Pre-application engagement by prospective applicants
Pre-application engagement by prospective applicants with the Local Planning Authority is a normal part of the planning process. It offers significant potential to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system and improve the quality of planning applications and their likelihood of success. This can be achieved by:
- providing an understanding of the relevant planning policies and other material considerations associated with a proposed development
- working collaboratively and openly with interested parties at an early stage to identify, understand and seek to resolve issues associated with a proposed development, including, where relevant, the need to deliver improvements in infrastructure and affordable housing
- discussing the possible mitigation of the impact of a proposed development, including any planning conditions
- identifying the information required to accompany a formal planning application, thus reducing the likelihood of delays at the validation stage. The information requested must be reasonable (more information can be found in Making an application).
- putting in place a Planning Performance Agreement where this would help with managing the process and agreeing to any dedicated resources for progressing the application
You are entitled to ask the district council
If you suspect that discussion is being held on a proposal for development that hasn’t yet been published as a planning application, you are perfectly entitled to ask the district council, as the planning authority, what it knows about it.
The Environmental Information Regulations of 2004 require public bodies, if asked, to release to the requester, within 20 working days, any information they have on proposals for the land. There are certain defined circumstances in which they can withhold it but they wouldn’t often apply in the cases in which the ordinary resident would be interested.
The rules cover pre-application discussions and any other less formal enquiries. Your request needn’t be in writing, it can be oral, for instance, by asking a councillor, in or out of a meeting, and the rules would equally apply to a town or parish council as well as to a district council. Any blanket response such as ‘Pre-Application discussions are confidential’ is misconceived and should be challenged.
Your enquiry can be submitted online through the council’s Freedom of Information portal, citing the Environmental Information Regulations. Requests are perhaps best framed in relation to an area or place and a time period, without any reference to the parties you think might be involved. For instance “Could I please be informed of any proposal of which the council has become aware in the last year, in the form of a pre-application request or otherwise, for development in the field of which the centre is at SX66805021? Please include the record of any advice the council may have given.”
Make sure your request is acknowledged, and follow it up if you haven’t had a reply within 20 working days.
If you’re not feeling confident about asking for information please read this decision by the Information Commissioner here
For more information visit our Planning Guide
The South Hams Society Press Statement
The BBC report 26/9/2019