QMark: 'We’ve got a pre-app for that!'

15th February 2016

Related Topics

Related tags

  • Business & Industry ,
  • Built environment ,
  • Planning ,
  • Management


Sophie Gallagher

Spencer McGawley, associate at CampbellReith, discusses the role of the planning pre-application mechanism and how it relates to EIA

The planning system has a specific mechanism to assist developers in the processing of planning applications. The pre-application process, commonly known as the pre-app, is a way to present your proposals to the local planning authority (LPA) prior to making a formal application.

Why is it a pre-app a good idea?

The pre-app, when used properly, has a number of benefits. Perhaps most importantly, it allows you and your client to save time and resources by increasing the quality of the application. This in turn increases the chance of success of an application, since pre-apps allow for the identification of specific topics that may affect a particular site. As any EIA professional worth their salt will know, it is these types of topics that scupper a scheme, so early identification is vital.

A good pre-app also allows faster validation. Anyone with experience of planning applications knows that the key date is that of validation, not submission. Validation is a confirmation by the LPA that the application contains all of the appropriate information, and conforms to legal standards for planning applications.

Only once validation has been given can the application be taken forward for consideration. This is important if your client is reliant on either public or private funding to deliver the project. Often, monies are only available in a specific budgetary period so it becomes imperative for the application to be determined before a certain date so that funding can be committed.

More practically, if the project or scheme requires protected species licencing prior to

clearance, survey seasons then become important. It may be vital to get an application in prior to the summer so that the permission can be granted, licences procured and clearances begun during the winter months. A poorly conceived application that fails the validation test may result in another nine to twelve months delay due to knock on effects.

A further benefit is that pre-apps help build relationships with the LPA and any statutory consultees that may become involved, which can reduce the likelihood of objections.

What will you need?

Typically, when attending a pre-app you will need to show the LPA a site location plan, a written description of current land uses, a description of the proposals, a site plan drawn to scale, and draft design and access proposals.

What will it cost?

LPA’s charge for pre-app meetings, but the rate will often depend on the LPA itself and the scale of proposed development. For example, a pre-app for an EIA project in Cornwall costs £500, but in Bristol it will cost £3,000, with London boroughs charging closer to £4,000. LPAs advertise costs on their websites, and fees will need to be paid prior to the meeting.

Why is it good for EIA?

Best practice in EIA calls for early consultations, and experienced EIA practitioners will see clear parallels between the nature of the pre-app, and the information required. A key opportunity to engage with the LPA, this should be seen as a precursor to the screening stage of a project to garner information about the site and understand key local issues such as land designations, politics and community concerns. These can inform a subsequent scoping report to ensure greater accuracy, and focus of the forthcoming environmental statement (ES).

With the emerging guidance stemming from the new EIA directive clearly calling for more proportionate assessment, the pre-app offers a pathway to achieve this.

The information required at pre-app also mirrors very closely the information required to be submitted as part of an ES, so it provides an early opportunity to begin evolving the design. This may be particularly useful if your client falls into the “reluctant developer” category, and is intent on developing their plans as late as possible in the process.

By instigating the pre-app, you are also opening the information pipeline for the project to allow a smooth two-way flow between the developer, and the competent authorities.

A further benefit of the pre-app is that often allows the LPA to act as a facilitator in contact with public bodies such as Natural England and the Environment Agency. Often, planning officers will have close working relationships with the individuals from these organisations, and can help negotiate the proposals through the process. This can particularly useful when you are operating in a new region, and are not familiar with the local personalities.

In conclusion, the pre-app process fits very well with the EIA process, with information and processes closely mirroring one another. This benefits the project since it allows key information to be incorporated at an early stage, and can act to kick start the design process.


Subscribe to IEMA's newsletters to receive timely articles, expert opinions, event announcements, and much more, directly in your inbox.

Transform articles

New guidance maps out journey to digital environmental assessment

IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network is delighted to have published A Roadmap to Digital Environmental Assessment.

2nd April 2024

Read more

Lisa Pool on how IEMA is shaping a sustainable future with impact assessment

27th November 2023

Read more

IEMA responded in September to the UK government’s consultation on the details of the operational reforms it is looking to make to the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIP) consenting process as put forward in the NSIP reform action plan (February 2023).

24th November 2023

Read more

Members of IEMA’s Impact Assessment Network Steering Group have published the 17th edition of the Impact Assessment Outlook Journal, which provides a series of thought pieces on the policy and practice of habitats regulations assessment (HRA).

26th September 2023

Read more

In July, we published the long-awaited update and replacement of one of IEMA’s first published impact assessment guidance documents from 1993, Guidelines for the Environmental Assessment of Road Traffic.

1st August 2023

Read more

Are we losing sight of its intended purpose and what does the future hold for EIA? Jo Beech, Tiziana Bartolini and Jessamy Funnell report.

15th June 2023

Read more

Luke Barrows and Alfie Byron-Grange look at the barriers to adoption of digital environmental impacts assessments

1st June 2023

Read more

Susan Evans and Helen North consider how Environmental Statements can be more accessible and understandable

1st June 2023

Read more

Media enquires

Looking for an expert to speak at an event or comment on an item in the news?

Find an expert

IEMA Cookie Notice

Clicking the ‘Accept all’ button means you are accepting analytics and third-party cookies. Our website uses necessary cookies which are required in order to make our website work. In addition to these, we use analytics and third-party cookies to optimise site functionality and give you the best possible experience. To control which cookies are set, click ‘Settings’. To learn more about cookies, how we use them on our website and how to change your cookie settings please view our cookie policy.

Manage cookie settings

Our use of cookies

You can learn more detailed information in our cookie policy.

Some cookies are essential, but non-essential cookies help us to improve the experience on our site by providing insights into how the site is being used. To maintain privacy management, this relies on cookie identifiers. Resetting or deleting your browser cookies will reset these preferences.

Essential cookies

These are cookies that are required for the operation of our website. They include, for example, cookies that enable you to log into secure areas of our website.

Analytics cookies

These cookies allow us to recognise and count the number of visitors to our website and to see how visitors move around our website when they are using it. This helps us to improve the way our website works.

Advertising cookies

These cookies allow us to tailor advertising to you based on your interests. If you do not accept these cookies, you will still see adverts, but these will be more generic.

Save and close