Overview of the Planning Application Process

The following is intended as a basic guide to the application process:

Pre application advice

A Pre application advice service is available. For small scale developments/householder proposal you can also visit a Duty Planner for informal advice  prior to the submission of an application.


If permission or consent is required then you will need to submit an application to Three Rivers; most applications will require a fee to accompany the application.

The correct application form must be submitted relating to the type of work you wish to carry out, and plans must be clear and precise.

You can submit your applications on-line, through the Government’s planning website, the Planning Portal , by post or by hand to the Council Offices. You will need to clarify that you are the sole owner of the application site.  If you are not, you will have to serve notice on the owner or owners at least 21 days before submitting an application.

Application Process

The following information briefly explains the steps involved in processing a planning application.

  • Validation
  • Publicity
  • Consultation -  with necessary consultees (e.g. Herts Highways, Environment Agency)
  • Examination and site inspection
  • Assessment
  • Amendment- where necessary
  • Decision (whether delegated or by Development Control Committee)
  • Committee site visits where necessary
  • The Decision Notice
  • Do you need any other consents such as Building Regulations?
  • When permission is refused
  • Development Control Charter
  • Our Charter explains the standard of service you can expect when we process planning applications.


In accordance with national guidance published by the Department for Communities and Local Government, Three Rivers District Council has created a list of local requirements for the validation of planning applications.  This has been incorporated into a validation checklist which encompasses national requirements (including the application form, the correct fee, ownership certificates and other specific details) as well as local validation requirements.  

Validation requirements are set out in the Council's adopted Local Validation Checklist available below. With regard to affordable housing (see Part B, Section 4), if viability is an issue a Viability Assessment / Financial Appraisal must be submitted. This viability information will be assessed by an independent financial advisor, the cost of which shall be borne by the applicant/developer. These costs are:

9 units or less: £1000 plus VAT
10 or more units: £2000 plus VAT
Large schemes: Fee to be negotiated on an individual basis

Please note that the relevant fee (payable to Three Rivers District Council for inward transmission) must be paid up-front at the time of validation, and must be a separate payment to the planning application fee.

Changes to National Policy regarding Affordable Housing and S106 Contributions

As a result of the changes to the NPPG the Council can no longer seek planning obligations to contribute to affordable housing or to pooled funding ‘pots’ intended to fund the provision of general infrastructure in the wider area from developments of 10 houses or less which have a combined maximum gross floor space of 1,000 square metres.

Following the Ministerial Statement Policy CP4 and Policy DM11 will no longer be applied to developments for 10 dwellings or less which have a combined maximum gross floor space of 1,000 square metres or less.

We will continue to seek contributions from applications for 10 dwellings or under where the gross floor area will exceed 1,000sqm.


The council must give publicity to planning applications. Neighbours may be notified or a site notice may be posted, with 21 days allowed for people to give their views. Advertisements may also appear in the local newspaper.


We often have to consult other Council departments such as the Conservation Officer, Environmental Health, or the Landscape Officer, or outside bodies such as the Environment Agency, Herts County Council Highways Authority, or Herts & Middlesex Wildlife Trust. Consultees have 21 days in which to reply.

Site visit

All planning applications including Certificates of Lawfulness will involve the Planning Officer visiting the site. Where necessary, you may be asked to provide access to the site.


For some applications the form and plans may not give us sufficient information to fully understand the proposals. In these cases we will contact the applicant/agent, specifying the additional information we require.

Please Note: Although we attempt to identify at an early stage additional information needed, we cannot always determine the application within the statutory time period if such information is not submitted with the original application (further consultation may be required), in which case the application may be refused or we suggest that it is withdrawn so that the applicant can compile the required information.

We consider the information contained in the application, the replies of consultees, and any neighbours/public responses, against the framework of the Local Plan/Local Development Framework - the framework for guiding, controlling and facilitating development within Three Rivers District, and National Policy before reaching a recommendation on whether planning permission should be granted, subject to conditions, or refused.


The assessment may reveal that planning permission cannot be granted unless certain aspects of a proposal are changed. We encourage acceptable development and we will try to agree changes or amendments to the original proposal to enable us to make a favourable recommendation. However, amendments cannot be accepted if they form a material change to the proposal. Negotiations, though sometimes time-consuming, result in a better quality of development, and avoid the delay and expense of an appeal.

Planning Obligation

It maybe necessary to enter into a planning obligation (or 'Section 106 Agreement') - private agreements negotiated between local planning authorities and persons with an interest in a piece of land, and intended to make acceptable development which would otherwise be unacceptable in planning terms. Normally used for larger schemes.

Delegated decisions

The Development Manager has been given powers by the Council to issue decisions on most types of application. A significant proportion are determined under these delegated powers.

Planning Committee

The Planning Committee meets once a month to determine planning applications which have been referred to the Committee. The agenda and Planning Officer reports and recommendations are made available to the public five working days before the date of the Committee meeting. Applicants and objectors have an opportunity to speak at the Committee meeting. There are occasions when a decision on an application is deferred until the date of the next meeting for the members to attend a site visit in the interim.

Go to the Planning Committee section for further information.

The decision

When you get permission, read the decision letter with care. There may be conditions attached and if these are not observed then you could become liable to enforcement proceedings including prosecution.  Decisions can be viewed on Planning Online.

Do you need any other consents such as Building Regulations?

The grant of planning consent does not cover consent for any other purpose. It is your responsibility to ensure that any other necessary consents are applied for and obtained. Many developments require you to also apply for Building Regulations with Building Control.

Discharging Conditions

The Council may grant permission subject to conditions. Some conditions specify what you may or may not do, whilst others require information to be submitted to the Council before development is started - Discharge of Conditions.

Renew a Planning Permission

A planning permission must be taken up within a certain period of time. This is usually three years and is specified in the decision notice. If development is not started within this time period the permission will lapse and will no longer be valid. Renew an extant planning permission.

When permission is refused

The Council will state on the decision notice the reasons why your application has been refused. You may be able to change your proposal to overcome these reasons. If so, a new application can be submitted which is more likely to be successful. Before making a new application it is advisable to discuss it with a planning officer, which may involve the Pre-Application advice service.

If the Council refuses permission or the conditions are not acceptable, or the Council fails to reach a decision within 8 weeks (or after any agreed longer period) you have the right of appeal to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government. For further information go to the Appeals section.

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