Back to top
Last revised August 14, 2022

The Planning Applications Process is dealt with by BCC Development Management Case officers.


What is the planning application process?

read: Introduction to planning application process.

What is Development Management (DM)?

The Principle of Development Management (formerly called Development Control) is that Planning Officers, as well as the community, should help shape the development proposals before a Planning Application is made, rather than controlling development by policing it through assessment after the Planning Application as to whether it accords with planning policy.

How is the DM planning department organised?

Planning teams
Each Team has a manager who assigns a particular Planning Application or Pre Application enquiry to a case officer.

There are also separate Enforcement and Building Regulations teams

The Teams are managed by Service Managers who are headed by the Service Director of Planning and Sustainable Development, Zoe Willcox.

When is a Planning Application required?

Planning Applications will usually be needed for

  • demolition and erection of buildings
  • extensions
  • alteration of buildings
  • erection of advertisements
  • external lighting
  • impermeable areas of car hardstanding in front or back gardens.

Planning Applications are also needed if the Use of a Building is to be changed. See: Use Classes

A planning application is required for any development or changes to a building unless it is ‘permitted development.

Permitted Development

Some building works to single dwellings may be allowed under permitted development rights. This includes e.g. most smaller extensions to houses or conversion of front gardens to parking spaces using impermeable materials over an area of 5 square metres or more.

Flats, maisonettes and ‘houses’ above basement flats do not have permitted development rights.

Full information about what is permitted development is on the Bristol City Council website.

In Conservation Areas, Planning Applications are also required for works to

  • trees
  • boundary walls, front and other

For advice on all these topics see the Bristol City Council website.

What happens before a planning application is made?

If a development is for 10 residential units (flats or houses) or for 1,000 square m of commercial space, or a combination of the two, or is a development which will have significant local impact, the developer is expected to talk to the planning officer and the local planning group and agree with them how to consult the wider community about the proposed development before he finalises the design.

See Pre Application Community Involvement pages

How do I find out about a planning application?

Bristol City Council’s planning department display applications on the website through the Planning Online system which enables you to:

Search for applications

    • View weekly lists
    • view associated documents
    • make comments on an application
    • see the case officers report and the notice of decision
    • find out about deadlines throughout the planning process

You can also register to use the following functions

    • receive notification of planning applications in your area
    • set up and save searches for example by ward and Neighbourhood Partnership Area
    • track an applications progress
    • receive e-mail alerts relating to any searches or tracking that you have set up

Go to Planning Online to access the site.

How to register to receive notifications on the Planning Online site

or you can register with an independent system called Planning Finder which alerts you to applications in your search area.

How do I understand what is proposed in the planning application?

The drawings and supporting documents are all available on the Planning Online website. The Design and Access Statement (DAS) is often a good starting point to find out what is proposed.

A DAS should explain the design principles and concepts that have been applied to particular aspects of the proposal – these are the amount, layout, scale, landscaping and appearance of the development. Design and access statements are documents that explain the design thinking behind a planning application. For example, they should show that the person applying for permission (the applicant) has thought carefully about how everyone, including disabled people, older people and very young children, will be able to use the places they want to build.

Demonstrating how the local context has influenced the design is also an important element. This should be discussed in relation to the scheme as a whole.

The requirement for the access component of the statement relates only to ‘access to the development’ and therefore should explain how the design ensures that all users will have equal and convenient access to it.

For most straightforward planning applications, the DAS may only need to be a page long, for more complex applications, more detail is likely to be necessary.

How do I comment on a planning application?

You can respond on line using Planning Online comment or by letter or email to the development management department.

If you use the Planning Online comment page, your comment will automatically be posted on the documents page as a Public Comment.

If you do not comment though Planning Online, it is important that you give the relevant Planning Application Reference Number in your response.

If you respond by letter or email, the response will be scanned and put online as a Public Comment. Your contact details will not appear online.

If you are a neighbour, you should receive a letter telling you about the Application and giving you the details of what the Application is for, the name of the Planning Officer, the Application Reference Number you should quote in your response, and the date you should respond by.

For information about using Planning Online see section above.

To find more information on how you can have your say and influence decisions on planning applications see: Commenting on Planning Applications

What should I consider in my planning response?

Planning decisions are made on ‘planning grounds’, which are the local and central government planning policies and other material considerations.

It is therefore important that you understand what is an issue that a Planning Officer can use as grounds in his decision and what is not.

The grounds below are as listed on BCC website page

“All comments we receive about a planning application will be considered, but only planning issues can be taken into account. These include:

  • Loss of light or privacy.
  • Overshadowing on your home.
  • Highway safety.
  • Traffic and parking issues.
  • Noise.
  • Amenity.
  • Wildlife.
  • Historic buildings.
  • Conservation.
  • Design.
  • Appearance of the development.

Issues which cannot be taken into account include:

  • Loss of view.
  • Effect on property values.
  • Private rights.
  • Boundary disputes.
  • Construction noise.”

The Planning Case Officer has to use the planning policies currently in place to justify his decision or his recommendation to the Planning Committee in the planning report. So, if you have used the same policies to back up your reasons for your objections, it will enable the case officer give them greater weight.

It is possible that, despite your objection, the Planning Officer or the Planning Committee will decide to grant permission for the proposed development. It is therefore a good idea to think about this when you put in your comments, and to tell the Planning Officer what you do like about the proposal and what changes you think would make the proposed scheme more acceptable, otherwise you will not have had any effect on the proposed development.

This will not take away from your grounds for objection, but it will make it more likely that changes may be made make the development better from the community’s point of view.

Who makes the decision to approve or refuse a planning application?

The Planning Case Officer is the Officer of the Council who deals with a Planning Application. The Case officer writes a report on the Application (and a recommendation about whether or not it should be granted planning permission).

In most cases the Officer (under supervision of their Senior Manager) has delegated powers to make the decision.

In cases where there is a significant impact on the neighbourhood, the planning officers may decide to take the case to the Planning Committee, or a councillor may request that a particular case is decided at Committee rather than under delegated powers.

The Officer’s report is posted on the council website a few days before the Application is considered where the decision is made by a Planning Committee.

If the decision is taken by the case officer under delegated powers, the report will be posted on the Planning Online website shortly after the decision is made.

How do I find out when a Planning Committee is meeting and what is on the agenda?

See the Bristol City Council regulatory committee meetings page for details of the Development Control A & B planning committee meeting details.

How do I present my case at a Planning Committee?

See link for how to apply to make a verbal statement at the meeting.

What is a Planning Appeal?

The Planning appeals process is designed for anyone who has applied to their council or national park authority for planning permission, but is unhappy with the resulting decision, or the lack of a decision (which should normally be made within 8 or 13/16 weeks)

There are three procedures by which an appeal can proceed:

  • on the basis of written representations (with an expedited process for those proceeding through the Householder Appeals Service);
  • by hearing; and
  • by local inquiry.

The Planning Inspectorate will ensure that the most appropriate and proportionate appeal procedure is selected through the application of the criteria, careful consideration of any representations and appropriate expert involvement.

Within 2 weeks of the start date of an appeal (5 days for a householder appeal), the local planning authority must notify interested persons that an appeal has been made.

The LPA will send all the documentation including comments and responses from neighbours etc to the Planning Inspector. There will be a further opportunity to make comments to the Inspector for written representations except for Householder appeals and through a hearing or local inquiry.

For more information see the Planning Portal website.

Who can appeal against a planning decision?

Only the applicant can appeal against refusal of his application; the community cannot appeal against granting of an application (or a refusal)

How do I get involved in a Planning Appeal?

Under the hearings procedure the Inspector holds a public hearing with the main parties. Any interested person who wishes to participate in the hearing and can contribute to the discussion will
also be welcome to attend.

For the public inquiry process, any person who has notified the Planning Inspectorate of an
intention or wish to appear at the inquiry may be required to submit a statement of case.

For more information see the Planning Portal website

How do I report unauthorised development work?

If you think that a development is not being constructed with planning permission or in accordance with the planning permission granted, you can report it to the Enforcement team at Bristol City Council.

The Enforcement team will investigate and may serve a Planning Enforcement Notice on the developer. This may require him to put right the work, to cease using a building for a purpose that it does not have permission for, or to apply retrospectively for permission to carry out the work.

See BCC Enforcement page for details of how to report a breach.

Get further help – links to guidance

Online planning guidance
Click here to see an independently produced online aid for Planning Applications