Better use of pre-application process is important for developers, planners and architects, RIBA conference told

Early engagement through pre-application planning is vitally important when it comes to larger and more complex planning applications.

This is what delegates at a recent Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) conference, attended by Doug Hughes, principal architect at Hughes Architects, have been told and endorses the policy used by the Mid Wales and South Wales-based building design and planning consultants practice.

“Engagement at an early stage with planners is critically important for mid and larger-sized applications, or where there is some form of complexity,” said Mr Hughes. “It was interesting to hear from other planners and architects in the UK about how early stage discussions with local planning authorities works for all parties involved on both sides of the process.

“We always ensure our processes involve local authority officers, and often local councillors, as part of a pre-application. Otherwise, you face negotiations and discussions at a later stage that can impact on the full planning application. Such as delays or design changes that can add cost or time to a development. That isn’t good for anyone involved, particularly the client.

“In Wales, the process is now slightly different to that in England. Since November 2016 the Welsh Government introduced pre-planning application consultations for developments of 10 or more dwellings of over 1ha.

“We welcomed this although, as we’ve said publicly, we believe the process is simply duplicating the full application consultation undertaken by local planning authorities and if used better it could save taxpayers money and also the time of officers.”

He added: “No matter what part of the UK you’re in, or the local planning policies, what is paramount is transparency and early engagement to avoid any pitfalls.

“Putting obligatory pre-application consultation to one side, it’s important to consider the impact of a planning application of any size on a community or neighbourhood. Even for a small single dwelling development, consulting with the adjoining neighbours will ensure greater buy-in.

“The Turley report, published on behalf of the Welsh Government as part of its guidance on pre-application planning consultation outlines some good best practice. From considering the size, impact and community interest in a scheme, to understanding the local community make-up and the methods of engagement that might even be in addition to the statutory requirements.”

Hughes Architects have become specialists in pre-application consultations in Wales.

“We have dealt with applications ranging in size and complexity,” said Mr Hughes. “But what is mirrored throughout each one is the importance of engaging with the community, stakeholders and planning authorities early on.”

He added: “Any correspondence generated during the pre-planning process is then also submitted as part of the full application, demonstrating how it has been developed in consultation with those who will be impacted by such a development.”

In Wales, the pre-planning consultation relates to:

•Housing developments of 10 or more dwellings or where the site area is of 0.5 hectares or more (if the number of dwellings is not known).

  • The provision of building(s) where the floor space created exceeds 1000sqm.
  • Development carried out on a site of 1 hectare or more.

The minimum period of public consultation is 28 days following which a summary of all the issues raised must be provided as part of the planning application.

More details about the RIBA conference can be found here. You can also find advice on planning and building design by clicking here.

Hughes Architects can advise about planning and building design, whether to bring forward land for development, redevelopment or existing residential or commercial building extensions or remodelling.

Located at Newtown and Welshpool in Powys, Aberystwyth in Ceredigion and Cardiff in South Wales, its team of architectural and building designers are able to discuss projects of any size or complexity.

It also works with landowners, developers, the private and public sector to bring land forward for development through its planning consultancy.

More details can be found at or by emailing