Pre-application preparation and validation

Making planning and related applications in a frequently changing planning environment, in England and Wales, requires an understanding of planning policy and planning, heritage and environmental law. A commitment to pre-application preparation is worthwhile in order to fully understand the planning process and reduce the risk in a planning proposal before a planning application is made. Proper pre-application preparation will ensure for the applicant/developer that:

  • A clear line of communication with the local planning authority (LPA) is established at an earlier point in the development programme.
  • A clear LPA officer opinion is given about the application’s ‘fit’ with planning policy and the likelihood of obtaining planning permission; or what steps need to be implemented to deliver a recommendation of approval.
  • An application can be validated on receipt – because its information and fee requirements are understood and agreed with the LPA.
  • Discussions with the LPA are collaborative rather than adversarial – the LPA is engaged with the development proposal before receiving a formal application.
  • Considerations associated with the proposed development are fully scoped out and agreement reached as to what, if any, additional work is required to be included with the application.
  • The route and timescales for a decision are agreed, which may include fomalisation within a Planning Performance Agreement. 
  • The scope and nature of any planning obligation are agreed.
  • The level of community engagement expected by the LPA, prior to an application’s submission, is understood and details of key community groups are agreed. This may include, in some cases, pre-application discussion with elected councillors.
  • Opportunities to enhance a development proposal and improve how the application is presented, are fully explored with the LPA and agreed.

LPAs are entitled to set locally a fee for providing pre-application advice. The fee for this advice is in addition to the application fee.

The scale of development proposed will dictate the amount of contact necessary with the LPA prior to making a planning application. In tandem with preparing for an application, major and controversial development proposals will benefit from more than one pre-application meeting/discussion with an LPA Development Management officer. Major applications will also benefit from pre-application discussion and meeting with statutory consultees and others who will influence the application decision, for example, the Environment Agency, Historic England and Parish Councils.

For major and controversial development proposals more time should be allowed for in the overall development programme to achieve a planning permission. LPAs work to statutory time limits to decide planning applications but these can be extended by agreement with the applicant. Where it is agreed that a development will require a planning obligation, early work on this legal agreement will save time. Start this at the pre-application stage.

All planning applications can be submitted electronically to the relevant LPA via the Planning Portal. This allows easy uploading and management of the application prior to its submission. It also links to the information and guidance notes from the relevant LPA. An application fee calculator is also provided. Different LPAs offer a variety of payment options.

To facilitate a successful submission, always have to hand the essential key facts about your planning application submission and the type of application that you are seeking to submit.

Planning appeals to the Planning Inspectorate can also be lodged via the Planning Portal.

The correct variant of the planning application form should be selected and the appropriate documents submitted - checklists can assist here. There are specific considerations for major planning applications, listed buildings, applications for demolition works within a conservation area, householder developments and advertisements.

There are also specific arrangements for dealing with Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) and for assessing and confirming any liabilities under the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL).

This section is maintained by Alan Gunne-Jones, Chartered Town Planner and Managing Director of Planning & Development Associates Ltd.