Departure Applications - Practice Note 8


Members of the public often ask the question “who decides planning applications?”

In Wyre Forest, the director of Economic Prosperity and Place is given delegated powers to determine all planning and related applications apart from those exceptions as specified in the adopted scheme of delegation. One exception identified in the scheme of delegation is where the planning application represents a departure from the Development Plan and the recommendation is approval.

Those applications which cannot be determined under delegated powers are reported to the Planning Committee.

This practice note is intended to explain in simple terms the procedures which exist for determining applications which the council may wish to approve but which do not accord with the provisions of the development plan.

Legal Obligations 

The Town and Country Planning (Development Plans and Consultation) (Departures) Directions 1999 provides a legal framework for all local planning authorities in deciding departure applications.

Departure applications are defined as an application for planning permission for development which does not accord with one or more provisions of the development plan in force in the area in which the site is situated.

Reference in this note to the Development Plan shall be taken to mean the Wyre Forest District Local Plan, the County Structure Plan and the Regional Spatial Strategy.

Circular 07/99 directs that “significant” planning applications for development which are not in accordance with the development plan, be notified to the Secretary of State. This practice note refers to all departures however.

Consent may still be granted on a significant departure application without notification of the Secretary of State if planning conditions would make the proposal accord with the development plan. Whilst this is a judgement for the Local Planning Authority, we will err on the side of caution and seek advice if necessary from the Government Office for the West Midlands.

These Directions came into effect on 30 August 1999.

Paragraph 3 of the Direction states that the following departure applications are considered to be “significant” and must be notified to the Secretary of State if the Local Planning Authority intends to approve the development of:

  • more than 150 dwellings
  • more than 5,000 sq.m. of gross retail, leisure, office or mixed commercial floor space
  • land belonging to the council
  • any proposal by the council either independently or jointly with others
  • any other development which would by reason of its scale or nature, or the location of the land significantly prejudice the implementation of the development plan’s policies and proposals.

Where there is any doubt whether an application falls within this last category advice will be sought from the Government Office for the West Midlands at an early stage.

The Direction guides that the Secretary of State will continue to be very selective about calling in applications referred to him and will in general only do so if planning issues of more than local importance are involved.

The Town and Country Planning (Green Belt) Direction came into effect in January 2006 and clarifies the arrangements and criteria for referring applications for ‘inappropriate development’ in the Green Belt, as defined in PPG2, to the Secretary of State.

Article 8 of the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 sets out the requirements for publicity for planning applications. This states that an application for planning permission for development which does not accord with the development plan shall be publicised by a local newspaper advertisement and by site notice. (See also Development Control Practice Note 3 – Publicity and Consultation on Planning Applications and Amendments).

Wyre Forest District Council has an obligation to adhere to these Directions.