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Cambridge City Council

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The planning application process

1. Registration

Once your planning application has been submitted, it will be logged as 'received'. If it's valid this will be the start date of the application and the target dates for determination (decision) are calculated from the first full day after this date. If it's not valid, see below.

2. Validation

The application will be checked to ensure all the necessary documentation and correct fee has been submitted. If it has, the application will be made valid and a letter sent to the applicant/agent with:

  • the application reference number (to be quoted in all correspondence),
  • the name and contact details of the allocated planning case officer and
  • the target date for a decision.
  • Note that if an applicant is using an agent all correspondence and communication will be directed to them.

Once validated we aim to publish the application on our online planning system within 24 hours. We aim to validate applications within 5 working days, but this may take longer during peak periods.

Invalid applications

If all of the required information isn't submitted, the information is incorrect or the correct fee hasn’t been submitted, the application will be made invalid.

  • The applicant or agent will be informed of this in writing and given 14 days to provide the necessary documents, corrections or fee. The application will not be processed any further until the application is made valid.
  • If we do not receive a response within the timescales given, we’ll return the application plus any fee.
  • If you’re the applicant and you’re unsure about what you need to submit, contact us at

3. Publicity and consultation

Depending on the nature of a proposal and its location, a valid application will be publicised in one or more ways:

  • a site notice displayed at the proposed development;
  • notification by letter to neighbouring properties;
  • a public notice in the local press.

The application is then available for 21 days for people to comment on, and anyone can comment, even if they haven't received a letter.

We also consult specialist organisations, such as the Highways Authority, and different sections of the council, e.g. Environmental Health on the development proposed. They must also respond within the 21 days.

  • A comment is known as a 'representation' and can be an objection to or comment in support of an application.
  • If the comments received meet certain conditions, you can ask for the application to be discussed at a development control forum.
  • Comments are published on our online planning system, either on the 'documents' or 'comments' tab.
  • Comments should be relevant planning matters in relation to the specific application - find out more on our view and comment on a planning application page.

4. How decisions are made

Most applications will be decided by our senior planning officers.

If you think an application should be decided by the Planning Committee instead, you can ask your local councillor to put in a request on your behalf.

  • They have to make a request on your behalf within 21 days of the publication of the application on the weekly list or within 14 days of a significant amendment to it.
  • We advise you to make early contact with your local councillor because requests for committee decisions outside the 21/14 day period aren't normally accepted.
  • The councillor has to have planning grounds for making the request, such as concerns about overshadowing or enclosure.
  • They won't be able to tell you what their view is, as this would mean they wouldn't be able to take part in the committee discussion and vote.

5. Planning officer assessment

The application is passed to a case officer for initial review and to make a site visit. If after that visit, or in response to consultation responses, changes need to be made to the application, the case officer will work with the applicant/agent to make amendments to the original proposal.

Revised plans will be made available online within 2 working days of receipt.

  • If the changes are considered 'significant' we'll invite further comments from the public and consultees.
  • If the changes are considered 'minor', we'll make a decision without further publicity.

6. Making the decision

At the end of the assessment, the case officer will write his or her report.

The report is then considered by our senior planning officers or the Planning Committee. The vast majority of applications will be decided by senior planning officers under powers delegated to them by the Planning Committee. These are known as 'delegated powers'. 

The Planning Committee meets once a month to consider and determine planning applications that can’t be dealt with under delegated powers.

  • The reports to be submitted to the Planning Committee are published on our democracy website.
  • Go to the Planning Committee agenda papers to find out when the meetings are taking place and which applications are being discussed.

All planning decisions can be viewed in our online planning application system; when looking at the documents for a particular application, the 'Application Decision Notice' shows if the application has been approved or refused, with any conditions or reasons for refusal.

Speaking at committee meetings

  • If you wish to speak about a planning application at the Planning Committee meeting, you must already have submitted a written representation in relation to that application.
  • You must also notify the committee manager that you wish to speak by no later than midday on the working day preceding the meeting.
  • Applicants and those who have made representations on an application can attend the Planning Committee and make a brief statement about the application.
  • Find out more on our have your say at committee meetings page.

Applicants/agents are notified of our decision in writing.

7. The planning decision

  • The status of a planning application is displayed in our online planning application system, showing the dates the application was received and validated.
  • The decision notice is published online with the application's 'Documents'.

If the application is approved

Approval of details required by condition

When a planning permission is granted it's usually subject to a number of conditions. Many of these conditions will require the submission of details for approval before development begins. Application forms and guidance notes are available on the Planning Portal.

Non material amendment (Section 96A)

If after getting planning permission, you want to make a small change to your application, you'll need to apply for a non-material amendment to the original application.

Application forms and guidance notes are available on the Planning Portal. If you are making numerous changes to a major or complex scheme, it is advisable to seek pre-application advice before applying.

The target to deal with these applications is 4 weeks. Applications for non-material amendments will not be the subject of further publicity.

The revised plans should be clearly annotated and highlight the changes sought for ease of comparison with the approved plans. Having both sets of plans (approved and revised) side-by-side on the same drawing will speed up the assessment of the proposal. The application form should precisely list all the changes sought. Any decision notice will re-list the changes sought and consent to the changes will only be in respect of this list as clearly annotated on the plans.

There is no set definition of non-material and ultimately it is for the Council to decide whether you require a new application. We may well reject an application for a non-material amendment if your proposal involves any of the following (this list is not exhaustive):

  • alteration(s) which would need to be the subject of further consultation
  • reinstating any feature objected to or revised as part of the original permission
  • moving any building
  • significantly increasing the volume or height of a building
  • adding equipment or other structure to a roof
  • adding a window that may cause overlooking
  • amending the site area
  • altering any ground level
  • amending the description of the development or introducing new element(s) which were not part of the original scheme
  • significantly altering the external appearance/finishes of the permitted proposal
  • amending the proposal in a way which reduces the design quality
  • conflicting with the requirements of a condition on the original permission
  • alteration(s) which, when taken cumulatively with previously approved non-material amendments, would amount to a material change

Minor Material Amendments (Section 73)

If minor changes to an application cannot be considered to be non-material then you may need to apply for minor material amendments, otherwise known as a Section 73 application (S.73) or a variation of planning condition.

If the application is refused


You can resubmit your application after a refusal but you're advised to address the reasons for refusal before doing so. You can discuss how to overcome the reasons for refusal with the case officer that dealt with the original application. If the original application was validated, and your application site and proposal remain substantially the same, you can re-submit your application up to 1 year after it was withdrawn or determined and there will be no fee.

Note: the application must be from the same applicant and you can only have one free go for the same site and proposal.


If planning permission has been refused, or you have an issue with a condition that was attached to a permission you have the right to appeal.

8. Commencement (starting the development)

If you've had your details associated with any conditions approved, you can start your development and in most cases you'll have 3 years in which to start your development. Check your decision notice for the time limit that applies.

Note: Obtaining planning permission doesn't remove the need for Building regulations approval, where this is required for your development.

9. Enforcement - unauthorised development

If you don't carry out your development in-line with your planning permission you could be contacted by our enforcement service and asked to bring it back in-line with the permission, or asked to submit a further application to cover the changes.

10. Withdrawing an application

An applicant/agent can withdraw an application at any point in the process. This may be because plans have changed, an applicant wants to substantially change a proposal, or it’s likely to be refused. If an application is to be withdrawn then you'll need to confirm this in writing or by email to the allocated case officer - named on the valid / invalid letter.

Note: if an application is withdrawn after it has been validated we don't return the fee.

Glossary of planning terms

The Planning Portal Glossary is a summary of phrases relating to land use and planning matters in England only. It covers a variety of issues ranging from new development and regeneration, to conservation and environmental protection.