A matter of substance

Councils tend to be a bit cautious in dealing with amendments to planning applications, not unreasonably in our view as it is so easy to be caught out. That said, the planning system ought to be able to accommodate refinements to development proposals without all parties involved having to start again at square one. A recent appeal decision (DCS Number 200-007-183) indicates that amendments ought to be refused consideration as such only if they are substantially different from the original proposal.

In deciding whether to consider an amended proposal for approval of reserved matters relating to a housing scheme in Worcestershire, the inspector cited relevant case law set out in Inverclyde District Council v Secretary of State for Scotland [1981].

The Inverclyde judgement refers to the whole character having to be altered to render an amendment unacceptable, the inspector recorded. He considered that this is a high bar, and in the case before him there were basic aspects of the character of the proposal which had not changed. Examples of this were the access to the site and the nature of the access roads, the quantum and type of development, the locations of open space, landscape design principles and parking arrangements. He considered that these similarities resulted in the character changes being well below what could be considered to be the alteration of the whole character of the original submission. Accordingly, he was satisfied that consideration of the amended submission was lawful, and proceeded to a decision on that basis.

Section 5.135 of DCP Online concerns amendments to planning applications.

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