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Is pre-application worth it?  

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A question we are frequently asked by our clients is whether their planning proposal requires pre-app and if so, do we think pre-app is worth it.

We appreciate such hesitation; some councils charge quite a hefty fee for the pleasure and a face-to-face meeting isn’t guaranteed. Furthermore, pre-app advice is heavily caveated and a positive meeting is not an assurance of obtaining planning approval. Similarly, a negative reaction at pre-app does not mean your project has no hope of achieving a planning permission.

If handled correctly, engaging with pre-app can provide valuable insights into your scheme.

What does a pre-app service provide?:

The majority of local planning authorities offer a pre-application service.  The service usually constitutes an informal discussion with a planning officer, either in the form of a meeting or written response, and takes place before the submission of a planning application.

When engaging with pre-application advice you need to be prepared to discuss the proposal and provide plans, although the level of detail required will depend on the nature and scale of your proposal.  

Is it worth it?

Whilst the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) acknowledges that a developer is not required to engage in pre-app before submitting an application, it also advises that:

Early engagement has significant potential to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system for all parties… the more issues that can be resolved at pre-application stage, the greater the benefits.

Without previous experience, it can be difficult to gauge how a local planning authority is likely to react to your proposal. The council’s pre-application service can help to give an insight into their stance on your proposed type of development.

Furthermore, engaging with pre-app discussions sends a clear signal that you are keen to work with the council to help produce a scheme you can all be happy with.

It also gives you an opportunity to get to know your planning department.  Creating those relationships early can help with later negotiations, as one of our projects in Southend-on-Sea highlights. The proposal was for the development of a new residential flat above an existing nursery and the pre-app discussions were very beneficial, feeding into the design of the scheme and supporting our later negotiations with the case officer.

How does a planning consultant add value to this process?

Each local authority undertakes the pre-application process differently and will have varying costs and timescales. Whilst pre-app should be a helpful process, we sometimes find local authorities respond negatively to a proposal without fully considering its merits, to simply get it off their desk.

The support of a planning consultant at the meeting and in putting together the subsequent planning application, will ensure that the key components of the proposal are considered in full and the proposal presented in the best light. An experienced planning consultant can be a vital tool in ensuring you are prepared.

If you have been through the pre-application process and received a negative response, all is certainly not lost.  A planning consultant can review the pre-app response in line with local and national policy and help you to formulate an application which responds positively to any concerns.

About us:

Plainview Planning has been practising for nearly a decade and our consultants have worked in over 120 different local authority areas. We have a wide pool of experience from which to draw.

If your planning proposal needs support at pre-application, or you have received negative pre-app guidance and are not sure of your next steps, contact the team – we would be happy to assist: enquiries@plainview.co.uk or 01242 501003