The Parish Council’s Role

The Local Planning Authority for our area is Northumberland County Council. The Parish Council is consulted on most proposals for development, and we are normally given 3 weeks in which to make a response. Planning proposals include not only planning applications, but also applications relating to listed buildings, protected trees and agricultural developments. In most instances we are directly consulted, but there are instances where we only discover proposals by scanning the NCC ‘planning portal’ – examples of which include amendments to already-submitted planning applications, ‘discharge of conditions’ applications (ie the submission of further required details where approval has already been given) and ‘prior notification’ developments, such as those by certain statutory bodies and by agricultural operations.

The Parish Council normally considers and responds to planning consultations by the members sharing their views with each other by email, usually arriving at a conclusion by consensus. Where there are differences of opinion which cannot be ironed out, then the majority view prevails: individual councillors do not always get their own way! Where a councillor has a declarable interest in an application (for example where the site is fairly close to where they live), they will declare that interest and not take part in the deliberations.

In commenting on planning proposals, the Parish Council is expected to adhere to ‘material planning considerations’ such as the appropriateness of the design, siting, impact on infrastructure, etc. drawing on the policies in the Northumberland Local Plan. The Parish Council’s comments can be viewed on the NCC planning portal, Simple Search ( This portal publishes all of the documents relating to a planning application: not only those that have been submitted by the applicant, but also all consultees’ comments, including any comments made by neighbours and other residents.

The Parish Council’s response to a planning consultation will normally be either to: support it, or support it in principle with suggestions for improvements or object to it with reasons why, sometimes suggesting what conditions or improvements could be made if the authority is minded to approve it. The County Council takes account of the Parish Council’s comments, but does not always go along with what we have to say. If there is significant demand from local residents, a public meeting could be arranged to discuss the plans being proposed.

The Northumberland Local Plan was finally adopted in March 2022, following a lengthy period of about 15 years where there was only an incomplete set of planning policies. The Plan and its accompanying documents can be accessed at Northumberland County Council – Current planning policies. Many, but not all, of the policies in the Local Plan are applicable to our parish area. Of particular significance are the designated Settlement Boundaries for Swarland and for Newton on the Moor, outside of which any new development is subject to particularly stringent ‘open countryside’ policies.