As a jobbing planning consultant, I would much prefer that you hired me to prepare, submit and manage your planning appeal. I have written thousands of appeal statements over the years and know exactly how to frame a planning argument to give your appeal its best chance of success.
However, if you are determined to prepare and submit your own appeal, who am I to stand in your way! This is my guide to writing an effective planning Appeal Statement.
An appeal statement usually has the following sections:
- Background information – the name and address of the person appealing (the appellant), the site address, a description of the proposed development, the council’s planning application reference number, the date of the decision, and the council’s reasons for refusal;
- A description of the site and the surrounding area;
- An outline of the proposed development (what you applied for);
- Relevant planning history (what applications have been decided in the past);
- Relevant planning policies and guidance;
- The case for the proposal (why you think approval should be granted).
In describing the site, provide information that makes it easy for the inspector to identify the right house, but also provide some context. Remember that, for the most part, the inspector will be interested in whether the development harms the character of the area and/or neighbours’ living conditions. It is usual to describe the architectural design of the property and the surrounding pattern of development.
- Are the houses similar in size and style?
- Are they evenly spaced out?
- Do they observe a consistent building line or are they scattered and set at angles to each other?
- Have many of the houses been extended or altered? • Is it a street characterised by variety or uniformity?
It is important to describe the relationship with close neighbours – how far away they are, whether they have been extended, what windows are close to the boundary with your site. You might want to highlight other physical characteristics that might have a bearing on your proposal: the nature of boundary treatments (do very tall hedges or fences separate the plots?), differences in land levels, the relative orientation of the buildings in relation to the passage of the sun during the day.
Finally, the site description should state whether your property is affected by any relevant planning constraints. Let the inspector know if your house is locally or nationally listed or if the site is in a conservation area, the green belt or a flood zone, for example. The planning constraints will be listed on the officer’s report, so you should not need to carry out your own research (though watch out for careless errors on the case officer’s part).
Outline of the Proposed Development
The next section outlines your planning proposal. Try to keep this simple and clear – you want to give the impression that your development is conventional and uncontroversial, not that it is complicated or overly ambitious. So, don’t describe it in painful detail. Look at the description in the officer’s report for clues. It is usual to provide dimensions (the depth, width and height of your extension) and let the inspector know what materials you propose.
You might also take the opportunity to briefly explain why you need the extra space or how it will improve your living conditions. This is not strictly a material planning consideration (the main issues in householder applications are design and impact on neighbours) and the inspector will not grant you permission on the basis that you want or need more room. But, if your extension enlarges a poky galley kitchen, for example, or allows your children to each have their own bedroom, it does no harm to point this out, if only as context.
The planning history section is where you can let the inspector know about any previous applications that may be relevant to your proposal. If, for example, you initially applied for a larger scheme and it was refused, you may wish to briefly explain the process through which you took the council’s concerns on board and have reduced the scale of your proposal. Don’t worry about detailing applications that are not really relevant to your current proposals.
If you were recently granted planning permission for something similar (perhaps part of, or a version of, the proposal to which the appeal relates), you should provide details. If you have been granted permission for a development that you have not yet implemented, it is known as an extant planning permission. It can be an important material consideration because it may mean that you already have permission for something similar to, or part of, what you are now proposing. It may represent a fallback position – a development you could build out if the appeal is not successful. If the inspector considers an extant approval to be a fallback position, they will take it into account when making their assessment – if your appeal proposal does not cause significantly more harm than the fallback, it should be approved.
If a previous application is important to the argument you will be making in the appeal, you should provide the inspector with copies of the decision notice and the plans for that application. These can be affixed as appendices to your appeal statement. As a general principle, appeal inspectors will not do their own research on a proposal, because the decision should only take into account information provided by either the council or you, the appellant, and on which both sides have had an opportunity to comment. The inspector will not therefore download plans for other applications from the council’s website and will not look at images on Google Maps or Google Streetview, for example. You must present any information that is important to your case as part of your appeal submission.
It is not necessary to copy out all of the council’s policies into the planning policy section. The officer’s report will summarise the policies on which the application was assessed and the council will send copies of these to the inspector. It is important that you read the policies, however, so that you understand the council’s case properly. The planning policy section is also an opportunity to interpret the policies and guidance. For example, if the council has argued that your extended house does not meet a certain criterion, you might point out that the wording of the policy suggests that it is intended to apply to new homes only, not to existing properties that are being extended. Or you might point out that a section of a supplementary planning document includes the wording “in most cases” or “where practical”, implying that the guidance should be applied flexibly. There is no need to include a policy section at all if the officer’s report has clearly and fairly set out the policies that are relevant to your proposal.
The Case for the Proposal
The most important part of your appeal statement, of course, is the assessment section. The process that the inspector will take, and which you should also take in presenting your argument, is to narrow down the issues to the ones (one or two) that are key to the appeal. Say, for example, that the council’s only concern is that your rear extension will overshadow a side window in the neighbour’s house. This is really the only point that your appeal statement needs to address. You may set out briefly that the council is satisfied that there is no harm the streetscene or to any other neighbouring amenities, but there is nothing to be gained by arguing these points at length – they are not in dispute. I should say that the inspector has the power to assess any and all aspects of the proposal and inspectors have been known to decide that the council’s reasons for refusal are unjustified but that there is another, unexpected, reason why planning permission should not be granted. These decisions are rare, though. Most inspectors focus almost exclusively on the council’s reasons for refusal.
Sometimes, when I send draft appeal statements to clients for approval, they write back to say that I have not pointed out that the “green roof ” and the solar panels they propose will have substantial environment benefits. It is true that environmental sustainability is a pillar of the planning system and the council’s planning policies will, somewhere, encourage reductions in carbon emissions, but it is almost never relevant to the issues being considered in a householder planning appeal. If your extension unacceptably overshadows your neighbour, it will be refused permission. If it does not, it may be approved. Associated sustainability benefits do not outweigh harm to a neighbour (and, in any case, could be achieved by extending in a way that does not cause harm to the neighbour, such as reducing the size of your proposed extension).
Your appeal statement does not need to be long. Resist the temptation to ramble, repeat yourself, rant, or otherwise pad it out. It gives the impression that you are not confident in your arguments. Do not criticise the council or the case officer. It just isn’t relevant to whether or not your proposal is acceptable in planning terms. To continue the example above, if the main issue is whether your extension will overshadow a neighbour’s window, it is clearly irrelevant how long the council took to reach their decision, or that you suspect they have been bribed by the neighbour, or a councillor has exerted pressure, the case officer has made mistakes or told you on the site visit that “it will be approved’” and so on. The inspector’s only concern will be to come to an independent, objective view on whether the extension unacceptably harms your neighbour.
Don’t get angry. The planning process can be very stressful and many of my clients are enraged by the way they have been treated by the council and their case officer, especially if the case officer has not communicated with them and the decision was unexpected and seems unfair. Remember, though, that the inspector is impartial and will not take sides. They will not share your anger. To reiterate, how the council has behaved is not a material planning consideration. If you feel you have a genuine complaint, consider an application for costs (more on this a little later) or follow the council’s internal complaints procedure.
Some appeal statements include information on other proposals for which the council has granted permission or other appeals that have been allowed. These precedents are useful only where they attack directly the specific issues in your appeal. If you are proposing a four-metre-deep rear extension and the council’s position is that it will overshadow a window in a neighbour’s house, there is no point listing all of the applications for four- metre-deep rear extensions that the council has approved. In refusing your application, the council is not saying that it cannot accept four-metre-deep extensions in principle and will never grant permission for them, it is saying that, in your specific circumstances, the siting of your extension relative to your neighbour’s window will give rise to harm.
You should only quote another case for which the council has granted approval where this relationship (between an extension and a neighbour’s window) is very similar. A close match will usually be very difficult to find – there are often site-specific circumstances that justify granting permission in one case but not in another (the orientation of the houses relative to the sun, difference in land levels, the height of the extension, the size of the neighbour’s window, etc.). Look at the officer’s report for both applications to see how they were assessed. Draw the inspector’s attention to the other application only if you think the council has been inconsistent in its assessment. Do not worry if your appeal statement does not quote other council or appeal decisions – inspectors often dismiss them as not helpful or relevant; they like to make their own assessments and their own decisions.
Need Some Help?
If you need help with your Appeal Statement, please get in touch by emailing me at email@example.com. If you would like me to review a draft statement or provide tips on how I would approach it in your particular case, consider the Ask Martin service. And best of luck with your appeal!