Is pre-application worth it?  

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.

What does a pre-app service provide?

The majority of local planning authorities offer a pre-application service.  The service usually constitutes a non-binding view from a planning officer on your development proposal. This is generally in the form of a meeting, written response or both. It takes place before the submission of a planning application.

When submitting a pre-application you need to provide sketch proposals and details on the nature and scale of your proposal. It is essentially like a lightweight planning application. 

The positives

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.

The negatives

Firstly, a pre-app response is non-binding on the council. We have had glowing pre-app responses in the past, only for the council to change their mind.

It can also be a costly and time-consuming process, and often does not tell us anything we don’t already know. Much depends on the quality of the planning officer giving the advice, and this can vary greatly.

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 putting together the initial pre-app bundle, and attending the meeting, will ensure that the key components of the proposal are considered in full and the proposal presented in the best light. 

About us:

Plainview Planning has been practising for nearly a decade and our consultants have worked in over 250 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: or 01242 501003