Other the past 3 months I have submitted three "Pre Application" advice proposals and the process followed and outcomes have been quite different. In light of the nature of these projects and that there are yet in the public domain I won't discuss the individual cases but focus of the process. What has surprised me is the variance between the three authorities concerned. Pegasus planning consultants do keep track of their experieneces of Pre Application Advice and rank the planning aurthotiries accordingly. Their findings range from it being an extremley useful and productive process to being a waste of time. That is both encouraging and dissappointing depending on which authority you are dealing with. I will take the three cases in turn.
Pre Application adive was key here as we have a number of constraints on site including being in the Green Belt. Visual intrusion was also a key consideration. I therefore wanted to meet with the Local Planning Authority (LPA) to discuss options for the site which would help us design the overall scheme. I had prepared a layout of the scheme with descriptions of the built development. In this case the LPA required detailed plans and elevations of the buildings together with a Design & Access Statement. I contacted them and was advised that I couldn't speak to a case officer and had to submit the application first and they would then decide if a meeting was warranted. In these cases you have to be persistent and insist on speaking to a case officer or arranging to meet them.
When I did get to meet them, and without providing the elevations or Design & Access Statement we did have a productive meeting which will help inform us on the proposed scheme. I don't think there was any specific reason why they don't like to meet applicants, maybe because that is the way they have always done it. To my thinking engaging with the LPA and being able to debate proposed schemes would be far more productive.
This is for a larger scheme and it attracted a suitablly sized Pre Appllciation Fee. In this case a summary document of the proposed scheme was prepared and sent to the LPA in advance of the meeting. At the meeting we met with the Case Office, Conservation Officer and their Urban Design consultant. This meeting was very productive as they were able to focus on the key issues with the scheme but also suggesting how our proposals could be refined to mitigate those issues. This covered various conservation/heritage matters as well as general commentary on the building design.
Following that meeting we have undertaken further work and met again and now have a way ahead. This process has been very good, productive, resulting in a better planning application.
Another large scheme and this time with an authority I haven't worked with before. The nature, scale and location of the proposed scheme certainly warranted pre application advice in particular as our timing was out of line with the Local Plan process (ie we were too late to promote the site in the plan). We drafted a presentation and subsequently met with the Head of Planning. At that meeting it did become apparent that our scheme was not going to get the support of the LPA in light of policies in the emerging Local Plan. We were able though to discuss alternatives.
Following that meeting we were given the option to presenting the proposed alternative scheme to the Planning Commitee at a closed meeting, ie not open to the general public. We presented our proposals and were asked a number of questions on the scheme ranging from general site layout matters through to more detailed technical questions. That meeting was followed up by the Head of Planning with a summary of matters to be addressed in the application.
So in conclusion quite varied outcomes. In Cases 2 and 3 the whole process has been positive and will help in preparing the planning applications. Case 1 so less favourable and you have to think for both the applicant and the LPA. With early engagement both parties would benefit and hopefully would result in a planning application having a greater chance of success. It is a shame that this particlaur LPA can't see the shortfalls.