Pre-Application advice or submitting pre-planning application is the submission of an informal process to the Local Planning Authority to seek their informal opinion prior to submitting a planning application. Such advice is often informal and as such may not be binding for a subsequent application.
Such Pre-Application advice can be very beneficial in understanding what information is likely to be required during a formal planning application as well as the policy context that the application sits in. One of the main reasons why we, as planning consultants, submit a Pre-planning application is to seek the informal opinion of the local Planning Officer or Conservation Officer in the case of conservation areas or listed buildings, where there are matters relating to potential design issues or where applications do not sit neatly within any particular planning context for example.
How much does Pre-Application advice cost?
Pre-Application advice costs vary depending on the local authority and whether the applications are for a householder or full planning applications. Some local authorities do not charge for household advice were some make a nominal charge. For larger applications the fee varies depending on the scale of the application on is often charged for on the number of units or for commercial projects on the size of the development.
For small applications, such as individual dwelling houses, the cost of Pre-Application advice can sometimes be more than the actual cost of a full planning application.
How long does Pre-Application advice usually take?
Local authorities can set their own time frames for Pre-Application advice with some taking a matter of days and others taking in our experience up to 8 to 12 weeks to provide informal advice.
Is it worth seeking Pre-Application advice?
To determine whether it is worth getting Pre-Application advice it is essential to consider the individual application. In any case, we would advise seeking professional advice and assistance, from a Planing Consultant, prior to starting any application process. A Consultant may be able to provide some of the information that the local authority would do and therefore early assistance could give a much better informal opinion from the LPA once Pre-Application advice is submitted.
For example, with householder applications, local authorities will set out in supplementary planning guidance their requirements for extensions and therefore it is potentially more useful to understand those documents and ensure designs comply with such guidance prior to submitting any planning application.
Pre-Application advice and pre-planning applications can be vital particularly where schemes are large and important in the context of local policies or in terms of Town or Citywide impacts, for example, large regeneration projects etc. In addition where a large number of considerations or consultation responses are required, seeking informal opinion from a local authority through a pre-planing application, including the scope of such consultations and likely issues that will arise, will allow for those discussions to take place outside of a full planning application which could ultimately benefit the determination of said planning application.
One of the other benefits of Pre-Application advice is that the application is often not made public on the local councils portal (although it should be noted that information can be requested as part of a freedom of information request). The benefit therefore of this confidential advice is that neighbours or other stakeholders, that might have issues with the scheme, are not informed of such applications and therefore discussions with the Local Planning Authority are able to take place to try and establish the main issues and likely contentious aspects of the application. In addition, Pre-Application advice not being made public gives the opportunity for applicants and planning departments to test various ideas and to establish the likely frameworks or parameters that designs should meet, for example, scales, density, heights, design strategy without having outside influences.
Would you always recommend submitting for Pre-Application advice?
It may not be the case that that submitting for Pre-Application advice is necessary in every case particularly where Planning Consultants, such as ourselves, are involved we will aim to understand the planning context including the relevant planning policies, supplementary planning guidance as well as a likely impact on neighbouring properties and consider the scheme overall in context.
In addition, where are applications are likely to be contentious or refused on principle grounds, for example, new buildings in the greenbelt, replacement dwellings or development on Greenfield sites submitting a pre-planning application may only likely confirm the same. In some cases submitting a robust package with full justification can be one option particularly if the Council would not be likely to support any such application and a subsequent planning appeal is likely to be required.
As Local Planning Authorities may have limited resources and limited time during planning applications to deal with the relevant issues, Pre-Application advice can be very beneficial to establish quickly the likely issues especially if done as part of an overall planning strategy, and prior to a full planning application package being developed. This can potentially be done at the earliest stages and therefore would help to reduce the time frames of the application process as a whole, especially if an appeal was negated.
Some planning authorities also prefer applicants to go through the Pre-Application advice process in order to try and iron out any issues prior to the submission of a formal application in order to minimise delays and to maximize the chance of such application being accepted.