Pre-Planning Applications v Outline Applications

December 4, 2017


Part 1


The Official Line on Pre Application Advice;

Pre-application engagement is a collaborative process between a prospective applicant and other parties which may include: the local planning authority. statutory and non-statutory consultees. elected members.


Providing constructive informal advice to help shape and progress development proposals is an important part of the planning process. It can help shape schemes positively before too much time and money has been invested. It can also help us to identify at an early stage schemes that our planning officers do not believe are likely to get planning permission. 


The pre-application process will
•Identify adopted/emerging policies that are relevant to development proposals
•Identify relevant planning considerations
•Identify external consultees, groups and residents with whom you should engage
•Confirm 'local requirement' documents which will be needed in a submission
•Provide an indication of likely financial contributions (if any) which will be sought
•Provide, where possible, an indication of whether officers think the proposal is likely to get a favourable recommendation in the light of current policies
•Where a scheme is not considered acceptable, provide guidance on what needs to be done to address concerns.


There is normally a fee for this service and the timescales for appraisals can take as long as a planning application. 


My view on pre-applications… They are as much use as a chocolate teapot. 


Why? For the fact that it can cost the same as a planning application and takes as long and at the end of it, the advice given IS NOT BINDING ON THE COUNCIL. So what's the point? 

I see the question of 'pre apps' ( pre-planning application advice) come up quite a bit so if I may can I share my view.


Years ago you could pop along to your council and have an informal chat with the planning officer who would provide great insight and advice for your scheme. You could then follow it up with a sketch and they would then write back with their helpful advice with amendments where necessary.


So before even engaging a planning professional with your application or you started spending any money you would have an excellent idea whether your ideas were acceptable.
Now fast forward 25 odd years and the helpful senior planning officer with decades of experience has been replaced by a 'line manager' that you can't speak to, let alone have a meeting. Cutbacks mean that you have to deal with a planner who most likely is on a 4 day week and, on the one time you want to speak to them,  is at college(!).


Ok a bit of a rant, but the all important informed, accurate and dependable advice has now been replaced by the 'pre-app' which you have to pay for.


There are 4 things that are seriously wrong with the 'pre-app';

1. It can in some cases cost as much as a planning application
2. It can take as long as a planning application to get a response.
3. Not in all cases are statutory consultees asked their opinion
4. It's not binding on the planning department. !


Now this serious.

Not only does it cost you and takes ages and, say, highways or environmental dept have not been asked their opinion


There will be a final paragraph in the planner's appraisal that the advice given is (in as many words) subject to the formal decision made by a planning authority!


I have known uninformed developers buy land and buildings on the strength of a pre-app. Guess what? They were refused permission!


One recent case a young couple sunk their savings buying a barn because the planners said a residential conversion was ok. It wasn't because it failed the 'bats test' - ecological survey
Luckily I was asked to sort it, but they wasted time and money (and nearly their life savings)  on poor pre-app advice.


But there is an easy answer.


I’ll explain that in Part 2

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CJS Planning Services, Norwich
01362 690 779
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