Why pre-application advice from the Local Authority?
If the proposed works are complex in nature, it maybe a beneficial to undertake pre-application discussions with the appropriate Local Planning Authority. This would identify potential issues and allow for the design to be amended if required before submitting a detailed planning application. Potentially saving time and costs during the application process.
Fees for written pre-application advice
The fee for a pre-application written response varies between Local Planning Authorities. Some Authorities do not charge advice for their service whilst others charge as little as £60 for a domestic household extension or improvements. If you propose to carryout amendments to a Listed Building, a written response from a Local Planning Authority Conservation Officer would also be required and prices vary between Authorities.
If you proposed to build a new dwelling, then a pre-application fee starting at £100 would incur. If you were to go slightly larger say 2-4 units, then a fee in the region of £250 would be worth the expense.
A good example of pre-application advice charges can be found at Wiltshire Council.
This should enable you to avoid objections and to anticipate any issues that neighbours or the Local Planning Authority may raise.
How much information is required for a pre-application?
There is no right or wrong answer to this. Ideally, it is best to provide as much information as possible (drawings, reports) to the Local Planning Authority in order to gain maximum feedback. I would normally compile sketch drawings to a suitable scale. This process is quick and would save considerable costs on the client rather than going into too much detail (such as CAD drawings). I would also include a useful summary of the proposed work to aid to aid the planning officer with their response. The information submitted as a pre-application would be consulted internally with various Local Authority consultees such as highways, tree officer, heritage, etc
The process can take a while but it is advised by the government that all council respond within 21 -28 days. I know a lot of good planning officers who can turn around pre-application before the 21-28 days however some councils can be backlogged with work therefore do not be surprised that a written response could take over the 21-28 days, especially for the more complex proposals.
Planning Officers Response
Once the appropriate forms, documentation, correct fee (if neccesary) and drawings have been submitted to the Local Planning Authority (LPA), the pre-application enquiry is delegated to a Planning Officer. If required the Officer may undertake a site visit to understand the context of the site in relation to the proposed works. I generally include site photos with the pre-application enquiry to aid the officer and to potentially save time negating the need for a site visit.
I have liaised with officers in the Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and Hampshire and the feedback obtained has been constructive and generally supportive of development if in line with national and local planning policies. Their response will outline the key concerns with the proposal (if any), the key planning policies, the general acceptability of the proposal and the standard or additional validation documents required to accompany the planning application. While the pre-application advice is an officers opinion and outlines the general acceptability of the proposal it can not guarantee the outcome of the planning application and it will be subject to neighbour consultation. The application can potentially be determined by a planning committee if contentious but a high proportion of decision are made by the Planning Officer under delegated powers.
More infomation can be found on the planning portal website.
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