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Pre-application planning advice

South Oxfordshire District Council is committed to providing an efficient and effective planning service which meets government performance targets for processing applications.  We welcome discussions about planning applications before formal submission.  Please see pre-application charges for information on the different levels of service and relevant costs that we offer. 

How we provide advice

We have three different options for our pre-application advice service:

  1. Written advice only
  2. Virtual meeting and follow-up written advice
  3. Site meeting and follow-up written advice

When submitting a pre-application enquiry, proposals should relate to one development proposal in respect of the site.  We will not accept different options for development under a single pre-application enquiry.

What are the benefits of pre-application advice?

We believe the benefits of such discussions are:

  • They can help applicants understand how we will apply policies and guidance to their proposal.
  • They can improve the quality of planning application submissions by identifying at an early stage where we will need specialist input.
  • They could help applications be registered more speedily and can improve the likelihood of a successful outcome.
  • They can save an applicant’s time and money by identifying if a proposal is unacceptable in principle.
  • We want to provide a positive climate for pre-application discussions, offering impartial and professional advice within an agreed timeframe.
  • We will allocate your enquiry to a planning officer who will co-ordinate comments from internal colleagues and provide you with feedback within 25 working days (5 weeks) for non-major applications, and within 30 working days (6 weeks) for major applications.

The service is not compulsory and may not be appropriate for all situations.  However, we actively encourage pre-application discussions for all development proposals before submitting for formal consideration.

Requests for pre-application advice that have been received from 3 January 2017 onwards and the council’s response are made public once a subsequent relevant planning application is made. This includes the submitted documents, our response and any interim correspondence public. We will endeavour to ensure that all personal information such as telephone numbers and email addresses are removed from documentation.

Further important information

We will make every effort to make sure that the advice given in the pre-application process is as accurate as possible.  However, any advice given by council officers for pre-application enquiries does not constitute a formal response or decision by the council in respect of any future planning applications.  Whilst such advice will be a material consideration, it cannot be held to bind the council in its validation or formal determination of a subsequent application.

If an application is subsequently submitted which fails to take on board advice given by officers, then we are likely to refuse it without further discussion with the applicant or their agent.

If the option of a meeting has been selected, the Council reserve the right in its absolute discretion not to provide a meeting if the proposal is considered unacceptable after consideration of the documents provided. An appropriate partial refund of the fee will be made to reflect this.

Freedom of Information/ Disclosing of Information

We do not publicise details of pre-application discussions until a related planning application has been submitted.  The advice we provide under this service is generally confidential until a related application is submitted, and development proposals are publicly available.  

Notwithstanding this, we do receive requests to disclose information under the following:

  • Freedom of Information Act (FOI)
  • Environment Information Regulations (EIR)

We will have to provide this information unless the information is considered exempt.  We will only withhold information if the detail is considered to fall within one of the following:

  • Exemptions (FOI)
  • Exceptions (EIR)

Please refer to the specific legislation requirements for more detail on this.

If you consider that your request is covered by an exemption/ exception you should inform us at the time of submitting the application.  You will need to explain:

  • Why the information is confidential and
  • For how long the information should be confidential

We will not respond at the time of your request but will take it into account when deciding whether to release information in response to a request for information under any FOI or EIR request.