Posted 12 September 2011 - 10:27 PM
I cannot comment upon the planning process in Belgium, but I do have experience of how it works, currently, in Britain. Bear in mind also that there is legislation before Parliament at this moment which may radically affect the process.
Anyone in the UK can submit a planning apllication. It doesn't matter if they own the land or not. I could apply to build something on your back garden (but wouldn't expect to get permission!)
Once an application is received, local Councillors receive details, as do any affected Parish or Town Councils, and a relatively small number of local residents with properties near to the location of the proposal.
The application is then looked at by the Planning Officers, who make a recommendation to the Planning Committee. The vast majority are non-contentious. It is unlikely that there would be any problems if you applied to put on a porch to your home. However, if there is likely to be some adverse comment, the ward councillors can request that the application be seen by the full Planning Committee. They can also request a site visit by the Visiting Sub-Committee. In most local authorities (including that upon which I sit) a petition by 25 residents, supported by a ward councillor, gains the right by a representative to address the full Committee for five minutes.
The decision is ultimately in the hands of the Planning Committee. They have to be mindful of Planning Law. It is not good enough to turn down an application on the grounds that"we don't want this here" or that "we have already got enough fast-food take=aways" without being able to quote Planning Law. However, there are regularly occasions when the Committee will turn down an application, against the advice of the Planning officers. Such a decision has to be mindful of the fact that there is currently an appeal process, with the costs applied to whoever loses the appeal, and most Local Authorities are aware that if they lose such an appeal it will cost them about £80,000. When Local Govt. is facing huge reduction in the rate Support Grant from Central Govt., this has the effect of solidifying thought.
The members of the Planning Committee are all elected Councillors, whereas the Planning Officers are not elected. Although there is always the possibility of an accusation of Nimbyism. elected councillors have to be aware of the opinions of those who elected them. There is also the constant contrast between the wishes of the authority as a whole and those who will be directly affected by a submitted plan.
I don't know if this advances the debate on this particular issue, but thought it might help if we were clear about how we do things in the UK.