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Pre-application advice is a service offered by local councils.

It’s where you send the council details of a proposed development prior to making a formal application. You can supply as much or as little detail as you like. However, what you submit will affect the quality and substance of the council’s response. 

Not sure who your local council is? Find out here:

You can pay additional fees to meet with a planning officer in their offices or at the site. You can also pay for the attendance and specialist advice of other council officers, such as heritage officers and landscape officers. 

Your local council will respond with an advice letter

Once your written submission has been considered and the site visit or meeting conducted (if paid for), your council will issue a letter containing their detailed advice.

The council’s advice letter should include the following:

  • The council’s opinion – based on the information provided – about whether planning permission is likely to be granted or refused. You should be aware, however, that this is never binding
  • All planning policies that are relevant to the development. Depending on the information you have provided, the council may also indicate whether they consider these policies are – or are likely to be – met
  • Identification of any additional information, reports or drawings that would need to accompany a formal planning application
  • Identification of any concerns, constraints or opportunities related to the development. Depending on what these are, the council may indicate how you could overcome constraints or seize opportunities.  

Pre-application advice is not normally made public unless or until a formal planning application is submitted.

We provide our own version of pre-application advice called planning assessments. A planning assessment is an especially helpful document in the following circumstances:

  • You own a parcel of land and would like to investigate its different options for development (including residential)
  • You have a development or project in mind and need to identify a suitable site or location for it.

Find out more about our planning assessments using the button below.


Pre-application advice is relatively inexpensive compared to formal planning applications. 

Where a site is large or there are a lot of issues to be worked out (for example, housing mix, tenure, density etc.), it can be a good idea to seek the council’s advice on these matters before you spend time and money on drawings, written statements and reports. Good quality pre-application advice can significantly reduce the likelihood of having to make costly or complicated changes to a development at a late stage.

Similarly, if there is a serious question about whether your council is likely to grant permission for a development, pre-application advice can be a very good idea. Good quality advice can enable you to make an informed decision about whether it is worth spending time and money on formal planning applications. 

We also recommend seeking pre-application advice if your development is likely to have a material effect on a listed building or conservation area. This is because local councils will not normally consider outline planning applications in such circumstances. Instead, you will need to submit a full planning application with comprehensive details of the development. Pre-application advice can help you to get that detail right the first time, saving you both time and money.


In practice, we sometimes find that pre-application advice can be generic, uninformative or substandard. Unfortunately, some councils appear to take it more seriously than others. Furthermore, not all requests for pre-application advice are given the attention they deserve. 

Additionally, if planning departments are very busy or understaffed, pre-application advice is usually the first service to be cut.

There is nothing more frustrating than asking for a council’s pre-application advice concerning a specific detail only for them to respond with a generic “you must ensure the development complies with our policies”.  

You should also be aware that all advice comes with the following disclaimer (or similar):

The information given is the informal advice of the officer only and not binding to any formal decision taken on any formal planning application you may submit.

This means a local council is never bound to follow or act in accordance with pre-application advice they have issued.

In most cases, we think you’re better off with one of our planning assessments as we will always give your case the thorough attention it deserves. Contact us today to find out more.

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