The applicant, objectors and supporters may wish to make representations to a planning committee dealing with an application or another planning matter. This will usually be by writing to the committee members before the meeting or by speaking at the committee if the authority’s procedures allow for this.
The best time to contact committee members is after the officer report has been published. A letter written at an earlier stage might not be read, is likely not to be fully understood without a detailed report, and will probably be forgotten before the meeting takes place.
Once the committee report is published, the opportunity arises to seek to support the officer recommendation or dissuade councillors from following it.
For written and oral representations the same basic principles apply:
1) focus on the key points which are capable of turning councillors’ minds. Bringing up a mass of technical points are likely to mean that councillors miss the critical issue;
2) the points raised should be proper planning points which are attractive to politicians. The question is what would councillors find decisive, particularly to go against an officer recommendation? They need to be proper planning issues, which may include economic benefits;
3) the points need to be made clearly such that they can be followed by someone who has read the committee report.
Points to avoid
1) do not assume that the members will simply follow the officer recommendation. Councillors consider, rightly, that they were elected to make decisions, not to rubber-stamp the views of officers. Even worse than making the assumption is to address the councillors as if they will just do what they are advised;
2) do not attack the competence, honesty or integrity of the officers. What matters is whether the advice is wrong, or why it ought not be followed, rather than any motivation or ability which caused it to be wrong;
3) threatening the council with an appeal, costs awards, judicial review or reporting to the local government ombudsman should be done sparingly and with great care.