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Planning application negotiation protocol

This protocol explains the Council's approach to negotiating on planning applications. It seeks to ensure we are consistent in our approach.

The protocol applies to all applications. However, for those applications where the Council has entered into a planning performance agreement, the expectation is that the Council will work with the applicant to see if issues raised during an application can be appropriately addressed.

The role of negotiations

The Government requires that local planning authorities should work with applicants in a positive and proactive manner, based on seeking solutions to problems arising in relation to dealing with a planning application.

An applicant can suggest changes to an application before the local planning authority has determined the application. It is also possible for the local planning authority to ask the applicant to consider revising their application, for example to overcome an objection.

However, it is at the discretion of the local planning authority whether to request or to accept changes to an application whilst it remains under consideration.

The ability to negotiate during the course of an application should not be relied upon as means to resolve issues which could and should have been addressed prior to submission. To do so undermines the Council's pre-application advice service.

The Council will not enter into protracted discussions about whether a proposal, which is unacceptable as submitted, can be made acceptable. The Council's preference is for negotiations to take place prior to the submission of application.

Pre-application advice

The Council offers a pre-application service, and all potential applicants are encouraged to use this service before submitting an application.

Information and guidance about the Council's pre-application service, including how to apply, charges, and the timescales for a response, can be viewed online by clicking on the following link:

The importance of timely decisions

It is important that the Council makes timely decisions on the planning applications submitted to us.

Applicants should expect to receive a decision on their proposals within the target timeframes set by Government.

Individuals consulted on applications and the wider public should also expect to find out how the Council has assessed a development proposal in a reasonable period.

When applications remain undetermined for long periods it can create uncertainty and undermine public confidence in the planning system.

If the Council does not determine applications in the relevant time period set by Government (and no alternative period as has been agreed in writing between the local planning authority and the applicant), the applicant has a right to appeal to the Secretary of State against non-determination. This results in the final decision on the application being taken by the Planning Inspectorate and the opportunity for the decision to be made locally is lost.

The Government monitor the timeliness of decisions made by local planning authorities. Failure to meet the criteria set can result in the Secretary of State 'designating' a local planning authority. Such a designation would allow prospective applicants to make their planning application directly to the Planning Inspectorate, removing the opportunity for the proposal to be considered and determined locally by Great Yarmouth Borough Council.

There is also a financial risk to the Council under the planning guarantee for application fees to be refunded in certain situations if the Council has failed to issue a decision within a specified time, unless we have agreed a longer period in writing with the applicant. The Council, as a whole, faces financial pressures and therefore the operational approach of the planning department will be to minimise any potential risk of a refund becoming due to prevent any adverse impact on the Council's other services.

Initiating negotiations

Any negotiation should be initiated by the Council. Applicants should not submit amendments or additional information once an application is valid, unless invited to do so by the case officer. Should uninvited plans or amendments be received, officers will make an assessment of whether they should be accepted or returned based on the guidance set out below.

When we negotiate

Key considerations will be:

  1. whether or not the changes are likely to result in a materially different development such that a new application should be submitted,
  2. whether the changes make the development acceptable without raising other issues, and
  3. whether it will be necessary to re-consult on, or re-publicise, the application.
  4. planning applications will be categorised as follows:

a) the proposal is acceptable as submitted - approve

b) the proposal is considered unacceptable as submitted, but could be made acceptable subject to minor amendments without the need for further consultation - consider negotiation

c) the proposal in considered unacceptable as submitted, but can potentially be made acceptable subject to additional information being provided and/or minor amendments that require the need for further consultation - consider negotiation

d) the proposal is considered unacceptable as submitted (e.g. the principle of development cannot be supported or the amount of change required would be significant) - refuse

In the case of (b) and (c) above, prior agreement to an extension of time will be required to allow negotiations to take place.

For category (c) applications, when assessing the appropriateness of offering to negotiate with the applicant, a check will be undertaken to see if pre-application advice had previously been sought. If no pre-application advice had been sought, the Council will normally ask the applicant to use this facility rather than agreeing to negotiate.     

The decision to negotiate, or not, rests with the case officer. They are empowered to exercise the discretionary powers of the Council as to whether to accept changes to an application whilst it remains under consideration. They will agree the approach to take on a case-by-case basis in consultation with senior officers.

Factors that may be taken account are:

  • if the site is allocated and the proposal generally complies with the development plan; 
  • whether new issues were raised that where not part of pre-application discussions; or
  • cases where the issues to be overcome are technical in nature and it would be more efficient for the Council to address them at the application stage.

In the case of category (d) applications, the reason(s) for refusal on the decision notice will clearly set out the concerns the Council has with proposals. After the decision has been made, should applicants or their agents wish to seek advice on how to address these identified issues, the Council would recommend they utilise the Council's pre-application advice service before re-applying.

Changes to national planning fees in December 2023 removed the fee exemption for repeat applications (the 'free-go'). The Council will not take the cost to the applicant of making a future application into account when considering whether or not to engage in negotiation on an application. We would advise that the best way to avoid the expense of an application that cannot be supported by the Council, is to utilise our pre-application service prior to submission.

Agreeing extensions of time

Any extension of time shall be for a clearly specified period based on a shared understanding of the time required to progress the application to determination.



Last modified on 04 June 2024

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