Planning services has introduced charges for some pre-application enquiries. A trial scheme started on 17 May 2010.
Why are we introducing this service?
The council always tries to respond to requests for advice about proposed development before an application is made. However, the number of requests we have received for pre-application advice and meetings has increased significantly, and the level of advice sought is growing. Developers appreciate how useful this advice is as it can provide greater certainty and clarity to them by identifying planning issues and requirements before the formal application is submitted.
Providing pre-application advice also offers advantages to the council as it ensures more applications are valid and complete when we receive them, helping us meet government decision-making targets. This is particularly true for larger or more complex applications, where it is more difficult to meet government targets.
However, giving meaningful pre-application advice does have a significant impact on our resources, and means higher workloads for more experienced staff. We have decided to formalise how we handle our pre-application service and to introduce a charge for certain categories of proposals.
We think introducing this service for many of the large and more complex proposals, the formal planning applications process will be a more positive experience. Having detailed pre-application advice and a face to face meeting will help proposals comply with policy and ensure they are valid, avoiding refusals and minimising delays for applicants, while also helping us consult and meet our targets.
We will not be charging for householder and other small scale proposals. We aim to continue to provide a good value service to residents and small businesses in the city.
The pre-application advice scheme is discretionary and will be reviewed in 2011-12.
We will not offer pre-application advice that will bind the council should a formal application be submitted for consideration, but we will give you the best advice possible on the information and proposals that you provide. However, the advice we give you will aid the formal application process significantly, be a consideration in subsequent planning applications and will be referred to in any subsequent report to committee.
The pre-application advice we give will be without the benefit of neighbour notification, and possibly the advice of statutory consultees and the council is still bound to take any representations and the comments of statutory consultees into account in the preparation of any report on a subsequent planning application.
What kind of applications will benefit from the service?
For all commercial or residential developments (other than those specified above) this far more comprehensive level of planning advice, before the formal submission of an application, will benefit the applicant. You will then be able to submit an application which takes a quick and trouble free route through the formal planning process as possible.
Advice will vary depending on the nature of the scheme but will include key issues such as planning policy, transportation, urban design and conservation, and environmental amenity, and officers will suggest changes that you may need to make a proposal acceptable.
How does the service work?
- acknowledge your application with a validation date, including the name of the case officer assigned to deal with the proposal, within five working days of the receipt of your pre-application enquiry, provided payment of the appropriate fee has been made and sufficient information and plans have been received;
- provide a full written response (by letter or email) within 25 working days of validation;
- arrange a meeting with your assigned case officer and any appropriate specialist council officer to discuss the advice issued and seek clarification on any outstanding issues up to 28 days after the written response is issued.
We would be happy to continue to assist your preparations by commenting on further changes to your scheme before it is formally submitted. However if there are substantial changes or a new proposal then a further fee would be payable at the relevant 20 per cent rate.
Exceptions to charging
Advice relating to:
- Charitable bodies for all works other than major schemes.
- Religious establishments.
- Community and voluntary organisations providing services to local communities and with a turnover of less than £100,000 a year.
- Council proposals, where it is the body proposing and implementing works (but not developments by potential commercial developers or registered social landlords on council owned land).
- Maintenance of listed buildings that would not require listed building consent building consent or planning permission.
- Works to a listed building that only requires listed building consent.
- Works to trees.
What is the size of scheme covered by the service?
The scheme will apply to the following types of development:
Large schemes, made up of:
- Construction of or conversion to provide between one and 199 residential units.
- Commercial development of more than 201m² and up to 9,900m² (gross floor area).
- Changes of use of more than 201m² and up to 9,900m² (gross floor area).
Very large and complex schemes:
- Provision of 200 or more residential units or site area greater than four hectares.
- Provision of over 10,000m² of commercial floor space(gross floor area) or site area of two hectares.
What will the charge be?
Fees will be 20 per cent of the normal planning application fee (plus VAT) subject to a minimum level of £250 + VAT. In cases where an outline application is proposed but there is considerable detailed information as part of the query, such as design briefs, then the pre-application fee would be more appropriately based on 20 per cent of the full fee.
Very large and complex schemes:
For these, it is proposed that the pre-application fee payable for advice is negotiated and agreed with the applicant or agent before the start of the process. This would be at the discretion of the head of planning and regeneration in consultation with the relevant portfolio holder. This would be similar to a planning performance agreement.
Advice for householder and other small scale proposals (change of use or new buildings or extensions not exceeding 200 m², advertisements or shopfronts) will continue to be free unless a follow-up site meeting or meeting in City Hall is requested.
- Cheques must be payable to Norwich City Council.
- Debit card payment can be made at the planning reception on the second floor in City Hall.
- Credit card payment can be made at the planning reception - a surcharge of 1.884% will be made reflecting the bank's charge to the council for accepting credit card payments.
- Cash is not accepted.
What the council’s service will provide?
The service will include the following:
- Information required as part of validation for the formal application.
- The fee needed to support the formal application.
- The views of all relevant internal specialists within the council (for example, transportation, environmental health, design and conservation).
- The views of key external agencies (where their views can reasonably be sought within the timescale of the pre-application process) such as the Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive, or Norfolk County Council.
- Where appropriate, arrangements will be made for presentation at GNA quality panel, development team (of internal departments), or a presentation to planning applications committee.
- An assessment against planning policy.
- An opinion on the recommendation likely to be made by officers
- advice on the quality of any community consultation already undertaken and what further consultation would be desirable.
- Developers are now required to involve communities in major planning applications under our Statement of community involvement. More guidance on how to go about this is provided in the guidance note Involving the community in planning processes: guidance for developers. (71 Kb pdf)
- Further contact points for any specialist advice that may be required.
(For very large and complex schemes it will include the above with, for example, regular meetings with the applicants’ agents).
What we need from you?
When you write to us, you should include the following information, where appropriate, to help us make an assessment.
- Site location plan.
- A full description of your proposals, including a schedule of the floor space broken down to show how it will be used. For residential schemes this should include the breakdown of affordable and private housing proposed.
- Information on existing and proposed uses, floor spaces and occupation.
- Details of the site or building as it exists. This should include:
- A plan showing the existing site area, existing buildings and other features, for example the location of trees.
- The existing lawful use of the site or building and the planning history, for instance any previous applications or appeals.
- Details of the existing floor space broken down by how it is used at the moment.
- Visual materials that will help us understand the existing site or building better (photographs, models etc).
- Photographs of the immediate surroundings.
- Any drawings, photographs or models to describe the proposal would be helpful. These should include floor plans, elevations, adjacent buildings, access, servicing, parking arrangements, crime prevention measures, energy efficiency measures, means of escape and the initial architectural approach and materials to be used where these are known.
We will want information as to the applicant’s status regarding the ownership of the land within the site covered by the application and adjoining it.
Major planning applications often need to be accompanied by a legal agreement that restricts or regulates the development or use of land (known as a Section 106 agreement). The completion of legal agreements can cause significant delays to the issue of planning permission, as the decision is not formally made until after the Section 106 agreement has been completed.
The council has produced a planning guidance note on planning obligations. You are advised to read this to see the range of issues which are likely to prompt the need for such a document before you prepare your proposal. We will, as part of the pre-application service, give more detailed guidance as to the effect of these on your particular proposal.
What sort of issues will the council’s pre-application service consider?
- If your proposals are in line with our planning policies and, if they are not, how they could be justified.
- If the site is covered by specific policies in the current City of Norwich replacement local plan (RLP), or the emerging Local Plan, or is covered by any other designations or safeguards.
- If the proposals will lead to a net loss of floor space of a use which the RLP seeks to retain, and if so, how this could be justified.
- If, in our opinion, your proposals take into account the impact on local needs and facilities, for example the impact on transport, energy efficiency, education and how a S106 agreement or obligation might alleviate such effects .
The design of the proposal
- Scale and massing.
- Architecture, design and materials.
- Environmental impact
- achieving sustainable development.
- Designing out crime.
- Impact on strategic views.
- If the proposal triggers a requirement for affordable housing we can advise on the level and tenure required.
- The likely impact on nearby residents such as loss of daylight, privacy or noise disturbance.
Urban conservation and archaeology
- The impact your proposal may have on a listed building or, if within a conservation area, a local-list building on or near the site.
- Whether, should the development be in or adjoining a conservation area, in our opinion the development would preserve or enhance the character and appearance of that conservation area.
- Impacts on historic parks or gardens.
- Whether there are any archaeological implications in your proposal.
- How the council’s open space and play policies will impact on your proposal and whether a financial contribution under a S106 agreement might be appropriate.
If significant alterations to a scheme are required, a further round of correspondence and meetings may need to take place before a formal application is submitted and a further charge would be made. Major applications for large-scale proposals with highly complex issues may well need a series of meetings before a formal application is submitted. This may require an additional fee.
Public access to pre-application advice
The application will not be subject to any publicity but if it includes commercially sensitive or confidential information this should be clearly stated at the head of the submission so that disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act is not given. Otherwise, if a request is received for disclosure the council is required to do so.
Site meetings or meetings in City Hall
We are able to offer a meetings service which could follow on from the following:
- Advice given at the planning surgery.
- The basic level service for all types of pre-application enquiries.
- Householder and small scale commercial proposals.
- Additional meetings associated with the larger fee paid schemes (where the one free meeting is not considered sufficient).
We would prepare notes of the meeting including any points for action and send them to you in a timely fashion by post or email.
The charge will be at a flat fee of £50 and VAT for each meeting at our offices and £100 and VAT if the meeting takes place on site. Any meeting or site visit would not be expected to last more than an hour and would not take place until after payment has been received.
Refunds for poor service
If the council as local planning authority fails to meet the performance standards listed in the current service standards, in respect of paid pre-application advice, and there is no fault or delay caused by the applicant then 50 per cent of any fee paid will be refunded.