Development Team Service - pre planning application advice

Designed for proposals that are more complex or propose more than 20 residential units or 2000+ sqm of commercial floorspace.

It involves one or more meetings with the process being project managed by a senior planning officer. It will involve in-depth research, consultation with statutory and non-statutory bodies and comprehensive advice put together by officers from different departments. 

Depending on the complexity and scale of the proposal, the team may comprise of officers from

  • Highways
  • Building Control
  • Environmental Health 
  • Legal
  • Housing 
  • Strategic Planning
  • Conservation
  • Design and Regeneration.

At the end of the process, you will receive written advice from a senior officer that will carry significant weight when any planning application based on that advice is submitted to the Council.

The DTS is intended to speed up the planning application process for these complex cases and provide developers with a greater level of certainty following the submission of a planning application. It moves the emphasis of the planning process away from arbitrary deadlines, towards a planned timetable and negotiated solutions that are agreed by both parties.

We believe strongly that for more complex applications, the opportunity to obtain good quality advice that will carry weight in the decision making process is worth the investment in the pre-application process.

What is the DTS?

We understand that developers are generally seeking certainty in the planning process on which they can formulate viability appraisals and therefore this service aims to provide that certainty.

Whilst we cannot guarantee the outcome of a planning application, we aim to provide an efficient, professional and tangible pre-application service that will deliver a wide range of benefits.

What we will do:

  • Provide a point of contact, a named planning officer, who will be responsible for project managing the pre-app process.
  • Identify all the relevant officers required in the development process and ensure that you receive a co-ordinated response.
  • Arrange meetings promptly and within timeframes that take into account your commercial needs.
  • Keep to agreed timescales and deadlines for providing written or verbal responses.
  • Identifying key national, regional and local policy issues that need to be addressed at an early stage, therefore affording you the opportunity to ensure that your proposal complies with the spatial policy framework.
  • Identify and advise on key urban design Issues, so that your proposals are developed properly and respond to their context.
  • Identify and agree heads of terms for S106 agreements, prior to the submission of your application.
  • Facilitate the involvement of the local community and councillors in the development of your proposals
  • Identify the decision-making process, including arrangements for consultation and participation, S106 drafting requirements, committee lead in times, committee deadlines and referral constraints.
  • Negotiate a Planning Performance Agreement with you so that you will know the timetable for the determination of your planning application.
  • Keep and make available for you a detailed written record of the advice given on your proposals.

What we expect you to do

  • Attend meetings as and when required, ensure that you have the appropriate representatives at those meetings who are empowered and have the authority to make decisions, and have the relevant expertise to respond to various elements of your proposal.
  • Keep to agreed timescales and deadlines for the submission of information.
  • Agree to attend and be represented at public meeting and exhibitions.
  • Provide high quality illustrative material.
  • Ensure that the advice given is taken into account when submitting a planning application including all policy and urban design considerations.

The involvement of consultees

It is important to recognise that statutory consultees (such as English Heritage and the Environment Agency) do not have a duty to respond to consultation within a given deadline prior to the submission of a planning application. However, every effort will be made to involve them early in the process, and through an agreed protocol to ensure that they have the correct information necessary for them to provide a timely and meaningful response.

Involving the local community

With your agreement, we will also seek to ensure that parish and town councils, the local community, as well as local community groups, are involved. We believe it is important to include local communities early in the process. In our experience, objections are often based on a lack of information or a fear of the unknown. This process should help to reduce those risks. We will also offer guidance on how you should carry out your own consultation processes to complement that of the Council’s, so that you can be satisfied that your responses are robust, have reached the same people that the Council would consult, and have included hard to reach communities.

The role of Councillors

Given that major applications will be determined at Strategic Planning Board or Northern or Southern Planning committees, it is beneficial that Councillors are introduced to proposals early in the process so that they have an understanding of them. However, due to probity issues, the involvement of councillors must be handled carefully. The case officer will arrange for Councillors to be part of the pre-application consultation process at the appropriate time. This will generally be combined with community consultation by the developer or via a Members Briefing Session.

The views of Committee members as to the acceptability or otherwise of a proposal cannot be solicited and officers will always advise Councillors of the need to remain impartial. Consequently, you should not lobby those Councillors or seek to meet outside of the framework of this advice service, as this may be perceived by the public to be prejudicing the councillors’ impartiality.

Details of our Councillors and the wards that they represent.

What are the outcomes? 

The two key outcomes of this process will be a well-designed planning application and the advice letter, signed by a senior officer, which will be a material consideration in the determination of any subsequent application. However, some additional benefits that will arise include:

  • Avoiding incomplete applications.
  • Earlier decisions on applications.
  • Higher level of certainty.
  • Cost savings.
  • Reduced confrontation.

The main benefit is that, by providing the necessary time within a co-operative climate to negotiate changes to a proposal, the development can meet policy objectives and the expectations of the local community. Room is created for the agent to respond to his / her brief within a sound urban design context and to develop the scheme to strengthen its relationship to that context and create places of lasting quality.

How to apply for DTS

Submit a completed Pre-Application Request Form (PDF, 85KB) indicating which service you require.

When we receive your request, we will screen your proposals to check that they are suitable for the level of service. We aim to respond to your application within 10 working days and to arrange the first meeting within this timescale.

What information do you need?

We strongly encourage you to contact us at the concept stage so that you gain the most out of this service. We aim to provide a service that caters for all stages of a scheme, but proposals that are well developed without input from us may be ill conceived and difficult for us to advise on. It is likely that if you present us with a scheme that is developed to an advanced stage we will recommend the Pre-Application Meeting Service rather than the DTS.

For an initial discussion at scheme concept stage, all you will need to supply are details of the site location, preferably indicated on an Ordnance Survey Map, with a written description of your proposal.

What are the stages?

We believe that there are five key stages to this service. For less complex schemes, these stages will be less distinct and probably combined. Flexibility is key, and the process can be tailored to meet the needs of each development proposal. These stages do not represent the whole of the service. In between, we will continue to communicate with you by phone, by email, or in writing.

Stage 1 - Agreeing a project plan

This meeting is to ensure that your proposals are supported in principle by strategic policy at national, regional and local level. This enables us to advise you if your proposal is likely to fail on principle, thus allowing you to avoid unnecessary cost.

If your proposals can be supported by the development plan, we will then agree a project plan, deadlines and a set of commitments on both sides, so that you can be informed of the likely number of meetings and the approximate cost of the DTS. These elements are also likely to form the basis of a Planning Performance Agreement. This is an agreement between the Council and the applicant, which sets a timescale for processing and determining major applications that are likely to take longer than the statutory period to determine. We will also identify relevant consultees and discuss with you the methodology and process for carrying out effective consultation.

What you need to provide:

  • OS map of the site.
  • A description of the development.

What outcomes are expected?

  • Planning statement, covering strategic policy issues.
  • DTS project plan.

Stage 2 - addressing the issues

At this stage, our advice concentrates on ensuring that your proposal addresses established urban design principles. This includes appreciating the context, creating an urban / rural structure, making the connections and detailing the place. At this stage, the Design Statement that will accompany any planning application should be developed.

We will also give advice on whether the policy issues identified in Stage 1 have been addressed and begin to drill down into more detailed local policy and planning issues. Dependant on how far advanced your scheme is, we will begin to identify the relevant consultees, and if appropriate initiate an informal consultation process.

What you need to provide:  Draft Design Statement, including a design analysis

What outcomes are expected?  Design Statement and concept scheme.

Stage 3 - consultation

At this stage, we would seek to carry out the consultation process. This includes statutory as well as non-statutory consultees. 11

This is the appropriate stage for you to carry out your own consultation with the local community. We will advise you on how you should do this, how we will involve Councillors in this process and how to address issues raised as part of the consultation process in preparation for a formal submission.

What you need to provide:  Illustrative material of proposed scheme, possibly including options.

What outcomes are expected? Consultation response report and amendments to concept scheme.

Stage 4 - Planning application preparation

At this stage, we will work with you to develop your scheme in detail so that it addresses the policies in the development plan and represents good quality design and best practise. At the end of this stage, we will make sure that your proposal is ready for submission by checking that it is complete so that the application can be validated on receipt. We will also ensure that the heads of terms of any S106 agreement have been agreed in principle and any Planning Performance Agreement signed.

What you need to provide:

  • Draft planning application.
  • Draft heads of terms.

What outcomes are expected?

  • Complete planning application.
  • Agreed Planning Performance Agreement (where necessary).
  • Draft S106 heads of terms.

Stage 5 - Advice letter

8.35 At this stage, we will provide you with a written summary of the issues that have been discussed and the matters agreed. This will normally be in the form of a letter signed by a senior officer. If you request it, we will check the draft of the letter with you before we issue it. We will be happy to receive comments, and consider changes to the wording, but we cannot change the actual advice given. The letter should provide a basis for the submission of a formal application, thereby speeding up the registration process.

How much does the DTS cost?

In order that the Council can provide an enhanced pre-application service to a consistent and high standard, we have decided that the cost of providing the service should be recovered directly. Fees have been set at a level that reflects the cost of providing the service. Our aim is that you will receive an efficient, professional and tangible return for your investment.

The current fee is £2,400 for the first meeting and £1,200 for each meeting thereafter. The additional charge for the first meeting covers the wide range of internal preparation, administration and other tasks that are needed to support the service. The approximate number of meetings required for each scheme will be agreed at the outset as part of the project plan (to be agreed in the first meeting). Therefore, you will be able to estimate the likely overall cost of the pre-application process.

We will invoice you for meetings and we require payment before any subsequent meeting takes place. We will not issue our advice letter until all invoices are settled. We reserve the right to introduce pre-payment for customers where there have been invoicing problems. 

How long does it take? 

Our preference is to engage in pre-application discussions so that you can develop a scheme that has the best chance of success when it is submitted to the Council to be determined. We believe that this is the best way to reduce the period for determining planning applications and to increase the chances of a successful outcome.

Development Management 

Government sets target times for the determination of planning applications. For major developments, it is 13 weeks from the date we receive a complete application. For applications with an Environmental Impact Assessment, it is 16 weeks. For all other applications, it is 8 weeks.

Planning performance agreements

For complex, major developments, where it is likely to take longer than the statutory period to determine them, we will negotiate with you to enter into a Planning Performance Agreement. This is an agreement between the Council and the applicant that sets a realistic timescale for processing and determining the application. This gives sufficient time for the Council to deal with these complex applications, but also provides more certainty to the applicant as to when a decision is likely to be made. These agreements are encouraged by government.

Complaints procedure

If you feel that you have not received the level of service that we have promised you should, in the first instance, contact the lead officer directly. He/she will listen to your concerns and seek to resolve your issues with you.

If you remain dissatisfied, you should contact the Planning and Development Manager who will look into your concerns and respond to you in writing.

If this does not resolve the issue, you should contact the Head of Planning and Housing who will arrange a meeting to discuss and address the issues you have raised. It must be emphasised that this is to address any concerns about the pre-application advice procedure and not the substance of the advice given. We can only review the advice if you feel that it is completely erroneous and not that you disagree with it.

The Council operates a corporate complaints procedure

Developers' Forum

We seek to work in partnership with developers to ensure that you get the best out of our service whilst ensuring that we achieve sustainable development that meets our corporate objectives and your commercial needs. This can only be achieved through your interaction with the process so that you can influence how the service is delivered.

The Developers’ Forum has been set up to do just that. We want to meet with you on a twice-yearly basis so that we can hear from you, your experiences of the service and ways that it can be improved. This is not just a chance to look at the pre-application advice service, but the whole of the planning process. We will send out invitations to the most active developers in the borough, but this is not a ‘closed door’ invitation. If you wish to be part of the forum and have not received an invitation   email

The forum will be led by the Head of Planning and Housing and may include officers from the Council involved in all aspects of the construction process. This includes lead officers from Planning, Building Control, Environmental Health and Highways. However, this is your forum and we will encourage you to set the agendas.

Freedom of Information Act 2000

Pre-application material may only be withheld from the public domain if its disclosure could:

  • Prejudice commercial interests,
  • Inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views during the planning process,
  • Prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs.

The Council retains absolute discretion on the disclosure of any information it holds.

If you wish us to treat pre-application material as confidential, you will need to set out the reasons why and for how long any information relating to the advice needs to remain confidential in the space provided on the pre-application application form.

Once a planning application has been submitted and is in the public domain, information submitted and advice given can no longer be treated as confidential.

Page last reviewed: 14 August 2023