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Pre Application Planning Advice for Home and House Extensions

Most Council Planning Departments will offer a pre-application advice service most of which is now a paid for service. This can be a good route to get your sketch scheme agreed in principle with the Planning Department or at least expose the schemes deficiencies or concerns that you can now address within your final home extension design plan.

Should you be engaging your own professional Building Design Agent then most already understand the home extension design issues and will prepare a house extension design scheme already incorporating the main design points suitable for the Planning Department.

Therefore, if you feel that you may be setting a new precedent for the locality or you instinctively know that there may be some external design or neighbour issues for example then it does not hurt to use this pre-application advice service from the relevant Planning Department. It can be money well spent.

Here is one council's approach to pre-application planning advice to homeowners where they explain how and when it should be used.

It is quite a good guide and explanation so I have included their mission statements here for your own assessment of whether or not a pre-application approach to a Planning Authority would be of use for your own scheme:-

Pre-application Planning Advice

We are able to provide you with advice and information if you are considering submitting a development proposal or if you are a householder wanting to know if works to your home will need planning permission. We welcome and encourage discussions before you submit your application. We acknowledge the advantages of providing good quality advice to anyone carrying out development prior to the formal submission of a planning application in order to help speed up the development process and avoid unacceptable proposals.

Why make a pre-application enquiry?
Open and constructive pre-application discussions are an opportunity for local authorities and developers to work together to achieve developments that deliver benefits to the community and the economy. This can save time, costs and frustration and optimise the potential of a site. For these reasons Bracknell Forest Borough Council encourages discussion on proposals before a planning application is formally submitted.

What we expect of you (householder enquiry)
Before contacting the Council’s development management service with your draft development proposals we ask you firstly to:

  • Prepare draft design principles for the site based on the findings of the site survey work.
  • Approach your neighbours regarding your proposed development. All too often the failure to engage with neighbours early on in the process leads to objections that could have been avoided.

What we expect of you (non-householder)
Before contacting the Council’s development management service with your draft development proposals we ask you first to:

  • Investigate the planning history of the site fully. Does this tell you anything that may be relevant to your proposals?
  • Check the Development Plan designation of the site and any policies relevant to your proposals.
  • Familiarise yourself with the development management and highway standards adopted by the Council.
  • Visit the site and make a detailed analysis to establish site characteristics, constraints/opportunities and the surroundings. Accurate site survey plans and tree condition surveys (where applicable) will be required if a planning application is eventually to be submitted, these survey plans are likely to be useful in the process of designing a scheme too.
  • Prepare draft design principles for the site based on the findings of the site survey work.

I am a householder, how do I go about obtaining advice?
Under regulations issued for England by the Government it is possible to carry out certain changes to your home without any need for planning permission, though it may still be necessary to obtain building regulations approval.

These national planning exemptions, referred to as ‘permitted development rights’, can be withdrawn locally by conditions attached to planning permissions for dwellinghouses and are modified if you live in a Conservation Area or Listed Building, separate provisions also apply to flats.

For a simple guide to these national regulations as to when planning permission may be required, go to Visual Guide for Householders.

However before proceeding with a project you may wish to clarify the position with the Council. To do this you can use the householder pre-application service. Download the householder enquiry form.

This form should be returned to the Council accompanied by the following basic level of information to ensure that accurate advice can be given.

  • A payment of £40 (certain exemptions apply, see below)
  • Sketch plans sufficient to identify what is proposed and the relationship to adjoining properties (if to establish whether permission is required these must be metrically dimensioned externally)

You may also wish to include additional information such as:

  • Photographs of the site.
  • Any letters of support from neighbours

Your completed form and supporting documentation should be sent to us at the address given on the form. Please note that we reserve the right to reject requests for pre-application advice where a prospective applicant has ignored advice previously given on the same site.

This service can be used both to obtain advice on proposed alterations/extensions and to establish whether planning permission is required for changes to your home. Examples where this service could apply are:

  • Erection of an extension (including a conservatory or a porch)
  • Erection of a garage or outbuilding
  • A new or altered access
  • Dormer windows/roof alterations
  • Erection of a wall or fence
  • Installation of a satellite dish
  • Establishing whether any restrictive condition applying to the property necessitates submission of a planning application eg. in the case of a garage conversion

If your enquiry relates to the following then you should refer to the section below relating to non householder advice*:

  • the change of use or subdivision of a dwellinghouse
  • the change of use of land to garden
  • the replacement of a dwellinghouse
  • the erection of non ancillary buildings within the garden eg. erection of a new dwelling within the garden.

* please check the charging schedule below for the appropriate fee.

How do I obtain pre-application advice in all other cases? (non-householder)
Once you have gone through the above site analysis you should be in a much better position to begin designing your scheme. You may then wish to approach the Council to seek advice.

Your initial approach to the Council should be done using the non-householder pre-application advice form. This form should be accompanied by the information set out in the form to ensure that informed advice can be given.

Your completed form and supporting documentation should be sent to us at the address given on the form. Please note that we reserve the right to reject requests for pre-application advice where a prospective applicant has ignored advice previously given on the same site.

What does it cost for me to obtain advice?
Requests for pre-application advice should normally be accompanied by the initial fee. In the case of a householder enquiry, a flat rate fee of £40* is payable at the time of enquiry as a contribution towards Council costs.

Exemptions from a fee apply in the following cases

  • Where the works are required to meet the needs of a person's disability
  • The proposal only relates to works requiring listed building/conservation area consents.
  • Following refusal of an application which has been submitted in line with advice given on an earlier pre-application enquiry.

In all other cases the fee submitted should be in accordance with the following schedule:

The following charges currently apply.*

Residential Development

Initial fee (per site)

1 home

£150

2-5 homes

£400

6-10 homes

£700

11-30 homes

£1,000

31-50 homes

£2,500

51+ homes

£5,000

 

Plus Officer recharge rate at £81.75 per officer in attendance at a meeting

Change of use from a dwelling and change of use of land to garden

£75

 

Traffic model - at cost

Commercial Property Development
(including change of use)

Initial fee (per site)

Floor space less than 40 sq m and miscellaneous matters not involving any floor space e.g. advertisements, shopfronts and other changes relating to external appearance

£60

40 - 250 sq m

£175

250 -1,000 sq m

£400

1001-10,000 sq m

£650

over 10,000 sq m (1Ha)

£1800

 

Plus Officer recharge rate at £85 per officer in attendance at a meeting

 

Traffic model - at cost

Mixed Developments

 
Where a development comprises a mix of commercial and residential development the fee payable is the sum of the fees payable in both categories.  


If the planning officer considers a meeting is required in order to progress matters you will be advised in writing and requested to submit the appropriate payment prior to the meeting. This is a flat rate fee which will be based on the number of officers attending not the length of the time the meeting takes.

*Fees are reviewed annually and any changes take effect on 1 April.

What happens to my enquiry?

Householder Enquiries: Once the request for pre-application advice is received we should dispatch within 5 working days an acknowledgement (either by email or post) stating the name of the planning officer who will handle your enquiry. All communication from you to the Council should be via this officer. If on this initial assessment we consider the pre-application process is not the most appropriate course to follow, we will tell you what alternatives are available. Should further information or a meeting be required the case officer will endeavour to let you know within 15 working days of the enquiry being received.

Pre-application Planning Advice (non-householder): Once the request for pre-application advice is received we acknowledge receipt within 5 working days (either by email or post) stating the name of the planning officer who will lead on the enquiry. All communication from you to the Council should be via this officer. However, if on this initial assessment we consider the pre-application process is not the most appropriate course to follow, we will tell you what alternatives are available.

Following consideration of the information received the case officer will decide whether to bring together a team of Council officers from different disciplines. A Development Team approach avoids the need for you to contact different parts of the Council separately, thus saving you time and giving consistency. Following the assessment, the case officer may advise you that further information is required, such as financial appraisals, travel plans, transport assessments, and possibly environmental assessments. Where a scheme may be subject to environmental assessment then early discussions should focus on issues relating to the screening and scoping of the proposal. You will also be advised as to whether meetings with the case officer or development team will be helpful in order to progress matters. Should further information or a meeting be required the case officer will endeavour to let you know within 20 working days of the enquiry being received. At this stage you will be advised which Council officers it is considered appropriate to bring into the development team.

What do I need to do before a meeting?
To make pre-application meetings as productive as possible, applicants or their agents will be expected to provide sufficient information to describe the proposal at least five working days prior to the meeting, including:

  • An analysis of the character of the area
  • An assessment of the constraints and opportunities of the site

This information will be used as a means of ensuring that a design-led approach is taken in developing an appropriate scheme for the site.

What happens after the meeting?
Following the meeting, the case officer you met will provide a written summary of the issues discussed, and his or her advice on those issues.

What advice can I expect to receive?
Once the information has been assessed and any negotiations concluded the case officer will provide you with constructive and relevant written comments and advice to help you on the way to the submission of a planning application.

Pre-application advice is given in good faith and will represent the case officer’s professional view. The advice given will be as accurate as possible, but it will be based only on the information available at the time of the enquiry, and the case officer’s personal judgement. Therefore, positive feedback in pre-application discussions does not automatically mean that an application will be granted permission.

The advice given will depend on the complexity and nature of the proposed development but could include:

  • Relevant Planning Policies: an assessment as to whether the proposal complies with local, regional and national policies.
  • Constraints: for example, Conservation Area, Green Belt, Special Protection Area etc.
  • Land Use: acceptability of proposed uses.
  • Residential Development: acceptability of mix of units, affordable housing requirement.
  • Design: comments on built form, scale, massing, views, street scene, historic context etc.
  • Amenity: which properties may be affected and how, what further assessment is required in terms of daylight/sunlight studies, noise studies, tree surveys and landscape assessment.
  • Transport and Highways: advice and comment on servicing, access, parking standards, cycle parking, disabled parking, requirements for a transport statements/assessments and Section 38/278 matters (Highways Act 1980).
  • Community Engagement: who to contact eg, local councils, community groups.
  • Financial Contributions: possible heads of terms or planning obligations that may be required together with an indication of likely contribution levels.

How long will it take to get advice?
Within five working days your enquiry should be acknowledged and we will advise you if it is not suitable for this process.

Within 25 working days you should be advised if a meeting and/or further information is required.

If no further information or meeting(s) are required then you should receive a written response within 30 working days.

In the case of more complex proposals it is impossible to give a guarantee as to when the process will be concluded as ongoing negotiations may be required. However the Council will arrange meetings within 15 working days of any additional information being received and will provide an agenda of the issues for that meeting to explore at least two days before that meeting.

What if I disagree with the advice received?
We cannot guarantee that you will like the advice you receive. In most cases, it is differences of opinion rather than factual errors that give rise to disagreement, and these can only be resolved through the formal planning process. However, if you feel that something has gone wrong, please explain to the officer involved, as he or she may be able to clarify the situation further.

Where an applicant fails to incorporate advice given at the pre-application stage into a formal planning proposal it is likely the application will be refused without any further negotiation.

If you are still dissatisfied with the service provided, it is open to you to make a formal complaint. For further information on the complaints procedure, go to our Comments, Compliments and Complaints page or contact Customer Services on 01344 352000.

What if I choose not to engage in the pre-application process?
If an application is submitted which requires significant change and no pre-application advice has not been sought it is unlikely that an applicant will be invited to discuss the proposal and a refusal of planning permission may well result.

What do I do if my planning application has been refused?

Your refusal notice contains details of how to lodge an appeal.

However before proceeding to appeal you are advised to seek a meeting with a planning officer to discuss the reasons for refusal. Following such a meeting you may wish to prepare a revised proposal and enter into pre-Application discussions with the Council. Normally pre-application a fee will be required but certain instances exemptions apply, see the section above on how much it will cost. A meeting following refusal of a planning application to discuss the grounds for that decision will not attract a fee.


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