Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council

Big plans for our places and open spaces

The planning process explained


Set out below is an overview of the process we follow when we receive a planning application:

When an application is received it is examined to ensure that all the forms have been fully and correctly completed.

Checks are made to ensure that the plans are to scale and clearly identify the site in question. We also check that the correct fee has been paid and that relevant certificates have been signed.

We then register the application as 'valid' and a consultation process begins. We will write to appropriate organisations and certain key neighbours so that they have the chance to comment on the application and inspect the plans if required. In some cases a site notice will be displayed near to the area in question there may also be a need to advertise the proposal in a newspaper.

Neighbours and relevant organisations will be given 21 days to give us their comments about an application. This can be submitted in writing or by email (details available in the 'contact us' section).

Many people use email to contact Planning Development Services and to comment on planning applications. However when we receive comments by email we still need to know who made them and where they live. The advice from the Local Government Ombudsman is that any correspondence on planning issues should include a real name and address if it is to be meaningfully considered. If you contact us by email without giving a real name and address we will contact you and ask you to provide one before we can consider your comments.

We are not able to respond to comments or queries due to the significant number of representations we receive. To do so would require additional staffing resources. However, each representation will be considered, summarised and addressed in the case officer's report.

The applicant or agent will receive a letter which will provide a unique reference number, which should be quoted in all correspondence along with the name of the case officer dealing with this application.

Once the case officer has received the application they will make a full assessment of the proposal taking into account relevant Stockton Council and Government policies. A site visit will also help the case officer to assess the impact of the proposal on neighbouring properties and the surrounding area. After assessing the application, the Case Officer will write a report to recommend whether planning permission should be granted or not.

Most applications are decided by Planning Officers, under the delegated authority of the Head of Economic Growth and Development Services. However, some applications are passed to the Council's Planning Committee who will make a decision based on the Officer's recommendation. In terms of decision times, it can take up to 8 weeks to determine a householder or minor planning application and in the case of a major planning application the timescale can be up to 13 weeks.

In The Council's current scheme of delegation authorises the Head of Economic Growth and Development Services to determine the applications which do not generate more than five individual letters of contrary to the officer recommendation. Where there are more than five individual letters contrary to the officer recommendation, the planning application is reported to the Planning Committee for determination with the exception of mobile phone mast applications where they remain delegated regardless of the number of objections received.

An ‘individual letter of response’ under his scheme is defined as:

  • A letter within which it is stated that an individual or group of people, whether privately or in any other capacity object or support a proposal for reasons set out in a letter. Notification of the decision will be only to the Head Petitioner or the first name/signatory.
  • Letters of response from a single address.
  • Petitions or pro-forma letters wherein the content remains virtually the same are treated as a single letter of objection/support regardless of the number of letters received or the size of the petition.
  • Where publicity of an application has been solely by letters to the adjacent owners/occupiers it contains an address from a resident consulted by letter or additional information has been provided to satisfactorily demonstrate that the respondent is an owner of a property or business consulted by letter.

In the case of mobile phone masts we are only allowed a period of 56 days in which to deal with the notification application. A failure to do so would enable the apparatus to be erected by default. The decision on the application will usually be made by a Planning Officer as delegated by The Council (this is irrespective of the number of objections received).

There are many factors which are considered in the decision making process. These are called Material Considerations. The council is guided by both formal and informal advice from central government. This takes the form of Planning Policy Guidance Notes, Circulars and statements from Ministers.

There is also a wealth of legislation, in particular the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, together with regulations and related legislation (for example - Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas).

The Planning Portal website has the most up to date information about these issues. The Council must also be mindful of decisions taken by the courts and Planning Inspectors upon appeals.

The Planning Portal website also contains relevant information on Lawful Development Certificates.

When considering any application all material planning considerations must be taken on board.

At the end of this process, planning permission can either be granted (with or without conditions) or it can be refused. If an application is granted planning permission, there is no third party right of appeal. If an application is refused planning permission/consent, the applicant can lodge an appeal with the Secretary of State within six months from the date of decision for a planning application, 12 weeks for a householder application or 8 weeks for advertisement consent.