Pre-application protocol for councillors

This protocol shall supplement and be read in conjunction with the council’s Development Team Approach to Major Planning Applications (DTA). Find out more using the links below:

When are members involved?

As set out in the DTA guidance, applications which have one or more of the following characteristics will be considered suitable:

  • 50+ dwellings or more
  • 10,000 sqm of industrial, commercial or retail floor space
  • Wide corporate involvement by the District Council
  • Development of strategic significance e.g. wider regeneration benefits or transport infrastructure

These criteria could be reduced for development in villages, neighbourhoods or the rural area for ‘locally significant or controversial’ schemes, such as small housing development (under 50 dwellings) or a wind farm.  

The Development Executive (DE) or Development Control Manager (DCM), in consultation with the Development Services Cabinet Member and Planning Committee Chairman or Vice Chairman, will determine which major applications will be considered suitable for pre-application discussions utilising the DTA. 

Who will attend the meeting?

All ward Members will be invited, along with the Development Services Cabinet Member and Planning Committee Chairman or Vice Chairman, in addition to the officers of the Development Team (DT).  A minimum of 7 days' notice will be given to all Members. The agreement of the applicant/developer will always be sought.

The meeting will normally be held on a Wednesday afternoon (as per the DTA). The meeting will be conducted as follows:

  • The meeting will be chaired by the Development Executive (DE) or Development Control Manager (DCM).
  • The DE or DCM would introduce the purpose of the meeting and advise how it will be conducted. 
  • Officers will confirm that the discussions will not bind the Council to make a particular decision and that views/opinions expressed are ‘made without prejudice’ to the future consideration of any application.
  • Members will be advised as to the confidentiality status of the proposal.
  • The developer will present their proposal (having first been viewed and approved by the DE or DCM).
  • DT officers given the opportunity to provide comments.
  • Members then given the opportunity to ask questions and seek clarification, but care will need to be taken that personal views are not expressed. They may alert the developer to what they perceive as actual or likely views of their constituents – careful not to fetter their discretion.
  • The Chairman will conclude the meeting – summarising the key points and close the meeting.

Members may advise officers of any concern they have with the proposal and any elements they feel would benefit from negotiation. They will be guided by officers on the scope of negotiation in accordance with Local Plan policy and other material considerations. Negotiations will be undertaken by professional officers only.

The Case Officer will record the meeting and co-ordinate a minute of the meeting and/or formal pre-app response for the developer normally within 14 days. Members and DT officers will receive a draft copy of the response in advance for any suggested amendments. The note of the meeting and letter will be placed on the file at the earliest possible opportunity (taking account of the need for commercial confidentiality). The involvement of members will be recorded in any subsequent Committee Report.

Guidelines for members attending pre-application meetings

Members shall only attend meetings organised in accordance with this protocol and shall not attend or arrange private meetings with Developers.

Members are at the meeting to learn about the proposals and process, to help identify issues to be dealt with by further submission and negotiation, but not express any initial view for or against the proposal which may pre-determine their position to the extent that they will not be able to vote on the application (prejudicial interest) should they be a Member of the Planning Committee. Members may alert the applicant/developer to what they perceive as the likely (or actual) views of their constituents – careful not to fetter their discretion.

Members to be aware of the confidentiality status of the proposal and to have regard to this in conducting further discussions with others, including constituents and other Members.

Members should avoid giving separate advice on the development plan or material considerations, as all the issues and relevant information may not be available at this early stage. Any advice should be given by professional officers.

Members should not be drawn into any negotiations. This should be done by professional officers only.

Members should adhere to the Council’s existing guidance contained in:

  • Planning Committee Members Planning Code of Good Practice Protocol (May 2008)

  • Non-Planning Committee Members Good Practice Guidance (May 2008)

All Members to attend pre-application meetings shall have undertaken appropriate training.


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