I'm no great fan of the changes in the planning system that go live today - but we are now stuck with them.
So here is a brief guide to what the changes are and what impact these changes have on members of the public.
Applications are divided into three types - National (usually big infrastructure), Major (50 + houses or over 2 hectares) and Local (anything else. The general media are treating Local as things like neighbours house extensions but Local is still pretty big - most developments here are less than 50 houses now and there may be an incentive for developers to package their applications into blocks of less than 50!
In general, the public will need to be more alert to planning application than before so my first piece of advice is
Check the Planning Register regularly for both newly submitted application and for Pre-application consultations for Major Developments.
In Aberdeenshire, the list of application submitted in the past week can be found at http://www.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/planning/lists/index.asp#f
When I see where the list of pre-application consultations are published, I'll edit this post to update.
Submit your respresentations early. Aberdeenshire will only accept as valid representations those submitted within 21 days of the application being accepted - so from seeing it on the weekly list, you may just have two weeks to object.
If you miss this deadline, do submit your representation anyway - else we won't be able to get a proper picture of how much public comment on planning applications is being disregarded as a result of this change. But you may also wish to ask your community council to submit a represntation on your behalf - as statutory consultees, they get longer.
If the development is Major, then developers will need to undertake pre-application consultation with the local community. Look out for these in the local press and on village notice boards etc but I hope Aberdeenshire will also publish details on one place and if they do I will publich a link here.
Planning officers will have more decisions delegated to them. If they refuse a Local application, the appeal will be to a Local Review Board. Here the Local Review Boards will consist of a small group of councillors drawn from across Aberdeenshire who have the power to ask for further submissions from applicants and objectors, conduct hearings and site visits. They will then make the final decision and will have to give reasons for that decision. We are told that no further appeal (except of legal technicalities) will be possible - but some lawyers think the system is so flawed that tests in court will be inevitable. We will see how these work in practise!
Where there is a substantial body of local objection, applications will still come to Council committees and then these will be subject to appeal to Scottish Ministers.
Good luck - and do refer to the Local Plan to see planning policies and therefore good grounds for objection.