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The principle of the ABC pre-app service is to deliver a good quality service to the customer. This means the provision of clear and consistent planning advice (whether positive or negative) that will set out the key principles (and adopted policies) that a development will need to meet to be recommended favourably by officers, should an application be submitted. Customers should expect to be guided as to whether more subjective matters (such as design or external appearance) are potentially acceptable based on what they have submitted and, if applicable, where improvements may be required. Where input from other parties such as KCC Highways, Natural England, etc would be needed to form a rounded view at formal planning application stage, this should be highlighted.

Whilst all pre-application advice must be provided without prejudice to the eventual decision of the Local Planning Authority, the clear aim must be to be consistent in principle between pre-application advice and any eventual decision on a subsequent application. Internal procedures are being put in place to ensure cases can be signed off by senior officers across the service to ensure consistency of approach and provide a ‘corporate’ view from the service at an early stage. This will involve weekly review meetings within the DM service (DM Manager and the appropriate TL/DTLs) to ensure consistency in approach.  On those occasions that a strategic steer is deemed necessary the proposal will be referred for a “case review” to the department case review panel (senior management input). All of which is to embed consistency in decision-making.

Alongside this, the pre-application service should be designed to enable potential benefits for officers when it comes to the processing of a subsequent planning application. If pre-application advice has been thorough and considered, this should lead to a higher quality of application at submission stage and reduce the need for subsequent negotiations or amendments (as set out in the Good Practice Guide), whilst improving processing times.