law (cases determined by the courts) have said they are covered by legislation other than planning and therefore they cannot be taken into account for a planning application. We would advise you to seek the advice of a solicitor on these matters.   

What if my neighbour’s extension encroaches onto my land?

The Council does not keep records of land ownership and if you are concerned that your neighbour’s extension might be encroaching onto your property you should raise this with your neighbour as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the Council is unable to help you with encroachment or trespass issues as they are civil matter.

What about the impact of construction?

Aspects like noise, dust, construction vehicles or hours of working are not considered to be a ‘material planning consideration’ as the effects of construction are temporary and these are typically covered by other ‘control of pollution’ legislation. However, if you have concerns over noise then please talk to your neighbour. If you are building an extension, please be considerate of others and avoid works at unsociable hours.

Can an extension be changed after it has been approved?

It is possible to make changes to an application that has been approved. This might be by a small change as a ‘non-material amendment’ application or a larger change by a ‘variation of conditions’ application. You can read more information about this on our amendments to applications page. If you are considering making changes to your approved scheme, we recommend informing your neighbour first.

I think my neighbour is building something they don’t have permission for. How do I inform you?

We rely on our residents to inform us if something is being built without permission. We can then investigate and see if a planning permission is required. Your name will never be disclosed and we will inform you of the outcome of our investigation. To find out more about this and to inform us using our online form, visit our planning enforcement request page.

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