Pre-application protocol for major developments
This page sets out our approach to pre-application discussions on more significant development proposals. This is delivered by the use of the Development Team Approach (DTA).
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As with all pre-application discussions, their success depends on a series of commitments from both the Local Planning Authority (LPA) and the developer. These commitments are set out in the Protocol for Pre-application Discussions on Planning Applications.
The DTA involves a comprehensive and coordinated approach to ‘major category’ development enquiries. This begins at the pre-application stage and is followed through into the planning application process.
DTA seeks to provide the applicant with a clear indication, at the earliest possible stage, of:
- whether or not the Council, as LPA, are likely to support an application, and
- what package of information is necessary to pursue a proposal up to a planning application submission
We aim to provide advice in relation to policy, design quality, technical matters and the level and content of information necessary to support any planning application. It is therefore important that we involve the correct disciplines from both within the Development Service and from other services and organisations at the earliest stage. This involvement needs to be properly coordinated.
DTA provides a level of certainty to the applicant and should achieve quality developments in line with the policies and proposals of the Council. A coordinated and project managed approach to the more complex applications should also assist in providing timely decisions for applicants.
We are also willing to consider the use of a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA) in dealing with such applications. For more information on this please contact a member of the Development Control team.
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Who needs to be involved?
Local Planning Authority
A corporate approach will be taken to discussions. This approach will be coordinated through a development management case officer. The exact disciplines required will depend upon the nature of the proposal. However, it is recognised that Development Management, Conservation & Urban Design, Planning Policy and Highways should have an input to all proposals of a significant nature. Dependent upon the scheme, it may also be necessary to involve some or all of the following, at the appropriate point: Trees and Countryside; Legal, Environmental Health, Housing; Leisure (and the Greens and Open Spaces Manager); the Environment Agency, Highways Agency; English Heritage; County Archaeologist; Sport England etc.
In addition to this, since December 2013, the Council has adopted a Protocol for Member Engagement in Pre-application Discussions, whereby more strategic major proposals (50+ dwellings or over 10,000sqm floor space), proposals where there is wide corporate involvement or in relation to locally significant or controversial schemes, then Members will be invited to attend initial Development Team Meetings, when Members are given the opportunity to hear about the proposals and may ask questions and seek clarification about such proposals.
The developer should mirror the corporate approach taken by the Council and bring relevant professional disciplines together as a project team. This again will vary depending on the complexity of the project but project leadership, planning, design and highways input would appear to be a minimum requirement for a coordinated approach from a developer. This will avoid any situations where one consultant may offer a technical solution to the Council only for another consultant to rule it out.
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How the DTA operates
The exact approach and content of the DTA needs to be tailored to the enquiry. However, the need for coordination and management of this approach is vital if the maximum benefit is to be gained.
The first approach by any potential developer to the Council may be through Development Management or Planning Policy officers or other departments. However, wherever the approach originates, it is recommended that Development Management are informed at the earliest stage. This can be done via the generic development control email address (email@example.com), the Planning Development Manager or the Head of Development Services. This will enable a decision to be taken on whether or not DTA is necessary.
It is proposed that the DTA will deal with two sub-categories of significant development proposals:
These are projects which have one or more of the following characteristics:
- 50 dwellings or more
- 10,000 square metres of industrial, commercial or retail floorspace
- Wide corporate involvement by the District Council
- Development of more strategic significance e.g. wider regeneration benefits, new transport infrastructure
Strategic projects will undoubtedly require input from all key parties and may well need to involve other disciplines. In addition, projects of this scale will require input from Senior Management. Advice on Strategic Projects will be coordinated internally through a strategic Project Team Meeting (PTM). The PTM meets fortnightly to concentrate purely on items of a commensurate scale.
These are projects of a lesser scale than Strategic Projects but are still defined as ‘major’ category planning proposals, as set out in the Town and Country Planning General Development Procedure Order 1995, as amended. For example, 10 to 49 dwellings. They also include projects that are recognised as being of a particularly complex or sensitive nature e.g. inappropriate development in the Green Belt, development affecting SSSIs etc. These schemes may only require the input from a limited number of consultees but would still benefit from a coordinated approach. These proposals may be discussed at a separate, fortnightly internal meeting known as Project Surgery (PS).
On receipt of a proposal, it will be the responsibility of the Planning Development Manager or the Principal Planning Officer (in consultation with others as required) to determine which of the above two categories the proposal falls and hence at which meeting it will initially be discussed.
It is the intention for Strategic Projects that the applicant will be invited in, at the first opportunity, to attend a PTM. This approach will allow the opportunity to explain the proposals and allow:
- Key issues for consideration to be raised early in the process
- Identify the need to involve other parties not present at the meeting i.e. statutory consultees
- Engagement with Members early in the pre-application process
- Highlight the need for further information deemed necessary to progress pre-application discussions
- Provision of written comments/meeting minutes from the Council prior to any formal planning application submission
- Discussion and agreement of timetable for pre-application discussions and planning application submission and any requirement for a Planning Performance Agreement (PPA)
Prior to the first meeting, the Planning Development Manager or Team Leader will assign a case officer from Development Management. The case officer will be responsible for the following:
- Communication with the developer or their agent throughout the process
- Ensuring that the project is scheduled for the appropriate coordinating meeting/s.
- Coordination with other parties to obtain their comments, ensure attendance at relevant meetings etc.
- Monitoring progress on the project and providing update reports to the relevant project meetings
- General project management of the process, including informing ward members as appropriate
For projects that are referred to the PS the vast majority of these approaches will be discussed internally at the PS meeting with the involvement of relevant consultees e.g. highways, design & conservation etc. However, there is the flexibility to involve the applicant or their advisors if deemed necessary by the case officer, following liaison with the Planning Development Manager.
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For the DTA to be successful, it needs to be a two way process. The following commitments will be expected:
Local planning authority
- Appointment of a lead case officer to ensure coordination with relevant parties and communication with the developer or their agent
- Availability of appropriate disciplines and experts to advise on the submission, in the form of a development team
- Written advice at a pre-application stage to confirm the Council’s views on any submitted pre-application proposal
- Support and advice in relation to pre-application consultation, as may be required to conform with the Council’s Statement of Community Involvement
- Provision of, or access to, guidance documents in relation to the validation of planning applications, Section 106 templates and standard clauses, information in relation to relevant policies and proposals, and any other relevant Supplementary Planning Documents
Submission of draft proposals at the earliest stage possible in the process (ideally two weeks in advance of any meetings). As a minimum first approach should include the following:
- Location Plan
- Brief description of the development proposed, ideally with an indication of architectural approach/materials
- Plans/description of the existing site/land use; and
- Plans of the proposed land-use/development showing relationship to adjacent development
- Photographs of the site
- Appropriate pre-application fee (see Pre-application Schedule of fees)
- Provision of draft supporting documents at the earliest possible stage, for comment by the Council
- Attendance at organised strategic Project Team Meetings
The case officer will liaise with the applicant or their agent within 5 working days of receipt of the pre-application query to confirm a time limited appointment for the appropriate meeting at which their proposal is to be discussed.
Format for project team meetings
The meeting will be chaired by the Head of Development Services or the Planning Development Manager. At the start of the meeting the applicant or their advisors will be given the opportunity to present an outline of their proposals (15 minute slot). The meeting is then opened up for queries, discussion and input from other relevant consultees and Members present.
The minimum standard membership for the DTA meetings is intended to include representatives from:
- Head of Development Services and/or Planning Development Manager
- Development Management
- Urban Design and Conservation
- Planning Policy
Other key consultees from the Council and County Council will be invited by the case officer, as appropriate given the key issues to be addressed by the application.
In terms of Member engagement, invitations will also be sent to Ward Members, the Development Service Cabinet Member and the Chairman or Vice Chairman of Planning Committee.
Feedback from project team meetings
Following the meeting the lead case officer will circulate a note of the meeting within 10 working days of the meeting, unless otherwise agreed at the meeting.
The Council’s written note of the meeting will aim to:
- Provide a brief summary of the discussion and highlight key issue raised by the proposal
- Highlight whether the principle of the development is supported by the prevailing planning policy
- Highlight the key issues to be addressed by the planning application submission to make it likely to be acceptable in planning terms
- Identify the documentation that will be required to support an application
- Provide a list of relevant consultee contacts details so that the applicant can further develop their proposals
- Provide an indication of any subsequent pre-application meetings that may be required. This is particularly the case for significant strategic applications and may involve a more in depth project management approach. In these cases, the feedback from the PTM meeting should ideally include an outline project plan to include key stages in the process with target dates and milestones, and how the key issues will be resolved and who is responsible for key tasks. This approach is consistent with the feedback from Communities and Local Government regarding proposals for LPAs and developers to enter into Planning Performance Agreements.
Following a Project Team Meeting or Project Surgery meeting a written response will be sent from the case officer within 10 working days of the meeting, unless otherwise advised.
This timescale reflects the time required to provide coordination for:
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- any additional comments from consultees that were not able to attend the meeting
- any additional advice from officers who need to reflect on the meeting discussion and undertake any follow up work to which they have given a commitment
Find out more about our pre-app charges and exemptions.
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Our overall aim
The key aim for both the Council and the developer in the pre-application process is to ensure that there is some level of consistency in advice so that application submissions can be provided with some certainty regarding the outcome of that process. This certainty is provided by attempting to align both applicant and the community aspirations through the pre-application process.
However, applicants/agents must note that all pre-application advice is given without prejudice, and does not prejudge the determination of a subsequent planning application.
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Feedback and advice
Should you require further advice on submitting a pre-application query or wish to provide any feedback on the process or service provided, please email the Development Control Department at firstname.lastname@example.org.