How to object to an urban planning request

So you’ve seen an ad on a neighboring property about a proposed development, what’s next?

First, you need to see the plans. You may have to go to the council office or they may mail you something. Contact the council to find out.

Now that you have seen the plans, you must decide if you want to object. To help make that decision, it helps to understand what the council is looking for when sending you this notice in the first place. When announcing a proposal, they want to know if the development will have an impact on you, as a neighbor.

Some examples of impacts include:

  • Loss of privacy or view from proposed windows into your home or backyard.
  • Shading your backyard.
  • Visual impact through a large, bulky or nearby building.
  • Visual impact on the urban landscape.
  • Traffic or car parking issues (although this is generally only applicable for very large developments or where a reduction in car parking requirements is sought).

The types of impact a proposal can have on you become the reasons or “rationale” for your objection, and it is those details that you want to communicate to the council.

When structuring your objection, it may be helpful to use numbering, bullets, or headings to highlight each of your concerns / reasons. If possible, try to write it down as well, as deciphering a handwritten note can take a long time and lead to misunderstandings.

If you wish, you can use an objection form available at the town hall. This can be helpful to use as it will walk you through all the information you need to provide, however you don’t need to use it. Feel free to write your own letter or email if you prefer, but be sure to include the application number and mailing address of the proposal, as well as your own contact details.

Sometimes a neighbor can file a petition against a development. This is a valid form of objection, as long as each petitioner writes his name and address. However, by its very nature, it is a fairly general objection, so raising an individual objection might be a better way to have your concerns considered. Also, if you decide to file an individual objection, it will become part of the application and you will be informed of the final decision. In the case of petitions, the council will only contact the organizer of the petition, with the expectation that the organizer will contact the signatories.

One last thing to keep in mind is that objections become part of the application and are therefore not private or anonymous to the applicant. It is common practice for the council to give a copy (which will include your details) to the applicant so that they can respond and possibly modify the proposal to satisfy objections. If you have privacy concerns, you can speak to the council, but an anonymous objection will generally not be considered.

When a development is advertised in your neighborhood, remember to consider how it may affect you and your property by looking at the floor plans. If you decide to object, be sure to include the details of the proposal, as well as your contact details, and be clear and concise in your wording. Finally, it is important to remember that a useful objection cannot be anonymous and that the applicant can know your postal address.

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