The planning application process is supposed to ensure that everyone has a fair opportunity to express their views alongside national, regional and local policy considerations. When development is proposed for housing, shops or new industry, the local council must decide whether or not the development should go ahead. To be involved in the future of your community, ensuring that the best possible development happens and not the worst, you have to be involved in the right way and at the right stage of planning applications. Your voice needs to be heard just as loudly as the voice of the development industry. Councils are obliged to take your views into account. Local people have a wealth of knowledge and experience and can bring about better decisions on planning applications.
Excerpt from Friends Of The Earth; http://foe.co.uk