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Pre application discussions guidance for local councils

This guidance covers:

  • dealing with approaches and requests for meetings from developers
  • parish-led community engagement
  • specific help regarding concerns over pre-determination during:
    • local council meetings or
    • local councillor individual discussions.

Guiding principles

Pre-application discussions have an important role in all types of planning applications.  Local Councils are aware of:

  • the importance of public perception in planning and
  • the need for transparency in their relationships with developers. 

This guidance aims to support local councils in their role when working with:

  • developers and
  • Cornwall Council on pre-application proposals.

It sits with the 3-way protocol for working together on pre-applications.

Pre-application meetings

A developer may request a meeting before submitting a planning application.  Local councils may expect that:

  • public may attend the meeting
  • the meeting has been reasonably advertised 
  • the developer meets reasonable costs for the hosting a public meeting including large scale plans for display purposes
  • a public consultation or engagement event is either scheduled or firmly planned.

Local Councils can combine:

  • a public engagement event with
  • a scheduled local council meeting

rather than holding a separate event. The pre-app meeting and the community engagement event may be spread apart timewise for large schemes.  For smaller proposals, both meetings can be at the same time.

A Local Council will not normally hold private meetings with developers unless:

  • there is a necessary and compelling reason
  • the reason can be justified to the public (for example a strong commercial sensitivity)

A developer may want an initial steer before deciding whether to continue.

Pre-application community engagement (PACE)

A Local Council will encourage developers to engage with the local community before submitting plans for:

  • significant or
  • complex developments. 

A PACE meeting should:

  • have a venue that is convenient and accessible to the community
  • be publicised within the community and to all likely interested parties
  • be timed to allow as wide a range of people as possible to attend
  • show there is a genuine:
    • open mind and
    • willingness to adapt plans in response to community feedback
  • include the provision of large scale plans for display purposes

The developer should meet all reasonable costs for hosting the meeting.

This note advises local councillors:

  • not to attend separate private briefings as part of public consultation
  • attend a public event instead. 

Pre application process and the Code of Conduct for Local Councils

A Local Council may have some concerns about encouraging conversations with developers on pre-application proposals.  These can include:

  • requests for meetings with individual councillors and
  • how feedback on a proposal could be viewed as pre-determination. 

This guidance includes recommendations for local councils.  

For individual Councillor discussions:

  • councillors must be aware of their obligations under the Council’s Code of Conduct 
  • individual Councillors must not informally discuss possible future applications with a developer.  This could lead to a complaint for a potential breach of the Code.
  • the Local Council will nominate at least two representatives to attend a site meeting.    

A developer should not attempt to lobby individual members. The Local Council reserves the right to withdraw from any pre-application process in this case. 

Pre-determination: Councillors should not express any:

  • detailed opinion or
  • prior view which might be viewed as pre-determination. 

If the Local Council arranges a formal meeting, this wording on the:

  • agenda or
  • invitation could help:

“While Members may express an opinion:

    • for or
    • against the proposal

at this meeting, our minds are not closed. We will only come to a conclusion if we should:

    • support the scheme or
    • offer an objection

after we have listened to the full debate.”

A local council can clearly state this at the start of an informal meeting.  It will make it clear that members attending are not pre-determining their position.  Local councillors can include the words:

  • ‘in principle’ or
  • ‘subject to ..’

when expressing their views.  This emphasises that any opinions given at this stage are not pre-judging a proposal in advance of a formal planning application.

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