Service options

It can be very helpful to get advice about your planning proposals before submitting your application. Help can range from meeting with us to simply requesting our comments on your proposal over email. This can help to overcome any potential difficulties and increase your chances of your application being approved. 

We offer the below options at the pre-application stage to help you get the advice you need. 

  • Service Level 1 - informal meeting
  • Service Level 2 - in principle
  • Service Level 3 - enhanced
  • Pre-application advice forum
  • Design Review Panels
  • Planning Performance Agreements (PPA)
  • House Extensions

Service Level 1 - informal meeting

This service provides you with an informal discussion with a planning officer. The level of advice offered is restricted to discussing the main issues that become apparent to the planning officer during the meeting. Due to the informal nature of the service any advice given is provided verbally only, and will hold no weight during the determination of a formal planning application. No advice will be given about whether planning permission is required.

Arranging meetings

Meetings will normally be held at council offices and the planning officer attending will not normally carry out any preparation by, for example, researching the history of the site.

Meetings normally last about 30 minutes and no longer than one hour. We will contact you to arrange a date for the meeting which will normally be within four weeks of the request. During periods of high demand this may take longer.

It is recommended that, after the meeting, you seek further pre-application advice at service levels 2 or 3.

Exceptions

This service is not available in relation for householder schemes (proposals to extend or alter an existing dwelling), except for requests that solely seek advice about how to preserve the historic character of a listed building.

Service Level 2 - in principle

This service provides written advice that is more limited than that provided by Service Level 3. The advice offered is restricted to scoping the main issues and matters of general planning principle, such as the suitability of the site, in planning policy terms, for the type of development.

For this reason, visits to the site are not normally undertaken, no detailed elements of the scheme (such as design, ecology, flooding or highways matters) will be considered, no consultation will be carried out and no meetings are offered.

Exceptions

This service is not provided for householder schemes (proposals to extend or alter an existing dwelling), except for requests that solely seek advice about how to preserve the historic character of listed building.

Timeline

We aim to provide our written advice to you within eight weeks of the request. During periods of high demand this may take longer.

Service Level 3 - enhanced

This service provides  more detailed advice compared to those in Levels 1 and 2. We will provide, in writing, an overview of what we consider to be the main issues relating to the development. Internal consultation may be undertaken with specialist services but is limited to our consideration of the main issues.

Unaccompanied site visits may also be undertaken at our discretion.

Exceptions

Consulted responses from external partners such as Historic England, the Environment Agency or Wessex Water are not included.

This service is not provided for householder schemes (proposals to extend or alter an existing dwelling), except for requests that solely seek advice about how to preserve the historic character of listed building.

Timeline

We aim to provide our written advice to you within eight weeks of the request. During periods of high demand this may take longer.

Pre-application advice forum (PAF)

Our PAF service is an extension of our pre-application advice service. It provides developers with the opportunity to present their proposals to a selection of council officers who will then feedback a coordinated written response. A second session is also offered where developers can ask questions about the council’s advice.

The PAF process is offered as a standard part of Level 3 pre-application advice for large scale schemes. For smaller schemes (10-49 new residential units, 1000-4,999m² floor space or sites of 1-5 hectares), developers can ask for the PAF to be included as part of the pre-application advice service provided for an additional fee of £2,000.

Timeline

The PAF process typically takes eight weeks but on agreement this can be extended. 

Design review panels

We’re working with neighbouring councils to improve design and placemaking quality across the West of England. To help achieve this aim, we recommend applicants of selected schemes attend a design review provided by Design West. This will provide applicants and the council with independent design advice to help improve the quality and value of the scheme.

Criteria

Proposers of schemes that meet the following criteria may be invited to attend a design review:

  • key major or strategic sites, typically 10 residential units and above or non-residential development with a floorspace greater than 1,000 sqm
  • smaller sites t that have a significant impact on the purpose for which the area has been designated or defined
  • significant public realm schemes that involve creation of new or alterations to existing public spaces and streets, such as pedestrianisation schemes, or proposals to enhance public squares and civic open spaces
  • any development proposals lodged by the council, development partners, or public bodies, where design quality is particularly relevant 
  • sensitive sites where development will have a high public impact
  • proposals which affect important views, such as those into and out of the Mendip Hills AONB

Fees and booking

The cost to the applicant for a review is £2,250 plus VAT for a 1.5 hour design review panel session. Other terms exist for strategic reviews and for the inclusion of site visits. Fees are paid direct to Design West.

For more information or to book a session, please contact the Design West panel manager Pippa.Goldfinger@architecturecentre.org.uk

Planning performance agreements (PPA)

We encourage the use of PPAs to agree timescales, actions and resources for applications, in particular those that are complex or large scale. Visit our planning performance agreements page below to learn more.

House extensions

This service provides written advice about alterations proposed to an existing dwelling or the erection or alteration of residential outbuildings. We will not normally carry out any consultation and no meetings are provided.

We aim to provide our written advice to you within eight weeks of the request. During periods of high demand this may take longer.

Additional meetings

Additional meetings can only be requested in relation to existing and ongoing clients who are registered for advice at Service Level 3, or within six months of a decision we have issued in relation to a formal planning application.

The associated fee needs to be paid when submitting the request for the meeting. Additional meetings are normally limited to two meetings.