The planning process can be complex and difficult to understand, particularly for those who may be unfamiliar with the system.
The purpose of pre-planning is to afford the opportunity to an applicant for planning permission, to seek advise from the planning authority on the proposed development. This advice would include, indicating the relevant objectives and policies of the development plan that may have a bearing on the decision of the application.
In relation to small scale developments, this advice may be given via, a telephone call, correspondence or email. It is not always necessary to hold a pre-planning meeting. This will often depend on the scale of the development. Generally, pre-planning meetings are held in relation to large scale, complex developments.
Choosing an agent
A good agent will provide invaluable advice to an applicant when considering a planning application. They will provide advice on County Development Plan policies, site selection, house design, effluent disposal, water supply and traffic issues. They should also identify the major issues in advance that may relate to a particular site.
It must be remembered that pre-planning advice is of a preliminary nature and cannot prejudice the performance of the planning authority if any other functions under the Planning and Development Act or regulations. It may be the case that a site visit is not undertaken as part of the pre-planning process, and therefore issues will not have been examined in detail. In addition, issues that may be relevant to the Environmental Health Officer and Area Engineer will not be covered as they would not normally be part of the pre-planning process. Again, the role of a good agent is very important in relation to these matters.
It should also be noted that there is no third party involvement in the pre-planning process, e.g. affected neighbours, prescribed bodies, internal reports etc.
Wicklow County Council staff will give as much as advice as possible, however, it is not the role of the staff to take the role of a good agent.
In addition, applicants should be aware that a pre-planning consultation is not essential. In most cases, a good agent will identify the key issues for the applicant in order that an application may be submitted.
The role of the Elected Members
Generally, the elected Member has no role in relation to pre-planning. They may submit a pre-planning query on behalf of the applicant and request that advice issue to the applicant or to the member on their behalf.
The elected Member has a very important role in determining the planning policy for the county, as set out in the County Development Plan, Local Area Plans etc.
The Member’s role in relation to planning applications is confined to making representations on behalf of either the applicant or third parties on a particular application.