FAQs relating to personal data collection & use
- How do we treat documents?
- I have made a comment on a planning application but I want my details hidden
- I want my comment removed completely
- What information do you keep about me?
- How long do you keep my information?
- What is my information used for and who else can see it?
- My comment has been used elsewhere – what can I do about it!
- Can I submit photographs with my comment?
- Someone has made an unfair comment on my application – what should I do?
- I can't see documents that used to be there
- I want to see a copy of a document that isn’t on the internet
- Your website says that a document is unavailable – why?
- What can I use the documents for?
- Pre-application advice information
- Building Control information
- I want to make a complaint – who do I contact?
We aim to have all the documents we receive in electronic format as quickly as possible.
The way in which we deal with documents depends on how we receive them. You can submit applications via the National Planning Portal and make comments on planning applications. These documents are stored in our back office systems and may be used to produce physical paper files. Where documents contain personal sensitive data such as email addresses, telephone numbers, signatures or any other information that can identify you, these are redacted from view before publication on our website. Original versions of the document are retained electronically in our document management system and are only accessible to officers within the council with the security level to see planning documents.
If we get paper copies of documents, these are scanned so that we can display them on our planning website and we use redaction software that allows us to blank out private information. We do not keep paper copies once an application has been decided, except for major applications or older applications that have yet to be converted to electronic format.
Once an application is decided, documents are retained in our back office system. If a planning application is directly related to a previous application - for example it is a re-submission of an expired permission or relates to a condition imposed on a previously granted permission - relevant documents from the original application may be copied over to the new one.
I have made a comment on a planning application but I want my details hidden
If you comment on a planning application, then your name and address will not be publicly available; however your details may be referred to at public meetings or if there is an appeal lodged by the applicant.
You don’t have to give us your address details. Comments made with no contact details at all do not have to be considered by the Planning Officer, but as a rule we will consider comments as long as they are relevant in terms of planning legislation. We will not be able to send you information about an application’s progress if you don’t give us any contact details.
I want my comment removed completely
If you change your mind about the comment you have sent us and want it removing completely, you should contact the planning office using the same email address you used to submit your comment. If your comment was in writing, you should send us a written request. This is to stop people asking us to remove your comments without your permission. The removed comment is withdrawn from the planning application and is not taken into consideration
What information do you keep about me?
If you have submitted a planning application, or a comment on an application, we will have saved your name and any contact details you have given us in our back office system. We do this so that we can notify you of the outcome of the application, of any public meetings about the application or if an appeal is lodged against the outcome of an application. Your name and address will also be on any electronic copies of your comments that we keep in our document management system.
How long do you keep my information?
The registers containing Planning and Building Control information do not have an expiry date, and because of this we will always have any details you have supplied to us stored electronically. Unless you are the applicant, these details will only be available to people inside the council once an application is decided. An applicant’s name and address is part of the public register for an application.
What is my information used for and who else can see it?
As far as the Planning Service is concerned, your personal details help us to keep you informed about a planning application. We may also ask other departments and official bodies for their opinions and, as they have access to the same back office systems that we use, they will also have access to your information. These departments are subject to the same rules about data privacy as we are, and have the same obligation to keep personal information private.
If an applicant appeals against a decision, the Planning Inspectorate will ask for copies of all the documents we hold (including public comments) to make sure we have dealt with an application fairly.
There are other parts of the council (and also national government) that are interested in planning information because it helps them decide where resources are to be used, e.g. for school places and refuse collection, or because it tells them about trends in application types and locations. We send these departments statistical summaries of planning information, but not personal details.
My comment has been used elsewhere – what can I do about it?
As your comment is publicly available, it is possible for other people to use them for other purposes; for example, there have been occasions where local newspapers have used public comments in articles about controversial planning applications. We cannot be held responsible for the uses other agencies make of your comment. If you believe your comment has been used unfairly by anyone outside the council, you would need to discuss it with them.
Can I submit photographs with my comment?
Photographs can be very useful in illustrating a point to a planning officer, but there is a need to protect the privacy of an applicant or any other individuals that may be in the photographs. We will display them as long as they are relevant to the point being made, but we may decide to hide them from public view if we feel there are potential privacy concerns. Some elements of a photograph submitted and published online as part of a planning application or comment may be redacted to compile with GDPR; for example, vehicle registration numbers. Even if photographs are hidden by us, they will still be available to the planning officer.
If you intend to take photographs to use in your planning comment, you should consider people’s privacy and be respectful of their property.
Someone has made an unfair comment on my application – what should I do?
Comments on planning applications should be restricted to matters relating to planning law and opinions relating to the planning proposals. Personal comments about applicants are not acceptable, as are comments that are offensive, malicious or make unfounded allegations. We aim to remove any comments that are not acceptable as soon as they are identified, but if you see any that you consider unacceptable please contact the planning case officer to discuss this matter further.
We would not normally notify anyone who has had their comment removed. If you think your comment has been removed unfairly, please contact us by email at [email protected].
We cannot take responsibility for comments made by members of the public and may report abuses of the online planning system to the police.
I can’t see documents that used to be there
There are a few possible reasons for this.
Firstly, we may have changed the name of the document you are looking for in order to make it more obvious what the document contains, or because we have had to split the document into smaller parts to make it easier to download.
Secondly, we may have removed a document that belongs to another application and was placed there in error, or has had a technical problem.
Finally, there is compliance with the GDPR. When a planning application is decided we follow the advice of the Information Commissioner’s Office and remove some categories of documents from our website. We do this to ensure that we do not breach the GDPR, and this is the most likely reason that you can’t find a particular document.
We do not delete electronic documents submitted by the applicant or contributors unless asked to, as the electronic copy is usually our only copy.
I want to see a copy of a document that isn’t on the internet
The FOIA recommend a policy of disclosure. In other words if you wish to see a document then you should be able to, as long as giving that information does not break any of the rules in the GDPR.
If you wish to see a copy of a document that is no longer available on the internet, you should email the planning office at [email protected]. Please provide us with as much information as possible about your requirements and include the planning reference number, if possible.
In most cases we will be able to supply a copy, and our preferred method is to provide it in electronic format by email. There may be an administrative charge to supply you with documents that are not on the planning website; you will be advised of any potential charges before you confirm your wish for us to proceed with your request. If you prefer to have a paper copy then this can be arranged, but there will be an additional charge to cover our printing and postage costs.
We will not be able to supply any documents containing sensitive or confidential information. This might include documents containing email addresses and telephone numbers, locations of rare species of wildlife or information that an applicant has told us is commercially sensitive. Any documents we do supply will have personal details hidden.
Your website says that a document is unavailable – why?
This is not a data protection issue. Some of our documents, particularly older ones, can be prone to a technical problem that prevents them displaying properly. If you wish to see a document but get an error message, please let us know by phoning the planning officer within office hours (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm) on 0300 330 7000 or email us at [email protected] and we will do our best to fix the problem as quickly as possible. There will be no charge for any documents we provide in electronic format as a result of a technical issue.
Documents submitted as part of a planning application may be subject to copyright and copyright law, even if they have been available on the internet. You should only use planning application documents for research purposes related to that application. Our supplying you with documents does not constitute permission for you to breach any copyrights that may exist on them. In some circumstances we may contact the copyright owner for clarification before issuing a document to you.
Large scale projects may involve an informal, voluntary process offering advice and support to applicants before they submit a formal application. As a result of that process they may submit documents to us for evaluation and discussion. As these discussions are not part of the formal planning process and may be considered confidential by the applicant, we do not normally make information about these applications or their documents publicly available.
Following recent guidance from the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO), if a customer who has received pre-application advice later submits a full planning application at the same address for the same proposal, the pre-application advice will then be made public as part of the full planning application documents.
For small scale or householder applications, our Duty Officer service offers informal advice to potential applicants. This can be accessed by calling 0300 330 7000 within officer hours (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm), visiting our One-Stop Shop at our council office or by emailing [email protected]
Building Control/Regulation information
Building Control/Regulation applications are dealt with under separate legislation, but are still subject to the same FOI & GDPR laws. The service deals with a number of areas of work, including enforcement complaints, notices, demolitions, reports and requests for advice, as well as dealing with applications and inspections. There is no legal requirement to display information about Building Control applications on the internet. We do not publish any Building Control application data or documents online.
Applicant details may be shared with central government bodies if requested; for example Department of Communities & Local Government (DCLG) or Local Authority Building Control (LABC) to ensure public safety matters are responded to without delay.
If you believe there is information about a particular project to which you are entitled under the FOIA, you should submit the appropriate request to us for consideration.
We display limited information about Planning Enforcements on our website, but only when a formal Enforcement Notice has been issued.
If you make a complaint for our Enforcement Team to investigate, your personal details will be held within our back-office system to enable our officers to keep you informed of the progress of any investigations. It is not used for any other purpose and is only accessible to officers within the service. Your personal details are confidential and will not be shared with anyone outside of the council.
We do not accept anonymous planning or building control enforcement complaints.
To make a complaint please email [email protected] or call 0300 700 3300, during office hours (Monday to Friday 9am to 5pm), and select the option for the planning department.
I want to make a complaint – who do I contact?
We do our best to comply with all the relevant legislation concerning the treatment of your personal information. If you think we’ve got something wrong, please contact us by email at [email protected] or phoning 0300 330 7000 or by visiting us at our Guildhall offices in Northampton town centre, and we will be happy to investigate your complaint.
We also have a formal complaints procedure and you can use this if you prefer.