Planning: What you need to know about accessing the service

South Somerset District Council's Planning service deals with an around 2,000 planning applications each year1, meaning that the team of planners and admin support are quite a busy team!

At certain times of the year, the number of planning applications submitted increases which can create a backlog of applications. This can mean that temporary contact arrangements sometimes need to be put in place to allow for the service to catch up and deal with current case work.

Temporary contact arrangements have been in place at South Somerset District Council since Monday 25 June which gives Planning Officers more time without interruption to allow for catch up whilst maintaining a good level of customer service.

Councillor Angie Singleton, Portfolio Holder for Strategic Planning said, "We want to ensure we offer a good level of service to customers and residents whilst dealing with the current backlog of applications and to do that, we need to ensure Officers have sufficient time to deal with applications.

"We understand it can be frustrating when you can't immediately get through to who you need to speak with, but these arrangements allow Officers to register and assess applications quicker. We thank you for your understanding of the current situation and your patience with this matter".

Changes to accessing the Planning Service

Planning Graphic 1

Accessing the service via self-serve

If you are looking for advice or guidance, visit www.southsomerset.gov.uk/planning. Here, you can find out information about the Building Control process, conservation, Houses in Multiple Occupation, Pre Application advice plus much more.

You can view current or previous planning applications online at www.southsomerset.gov.uk. Simply enter the planning reference or keyword into the Planning search box on the homepage.

General information on Building Control and the application process can be found at www.southsomerset.gov.uk/planning-and-building-control.

The Planning Process

We have produced a simple guide to the Planning Application Process which also details what factors might cause a delay to your application.

Planning Service Questions & Answers

How many planning applications are submitted every year?

The Planning team at South Somerset District Council were sent 12,089 planning applications between 2012/13 and 2017/18. This means that on average, the team process approximately 2,014 applications each financial year. 

How many of the submitted applications are approved?

Over 90% of applications that are submitted to us are approved.

How many of the approved homes are affordable?

South Somerset District Council built 69 affordable homes in the last financial year (2017/18), 10 more than in the previous year. 15 of the new builds were constructed without direct public subsidy. Of the 69 homes, 57 were built in urban areas of South Somerset with the remaining 12 having been built in rural areas.

What is the definition of an affordable home?

In the National Planning Policy Framework, affordable housing is defined as: housing for sale or rent, for those whose needs are not met by the market (including housing that provides a subsidised route to home ownership and/or is for essential local workers) and complies with one or more of the following:

  • affordable housing for rent (20% below local market rent)
  • starter home
  • discounted market sales housing (20% below market value)
  • or other routes to home ownership.

What plans are in place for housing in South Somerset's future?

In the coming years South Somerset District Council plans to continue with the progress it has made with its strategic housing plan. The framework was created in collaboration with Taunton Deane Borough Council, Sedgemoor District Council, West Somerset Council and the Mendip District Council, and sets the aim of ensuring enough of the right housing is available throughout Somerset to maintain and attract a skilled workforce. You can find more information at /localplan

What developments can be completed without planning permission?

Planning permission is only required if the planned works meet the definition of 'development' laid out by the government in section 55 of Town and Country Planning Act 1990: "'development' means the carrying out of building, engineering, mining or other operations in, on, over or under land, or the making of any material change in the use of any buildings or other land."

 How is a planning application submitted?

Previously, planning applications have been made by post, but now they can be submitted via email. This option is a much swifter one as it offers instant delivery and acknowledgment, online payment options and an online help function to assist in completing applications.

How long does an application take?

The government has set guidelines that state a decision on an application should be made within 8 weeks of plans being submitted. However, if an application is made for a larger development or the plans need to be considered by the Area Committee, you should be prepared for the processing period to be longer.

What is the Area Committee and what does it do?

An Area Committee is comprised of all elected District Council members from within that area. In South Somerset we have four areas: North, South, East and West. If an issue or topic arises in any of these areas, the committees give members of the public the opportunity to have their say. Not only do Area Committees assist in the representation of smaller communities, but they help SSDC meet our nationally acclaimed framework for area working. They monitor the services within their area, make decisions on planning applications and statutory orders in their area, and take any decisions delegated by the Executive.

Why do applications go to Area Committees?

A planning submission may need to go to the Area Committee if the application itself is large or complex. Although this step may slow the process of approval down, it allows for a more thorough consideration at a local level. This happens so the community around the development is given an opportunity to have their views represented in the planning process and ultimately, agree whether they want the development to go ahead.

How long does approval on a planning application last?

Once approval has been received, the agreed work can be commenced at any point within 3 years. If work hasn't begun within 3 years, the customer will have to reapply for planning permission.