Planning guide to major applications
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Guide to major applications


A major application can be defined as any of the following:
  • a residential development of 10 or more homes
  • a residential development on a site of at least 0.5 hectares
  • a non-residential development on a site of at least 1 hectare
  • creation or change of use of a commercial development, where the floorspace is 1,000 square metres or more.

The council’s Planning and Development Service has reviewed how it handles major planning applications. This follows studies of how other authorities have improved on their working practices, as well as information and suggestions gathered at meetings with professional planning agents, staff and Members. It also follows guidance on ‘Development Management’ drawn up by the Planning Advisory Service (March 2009).

As a result, this guide on how we deal with major applications has been produced. The aim is to give applicants, their agents and Members a better understanding of the process. It also highlights how the council aims to determine major applications within the 13 week target timetable, as set out by the Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

Validation checklist

The review of how we deal with planning applications follows advice by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. In March 2005, the ODPM produced a publication called 'Best Practice Guidance on the Validation of Planning Applications'. This was approved by the council’s Executive on 14 February 2006 to form the basis of a consultation.

On 2 March 2006, a meeting with professional agents and councillors was held to consider our own draft validation checklist. We also discussed a number of other initiatives to help develop our customer focus and performance. These measures include the electronic delivery of the Planning Service (the Planning Portal), and the provision of further planning information on the council’s website.

We have worked with Torridge District Council to create a new ‘Local List’ (published 1 April 2012) that gives advice on what must be provided by an applicant or agent to create a valid planning application.

Section 106 obligations

On occasion, some major planning applications have not been determined within the 13 week target time. The most common reason for the delay is a need for a Section 106 agreement to be signed before a decision can be issued.

It is also necessary for an applicant to satisfy the council that all individuals and groups with an interest in the land are included in any legal agreement and that evidence of land ownership is provided at this stage.

One option to address this particular concern for major planning applications is for applicants to submit a draft legal agreement with appropriate Heads of Terms at the time the application is submitted and following pre-application discussions with the Planning and Development Service. Another option in appropriate cases is to consider the use of planning conditions on the decision notice, requiring the applicant to enter into a legal agreement prior to starting work. This particular option was explored in November 2004 in seeking Leading Counsel’s opinion on the matter.

As a further response to the delays associated with Section 106 agreements, the council has produced separate guidelines on the subject. These can also be found on the council’s website.

Pre-application discussions

To speed up the time it takes to determine major applications, a number of other actions have been identified to gather more information early in the application process. These include:
  • a pre-submission checklist for every site considered to be a potential major development. This is drawn up in consultation with Planning Policy and key service providers, which sets out a list of requirements, including financial contributions secured through condition or legal agreement
  • informal consultation with individuals and organisations likely to have an influence on the outcome of an application. Prospective applicants are encouraged to informally consult with them, in order to identify requirements, such as off-site works or a financial contribution towards infrastructure improvements (for example, Environment Agency, South West Water, Devon County Council)
  • a pre-application consultation with the council and other community groups. This is based on the council’s Statement of Community Involvement (adopted in October 2005) and forms part of the Local Development Framework for North Devon
  • specific guidelines on pre-application discussions. These have been produced by the council, and developers and their agents are strongly encouraged to follow them. Once again, the guidelines can be found on the council’s website.

Formal applications

Following pre-application discussions, and once a major application has been submitted, the Registration Officer will meet with the Development Control Manager to confirm if any additional information is required. This is to register the submission as a valid application.

Once the major application has been registered as a valid submission, a start date will be entered onto the council’s Planning database system (called FastPlanning). A meeting will normally take place between the Development Control Manager and the Lead Officer responsible for the area where the application is. This is to determine the following points:
  • whether other officers from within the council, or occasionally outside organisations such as the Environment Agency, should be involved in a ‘development team’ approach and who may have specialist knowledge
  • to confirm to Ward Members, adjoining Ward Members and Chairman/Vice Chairman of the Planning Committee that an application has been received
  • to identify any additional consultees
  • to identify any other information that may be useful
  • to identify desired outcomes and ensure the proposal is able to meet the objectives of the council and its partners (for example, regeneration or affordable housing).

A consultation will then take place with public adverts and neighbours notified of the application. Once that has been completed, a further meeting will normally be held between the Development Control Manager, Ward Members, adjoining Ward Members and case officers. This is to:
  • agree a timetable over which the application is likely to be determined
  • agree the likely officer recommendation
  • provide copies of consultation responses and letters to the applicant and agent for their attention and information
  • agree the financial contributions to form part of any required planning agreement
  • schedule further meetings, if they are required, with any individual or group, including the applicant and their agent.


This guide considers six stages in determining major planning applications, based on a ‘development management’ approach. These are:
  • pre-application procedures - which require the applicant and their agent to ensure all necessary information, including draft legal agreements, are fully prepared and that pre-application consultations have been carried out
  • the pre-registration stage - when the application has been received but not validated
  • the registration stage - when the application is formally registered and publicity and consultations are carried out
  • the post-consultation stage - when a review of the case takes place
  • the decision stage - when the application is determined either under the delegated powers of the Planning Manager or by the council’s Planning Committee
  • the monitoring and review stage – to ensure the development meets its original objectives, and if not, how it may be amended to do so. For important sites, this stage may include a review of ‘stalled sites’ to ascertain the reasons why the approved development has not been implemented and to consider ways the planning service can help the development of the site.


The advice set out in this guide will be monitored and our procedures reviewed regularly. This will be based on comments and suggestions from those involved in the process, including the council’s professional planning agents who attend the Agents’ Forum, set up by the Planning and Development Service.

This information was updated in April 2009

Contact information

For planning enquiries, contact the Customer Service Centre:

Telephone: 01271 388288
For Typetalk: precede with 18001
Text: 07624 804042
Fax: 01271 388451

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