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Planning: Pre application Planning Advice, is it worth its? 

There are a lot of different approaches to getting a planning application approved, some more successful than others, all with varying level of risk and cost for the client. We often hear other practices advise to go straight to planning and if refused rely on the appeal system to get it through, as it is often considered that the Local Planning Authority will not contest an appeal as they do not have the budget, it is certainly true that most councils are cash strapped, but this also relies on the client having the time and finances to rely of an appeal system working in their favour, it is also an approach which is likely to aggravate local communities, as it can be seen as using a sledge hammer to crack a nut. 

As a practice our philosophy has always been about engagement and cooperation, with both Community and Local Planning Authority, and having the PAPA central to our planning success. We have used this approach in project of all different scales, from small extension to £5m multi use scheme, and  by working closely with South Oxfordshire District Council (SODC) for over a decade we have had a 100% success rate with our planning application / decisions, a record we are immensely proud of, and it is good that SODC see the benefits of this service. 

The Pre-application engagement offers significant potential to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of the planning application system and can 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 which the Local Planning Authority may wish to highlight, such as local planning guides. These can often be used as a basis and structure of the Design and Access statement, which supports the design proposals 


  • 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. Overt the last few years there has been an increase in the supporting reports required by the LPA, such as bat and ecology reports. This identification will highlight where these are required, which is often site specific. 


  • putting in place a Planning Performance Agreement where this would help with managing the process and agreeing any dedicated resources for progressing the application 


The PAPA system is private and is not publicised until a formal planning application is made, so any contentious issues can be addressed as part of the design process. There are benefits to this, particularly if you can get the LPA support for a scheme, as part of the PAPA, prior to public submission. Once sort, where there are possible contentious issues associated with a scheme you are then in a stronger position to approach interested community groups and shows that you are engaging with the local Authority, and you have been looking to address their concerns. 

Without the PAPA engagement, there is a possibility that a scheme will get bogged down in the planning system whilst you address issues as part of a formal application and invariably an approved scheme maybe a watered-down scheme of what could have achieved. The council will make a discussion as to whether they support a scheme once the consultation period has concluded, and comments have been received.  

By using our extensive planning knowledge and where appropriate the PAPA system, over the last decade it has enabled all our planning applications to be decided by delegated powers rather than by the more unreliable committee process.  

So the answer is yes.


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