LOOKING at recent letters in the Guardian regarding planning I have noticed a certain amount of confusion over how decisions are reached.

Very often there is criticism about planning officers and the planning committee.

Planning in the UK is dictated by the National Planning Policy Framework Act 2012.

Local plans and neighbourhood plans have weight in the planning process but it is the NPPF act brought in by the coalition government in 2012 that is the overarching deciding factor in planning applications.

So when planning officers look at any application, they check the regulations as set out in the NPPF, Local Plan and also Neighbourhood Plan if one is in place.

If the NPPF supports an application, the officers will look at the Local Plan and any Neighbourhood Plans to assess any weight against the NPPF.

Officers then decide to approve or refuse based purely on what the planning legislation states in relation to an application.

There is nothing personal in a planning officer’s decision. It is based purely on planning legislation.

When members of a planning committee decide on a planning application, they must also consider what planning legislation says about an application.

If the legislation supports the application then they really don’t have much choice but to accept the planning officer’s recommendation.

If a planning committee refuses an application against the planning officer’s recommendation, then the applicant can appeal.

If they win that appeal, the costs of the appeal will be paid by the council or rather the council tax payer.

Getting an application refused isn’t easy.

I called in an application for 184 houses in open countryside in Winsford which was refused by both the planning officer and the planning committee.

It was then appealed by the applicant but the appeal was refused and the Secretary of State backed the council’s decision to refuse.

However, the developer then went to the High Court and we now have to have yet another planning enquiry into an application that has been refused twice by the planning committee and by the Secretary of State.

Cllr Stephen Burns Winsford Swanlow and Dene Ward