How the Quantock Hills National Landscape Team is involved with the planning process, planning application comments and guidance documents.
The Quantock Hills was the first landscape in England to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in May 1956 (renamed National Landscape in 2023). The primary purpose of the designation is the conservation and enhancement of the landscape's natural beauty. The Quantock Hills National Landscape Team, on behalf of the Partnership, undertakes its work according to this primary purpose - to ensure this beautiful and nationally protected landscape remains outstanding now and into the future.
National Landscapes and planning
The Quantock Hills, like all National Landscapes in England and Wales, is not a Planning Authority. Although afforded the same level of protection as National Parks, National Landscape’s do not share the same planning control powers (they do not have the authority to make planning decisions) and are involved in the planning process in a completely different way. The responsibility for planning within National Landscapes (both the development of policy and the day to day dealing with planning applications) falls to the Local Planning Authorities that cross them. In the case of the Quantock Hills National Landscape this authority is Somerset Council.
If it can’t make planning decisions how does the National Landscapes Team engage with and have an influence on planning?
The Quantock Hills National Landscapes Partnership and Team have two ways in which it can influence planning. The first and more effective is through the statutory National Landscapes Management Plan. This consultative document is adopted by the local authorities within the National Landscape and therefore they must have due regard for the policies and objectives it contains. The second is through commenting on planning applications (development control) when they are submitted to the local planning authority. Defra guidance, supported by the Quantock Hills Partnership, is that the limited resources of an National Landscapes Team are best spent by influencing policy and guidance. Involvement in development control cases has to be selective and should not account for the majority of the Team’s resource.
What does the National Landscape designation mean and how does it influence planning?
National Landscapes are designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) and are protected under the provisions of the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. The Act secures their permanent protection against development that would damage their special qualities, thus conserving a number of the finest landscapes in England for the nation’s benefit. To find out more about National Landscapes, go to the Natural England’s website. The Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 bought in new measures to help protect National Landscapes further - by clarifying the role of local authorities, Natural England and other organisations in respect of National Landscapes.
Frequently asked planning questions
Does the National Landscape Team monitor planning applications?
Yes, the National Landscapes Team does monitor planning applications. We log applications, note our responses, check and record the planning decision and plot this onto a GIS system. The purpose of monitoring is to identify trends in planning e.g. types of applications, numbers, locations etc. This information will then inform our work in the future - how we respond to applications and the types of guidance documents we produce.
I live within the Quantock Hills National Landscape and wish to make a planning application, where should I go for advice?
Your first port of call should be your Local Planning Authority (LPA) which, if you live within the hills, will be Somerset Council. The council has a dedicated planning section on their websites, offering a range of useful information such as:
Whether you need planning permission for the plans/works you are considering.
How to get advice before making a planning application (pre-application advice).
How to apply for planning permission.
Searching for planning applications on line (past and present).
Useful policy and background information.
The links to the LPA planning page is Planning, buildings and land (somerset.gov.uk)
If you do not have access to the internet, you can telephone the Local Planning Authority and ask to speak directly to a Planning Officer or call in to the Council offices where they have Planning Receptions.
For general information on planning, a very useful resource is the Government’s Planning Portal website.
A planning application has been submitted within the National Landscape, I have concerns and want to find out more. Where should I look?
You can search on line for planning application details, again via Somerset Councils website using the link above. Once you have found the application, the supporting documentation is likely to be available to view. If you do not have regular access to the internet you can always contact Somerset Council by phone or visit their planning reception.
I want to comment on a planning application. How do I do this?
You can submit comments to Somerset Council and view comments that others have submitted (individuals and organisations) in respect of the same application. For directions on how to do this, you can contact Somerset Council or visit their website. If you are concerned that the National Landscape Team may not have been consulted and you feel the application may threaten the character and quality of the Quantock Hills landscape, please do call the National Landscape Team and ask to speak to the Landscape Planning Officer. Your comments and/or objections will hold greater weight if they are backed up by approved policies and guidance. Comments from individuals will be properly considered by a Planning Officer so do not be deterred from submitting comments as you may make a valid, ‘material consideration’ that others may have missed.
What types of response does the National Landscape Team make in respect of applications?
The National Landscape Team will consider all aspects of the application - type of development (e.g. commercial, domestic, conversion, agricultural), scale, style, location e.g. prominent hillside. These factors will be considered on an individual basis as well as collectively so as to make a judgment on likely impact on the landscape. In most cases the National Landscape Team will submit comments and/or questions to the planning officer - offering guidance to inform the planning decision but also prompting consideration of specific issues that may not have been picked up on. Where the National Landscape Team believes an application would have significant adverse impacts on the Quantock Hills, objections will be made.