What To Do If Your Dog Field Planning Application Gets Refused

What To Do If Your Dog Field Planning Application Gets Refused

It’s not uncommon for dog field planning applications to get rejected. Many secure fields and dog parks are applying both in advance of setting up, and retrospectively. This means local planning authorities are generally becoming more familiar with the concept of a dog field and have more examples to reference when deciding whether to approve a planning application. 

Planning authorities are also issuing enforcement notices to dog fields that have been operating without the appropriate consent and this has led to a growing number of retrospective planning applications being submitted.

If your planning application is refused or unreasonable conditions are applied, you can appeal the decision. The success of that appeal is dependent on many things including the reasons given for refusal, the quality of the initial application and the influence exerted by stakeholders in the planning process.

The fear of having a planning application rejected is putting a lot of people off applying. I completely understand the anxiety – especially for those who have committed to speculatively buying land to build a dog field or for those who have an established business that they rely on for their income. Here we’re going to talk about what happens when your planning application is refused and what you can do about it.

If you are just starting the planning process or are looking for land to start a dog field read the article Do I Need Planning Permission for a Dog Field, which explains all the main things you have to consider when looking at the suitability of a site.

If you are dealing with an ‘Enforcement Notice’ and want more detailed information, please contact me and I can direct you to a specialist in this area.

Practical and Environmental Issues

There are a large number of reasons that your planning application may have been refused and these will be set out as formal reasons for refusal on the ‘decision notice’ that you receive.

Refusal reasons must relate to matters relevant to planning and arise as a result of conflict with local and national planning policy. Typical refusal reasons can include unacceptable impacts on local roads (including an unsafe access), nearby wildlife and habitats, public rights of way and on protected landscapes such as AONBs and National Parks.

Other practical objections include proximity to housing where the impact upon the living conditions of residents may be deemed unacceptable, or even where there is conflict with other nearby uses such as agricultural activities like deer farming.

Another common reason for refusal is the lack of sufficient information provided by the applicant on any particular matter. This means that the planning authority is unable to make a proper assessment of the application. You must remember when making you’re application that it is not the planning officers job to build your case, make assumptions about your proposal or read between the lines. It is crucial that your application is comprehensive. 

Noise and traffic are common concerns raised by local stakeholders and can result in a noise survey and/or traffic survey being requested by the planning and highway departments at your local authority.

Planning Officers are responsible for protecting and enhancing the environment – that doesn’t mean that they are looking exclusively for the existence of three-toed-lesser-purple-spotted-newts or rare green-winged owls – it means that they are considering the environmental impact of the activity you are proposing. It’s not just your fence you need to consider – parking areas, access tracks, gates and any excavation or ground works that may impact the rural environment are key things that planning officers are looking at.

Protecting the habitat of rare and endangered species is part of planning control

Planning Officers and other local stakeholders may take concern with many different aspects of an application some of which may seem very minor and trivial, but it is important to remember that the reasons for a refusal must be based on legitimate planning matters where there is clear conflict with planning policy

Application Issues

When people receive planning refusals, they often assume that this is because of a physical, environmental, or socio-economic reason. This isn’t always the case.

I read a lot of planning applications and there is one thing that is very clear. You are far more likely to run into problems with your planning application if it is not comprehensive, well researched, and takes account of a broader set of environmental and practical challenges that the planning officer is looking for you to have considered.

The reasons for a refusal must be based on legitimate planning matters where there is clear conflict with planning policy

It doesn’t matter how straight forward and reasonable your application is, if you have not done your homework and provided extensive information relating to your proposed or existing venture, you run the risk of getting refused or challenged.

Sadly, as yet, there is no box for the planning officer to tick that says:

Reason for Refusal: Lazy application

What do you do if you have had your planning application for your dog field refused?

Your Right to Appeal or Reapply

You have a right to appeal any decision or conditions made by a local planning authority. An appeal is considered by an independent Planning Inspector at the Planning Inspectorate – a Government agency.

The appeal process should be taken very seriously. You need to address the issues mentioned in the decision notice, whether that is a refusal or because conditions have been imposed that you are unhappy with.

You also have the right to reapply with a new application, but there is no point in doing this unless the reasons for refusal can be addressed.

Note: Planning authorities no longer allow a ‘free go’ second time around.

If your application has been refused on highway grounds, you may need to overcome this by appealing and supporting your appeal with a traffic survey. Note that these can take several weeks and cost between £400 and £2000 depending the fees of a transport consultant.

Other surveys you might need to invest in are additional tree; ecological; and noise surveys. There may also be unusual circumstances relating to your land which require some sort of investigation – ‘ball strike risk’ from a neighbouring cricket club for example!

The last thing you want is for your appeal to be dismissed especially where it is possible to provide additional evidence to demonstrate the planning authority were wrong in refusing the application.

Things you should not do when your planning application is refused:

  • Harass the planning officer
  • Doorstep them at the office and film them whilst you grill them for your Instagram stories
  • Harass any individual who has raised objections
  • Hide in a hedge outside their house and egg them when they are walking their dog
  • Start construction anyway (if you are applying in advance)
  • Close your business (if you are applying retrospectively)
  • Give up on your project

You should have an ongoing dialogue with your appointed planning officer so a refusal should not come as a surprise. It is often the case that a strategic withdrawal of an application is far more sensible than waiting for a refusal to be made. This allows you to address the issues that have been raised prior to submitting a new planning application and avoids all sorts of additional challenges a refusal creates.

How the Appeal Process Works

The appeal process is simple and very complicated at the same time!

As an applicant, you follow the appeal instructions detailed on your decision notice. This usually means submitting a written appeal citing your objections and stating what you are going to do to remedy any legitimate issues your planning application has raised. 

You should submit additional evidence and supporting documentation to highlight your reasons for appeal.

There is a hard deadline for an appeal to me made (6 months from the decision notice) so you need to consider this if you intend to have professional surveys or engage other support. The Planning Inspectorate will not accept a late filing so don’t get caught out!

Once submitted and accepted, you will be given an estimated timeline and your appeal will enter a process of review. This timeline is dependent on the complexity of the matters to be considered and whether the appeal can be dealt with by way of written representations only, or where it becomes complex or contentious, then there is the possibility of a hearing being required.

There are a vast number of external things that can affect a planning appeal – from new legislation or policy changes, to other relevant planning decisions both locally and nationally. There is a lot of research to do before you submit an appeal if you want to be successful.

The Planning Inspector will consider the merits of your appeal, along with representations made by the Planning Authority in justifying their decision. Local stakeholders are also allowed to make representations to the appeal (the parish council for example). The Inspector will then weigh up all arguments for an against the proposals and come to an independent view as to whether the application should have been refused or not. 

If you want to understand more about the appeal process, here is the UK Government’s procedural guide to planning appeals in England

What are The Prospects of Winning an Appeal?

The prospect of winning an appeal is largely based on whether it resolves the reason(s) for refusal or whether you are capable of demonstrating that the Planning Authority was wrong in their justification for refusal.

The same applies if you submit an entirely new application. In addressing one issue you must also be wary of not inadvertently creating new issues!

What if My Appeal is Rejected?

There is an additional stage you can consider if your appeal is dismissed and that is to challenge the Inspector’s decision through a Judicial Review. This is a far more involved and costly process and is handled by the court system. In order to be successful at this stage you really will need to consider employing a solicitor to help you navigate the process because your arguments must stand up in a court of law. 

Challenges to an appeal decision can only be made on a matter of law, not on matters of planning judgement.

Judicial Review is a legal process and you should employ a lawyer to represent your interests

How Much Does is Cost to Appeal a Planning Decision?

There is no charge for appealing a planning decision however, if you are serious about submitting an appeal, we would urge you to employ the services of a planning consultant as it is crucial to get this process right. If you already have a planning consultant supporting you, they will likely have a strategy already in place for your appeal.

Planning consultants are familiar with the appeal system and the processes so can navigate the procedure for you and take some of the stress off your shoulders. They understand what arguments needs to be put forward and will be able to articulate such arguments in line with national and local planning policy to support your case. 

The cost of a planning consultant on a dog field project can vary depending on the complexity of the case, the appeal procedure and extent of work required. Due to their complexity, consultant support for an appeal is usually more costly than for an application, but you would typically looking around the £3-5k mark.

It is important to note that employing a planning consultant is no guarantee of a successful application or appeal (there are no guarantees in planning) but a good one will make you aware of the challenges you might face prior to agreeing to work with you.

If you employ a consultant to handle your appeal, you will bolster your chances of approval. If there is a stand-out reason why you are very unlikely to get planning permission approval for you dog field in the first place, a good consultant will tell you before you waste your money!

If you want to know more about our planning services and how we might be able to help in the event that you get yourself into a sticky situation, we have a range of services to help – learn more about them here.

How Long Does an Appeal Take?

Planning appeals can take a long time, but in the case of most dog fields, between 20 and 30 weeks is to be expected for a written representations appeal. This does vary however based on the Planning Inspectorate’s workload. If it is decided that your appeal needs to be heard at a hearing then the timescales will take longer (around 50 weeks).

As you can see, it’s far better to get it right first time. Just a 20 week delay can represent a loss of income of upwards of £14,000 in summer months.

Things you Need to Know About Planning Appeals

Prevention is better than cure!

Building a secure dog field business is an investment with a faster rate of return than almost any other land-based business. Doing things properly can be the difference between a hugely successful enterprise with reliable cash-flow, and an operation that is forced to close due to major issues – like an access that poses a danger to road users.

Because of this, we highly recommend employing an experienced, specialist planning consultant. Dog fields are not as straight forward as they seem and simply filling in the two-page planning application form and adding a one page statement about ‘lockdown dogs needing somewhere to exercise simply’ won’t cut it.

As part of our set-up consultation service we discuss your land, the planning challenges you may need to overcome and strategize how best to approach the planning process. If you decide you would like to employ an agent, we can refer you to our planning partners who are excellent –they have unrivalled experienced in this sector and understand our industry intimately. Please email us for more information.

All is not lost!

There are two types of people when it comes to planning rejections. Those who accept their fate, and those who slap on their game face and declare war! 

It is important you are the later. You might have a fight on your hands or you might simply have to reimagine how your dog field is going to operate or be designed. Either way, giving up is not necessary. There are circumstances when the application was probably ill advised to begin with, and appealing is just a pointless endeavour – but there are plenty of ways to skin a cob of corn!  

Precedent is being set all the time

Dog fields that had applications rejected a year ago may now be able to use examples of successful applications to support a new application. Planning officers are becoming more savvy with the dog field concept and communities are becoming more supportive and expressing fewer concerns.

Sometimes you backed the wrong horse-field

It happens. Sometimes it just isn’t meant to be. It is likely if you have tried everything to gain the consent you need, that there is a very solid reason why your application is dead in the water. The good news is that you have probably saved yourself from investing in tens of thousands of pounds in set-up costs. The dog field applications I have seen rejected on appeal have not stood a chance. 

More often than not the access is downright dangerous with no viable alternative proposed or the applicant has applied to install a 2.4m fence slap bang next to a national heritage feature or within a site of special scientific interest. It was never going to work.

If you are facing a planning appeal and are unsure how to go about the process to give yourself the greatest chance of success, please get in touch and we can point you in the direction of highly qualified experts to give you guidance and assist you if you need it. 

If you want to keep in the loop on all things ‘dog field business’ sign up to the mailing list below and if you’re interested in our consultancy services, you can find out more about that here.

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