Why seek pre-application advice?
We want to have open and constructive discussions with applicants and agents, as this is an opportunity for us to work together to achieve the best development and deliver the greatest benefits to the community and the economy.
We therefore welcome and encourage discussions before receiving a full planning application. Preparation is more likely to result in less frustration, a good quality and acceptable development, as well as help us process your application quickly.
How our scheme works
We want to give you a better understanding of the way we have to consider a planning application, using national, regional and local policies. Also how we take other relevant issues (known as ‘material considerations’) into account.
By us giving you pre-application advice, we can give you more certainty as to how we are likely to view your proposal, such as us suggesting amendments to overcome potential difficulties or recommending you supply specific supporting information with any full planning application.
Dependent on the type of development you are considering, one of our Planning Officers may not need to speak to you at all before sending you their pre-application advice. Alternatively, they may require a discussion with you either by phone or via a pre-arranged meeting at our offices or on-site; they will advise you if this is the case.
We prefer you to send us your proposal on our online form and we always need proposals received in writing. Where a fee applies, you will need to make a payment in advance and our pre-application fee matrix reflects what this is and what you can expect to receive from us in return.
These fees reflect the complexity of the development, our administration costs and any research work we have to undertake, including consultation with other key stakeholders (unless they charge a separate fee), if needed.
Once we have everything we need from you
You may find it helpful to consult an independent planning specialist who has experience and expertise, to help ensure your full planning application has the best chance of being given permission. To help you prepare for completing our online form, we will normally need your full contact details, the correct fee paid in advance and:
- a location plan, showing the site and other land within ownership / control of the application
- a description of the proposal, including a calculation of any additional floor space, if appropriate
- any necessary scaled plans, elevations, sections, photographs or sketches (photographs are often very useful to us to understand the proposal and its context)
- a topographical site survey, or other information sufficient for us to understand existing and proposed site levels in relation to the surrounding area, this may include photos
- (in many cases ) any relevant planning history you are aware of, such as the existing use, a schedule of any existing floor space and any planning restrictions (for example, if the site lies within a Conservation Area or affects a listed building); you can find this information on our website
What you can expect from us
If you pay a fee
All fees must be paid to us in advance. We will send you an acknowledgement within five working days, telling you which Planning Officer will be looking at your enquiry (we will also try to assign this same officer to any future planning application for the same site).
Once we have considered the information we have received, your assigned Planning Officer may, as soon as possible, ask you for additional information, such as a draft 'Design and Access Statement’, financial appraisals, travel plans, transport assessments and possibly environmental assessments, if they think it will help them to better understand the site or proposal.
If your fee includes a meeting(s), the Planning Officer will advise if, how and/or when this will happen and following any final meeting your Planning Officer will send you their written advice on any issues within 20 working days. Where no meeting is needed, your Planning Officer will send you their advice within 28 working days of the receipt of your request, or receipt of additional supporting information. (For Environmental Impact Assessment Development, we will agree timescales in advance with you, due to the complexity of environmental issues and number of consultees that may need to be involved at the pre-application stage.)
We may contact you in writing and ask you to agree an extension to these timescales, if needed.
If you do not pay a fee
We will acknowledge receipt of your enquiry, let you know which Planning Officer is dealing with it and endeavour to send you our written advice within 28 days.
When we give you our written advice, we will clearly highlight to you any issues the development proposal is likely to raise (as much as we can at the pre-application stage), sometimes in bullet-points and usually via email.
We make our advice at this stage without prejudice, however, we endeavour to ensure that it is as reliable as possible and base it on available information and policies at that time. We cannot guarantee any subsequent application will result in a particular decision, so our pre-application advice does not bind us.
Our opinion may change during any full planning application process, perhaps as a result of views from consultees, interested parties or neighbours (although, if this happens, the Planning Officer will engage with you for the best possible outcome for all concerned). In addition, the final decision on a full application may be made by our Planning Committee not our officers and the Committee may reach a different view.
We keep a record of pre-application advice we give and link it geographically to the site, as this helps us when considering other proposals and maintains our consistency. We do not publicise or generally release these details, as in law it does not count as a ‘formal response’.
Please note, if you submit a full application and have not heeded any pre-application advice we have given, we are likely to refuse the application without any further negotiation.
Finally, we cannot guarantee our professional considerations and advice will favour your proposal(s). Our experience is that in most cases disagreements are due to differences of opinion rather than factual errors. You submitting a full planning application can usually resolve this, as there is an appeals option built into this process. However, if you feel that something has gone wrong, please let us know by explaining this to your Planning Officer and they may be able to clarify their view further. If you are still dissatisfied, please let us know and we will investigate your concerns under our feedback procedures.