Protocol Site Visits - Practice Note 12


This protocol is intended to guide Members of the Planning (Development Control) Committee when making requests for site visits to assist the determination of planning or other applications by them. It is also intended to inform other stakeholders with an interest in planning applications e.g. Parish Councils, applicants, agents, objectors etc., with regard to procedural matters.

It is important that requests for site visits are dealt with in a consistent and organised manner and that administrative and procedural arrangements on site are understood so that all parties involved in the process are dealt with fairly.

Legal Position

The purpose of a site visit should be to enable Members of the Planning Committee to:

  • more fully understand the details of a development proposal in the context of the application site and surrounding land and buildings
  • more fully understand issues raised by interested parties

Site visits should not be undertaken to defer making difficult decisions on controversial applications, because applicants or objectors request them or so that Members can placate or be ‘seen to be doing the right thing’ for their Ward constituents.

Undertaken for proper planning reasons site visits can assist the decision making process; undertaken for the wrong reasons, site visits simply lengthen the process unnecessarily.

Members are reminded that the Town and Country Planning (General Development Procedure) Order 1995 (Article 20) requires local planning authorities to determine applications within eight weeks of receipt or 13 weeks if it is a ‘major’ planning application. The significance of this eight week (or 13 week) date is twofold, firstly it is the date by which most local authority performance is judged and more importantly it enables the applicant to appeal to the Planning Inspectorate against ‘non determination’ of applications, at which point the local authority cannot continue to determine the application.

It is inevitable that all applications which are deferred for a site visit will go beyond the eight week date.

It should be noted that site visits are not formal meetings of the Planning Committee and no decisions can be taken at the time of the site visit; members should also try to avoid discussing the merits of the proposal on site, this should be left to the formal meeting of the committee. The council’s code of conduct still applies to members during site visits.

Although decisions to visit sites are made by formal resolution of the Planning  Committee, members should familiarise themselves with sites before the committee meeting in order to make informed comments on them.