Householder pre-application advice

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From 1 March 2017, the cost of pre-application advice for householder applications (extensions and alterations to residential properties) will be £180 including VAT (written report only) and £240 including VAT for a 30 minute meeting at the Civic Centre with a Planning Officer and a written report. The householder pre-application advice will be based  on the information  provided by the applicant and does not include a site visit by the Planning Officer.

Applications for pre-application advice can be made online (see below).

How much does it cost?

The cost of this service is £120 for written advice only. If you would like a face-to-face meeting with a planning officer as part of this service, you can book a 30 minute appointment online. The cost including a meeting is £180.

What information do I need to provide?

We will need accurate site address details, together with a Site Location Plan (see sample below), your email and residential address details and invoicing address details if different. You will be asked to give a brief description of your proposals.

You will also be asked to upload metrically scaled drawings of existing and proposed plans, together with any other supporting material, so you will need to have these ready before you use the booking form. Some samples have been reproduced below.

We can accept hand-drawn scaled plans but please note that if your plans are inaccurate, our advice may not stand when you come to apply for planning permission.

How do I apply/book a meeting?

You will need to apply online using the booking form (see below) and will be given the option of advice with or without a meeting. Meetings are available Mondays to Thursdays and must be booked in advance. Normally meetings will take place within 3 weeks from us receiving all the necessary information. All pre-application and advice meetings will be held at the Council Offices. Officers are unable to hold a site meeting without a prior advice session in the office and the prior deposit of plans or written proposals.If you are requesting a meeting, you will be directed to an online appointment booking system, which will open in a new window.  When you have chosen an available time slot, you will receive an email confirmation with an ID reference. You will need to close the appointment system window to return the pre-application booking form.  Enter the ID reference before continuing.

This is an interim booking system until a corporate-wide system is adopted. We are aware of its limitations but would ask you to bear with us.

All pre-application and advice meetings will be held at the Council Offices. Officers are unable to hold a site meeting without a prior advice session in the office and the prior deposit of plans or written proposals.


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What happens next?

Once you have submitted your request for pre-application advice, you will receive an automated acknowledgement of receipt and confirmation of meeting booking (if requested). Our finance department will then send you an invoice, with details of how payment can be made. Payment must be made before any advice is given or a meeting takes place.

If you have requested advice without a meeting, you will receive a written report within 3 weeks of our receiving the information and payment.

All advice is provided on a without prejudice basis only and is not binding on any future decision of the Council.



I am a local householder. What do I do if I want pre-application planning advice?

If you are seeking planning advice and information on extensions and alterations to a residential property you can do this by:

  • Looking online. Many of the answers to queries that people ask us about can be found via our website (www.stalbans.gov.uk/planning).  The Government’s Planning Portal (www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission/house) provides simple-to-use interactive guidance for householders about a wide range of planning related matters. Click on the link on our website. This service is free.

  • Getting advice from a Council planning officer. You can apply for this service online at the top of this page.  A planning officer will consider your proposal and prepare a pre-application report on your proposals which will be emailed to you. You will be asked to upload any documents that you would like us to consider. Full instructions and information are on our website. The cost of this service is £120. If you would like a face to face meeting with the officer as part of this service, you can book a 30 minute appointment online. The cost including a meeting is £180.

  • Getting advice from a planning agent.  The Council cannot make recommendations, but there is plenty of information online. Common online searches include; 'Architectural Agent', 'Architects', 'Planning Agent', and 'Planning Consultant'. Businesses describing themselves as 'architectural agents' or similar do not necessarily employ qualified architects. Similarly, the use of the word 'planning' into a company's name does not necessarily indicate that they employ qualified planners. The professional body for the planning profession is the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI). Professionals accredited to this body will usually have the letters MRTPI or FRTPI after their name. Charges vary.

Why does the Council now charge for pre-application planning advice?

St Albans City and District Council has the busiest District planning department in the country.

The current statutory planning application fees do not cover the cost of pre-application advice. The provision of quality pre-application advice is time consuming and costly. The charge we make covers the cost of providing the service based on estimated officer time and hourly costs. The Council is keen to ensure the costs incurred are recovered directly, rather than falling as a general burden on council tax payers.

Charges are applicable to all types of development but the scale varies depending on the size and complexity of the prospective project. Full details are available on our website (see Charges). 

We aim to keep the cost of pre-application advice for ‘householder’ projects to a minimum to reflect their reduced scale and complexity. 

Discretionary charging for this service is enshrined under Section 93 of the Local Government Act 2003.


What are the benefits of getting pre-application Council advice?

St Albans City and District Council is able to provide pre-application advice and information to individuals, developers and agents before the formal submission of planning applications.

Council pre-application advice offers:

  • if advice is followed, avoidance of unexpected delays and problems. Although we cannot offer guarantees, it is more likely to result in a positive and timely outcome to a planning application;
  • a greater degree of certainty over the general acceptability of proposals;
  • clarification on how national, regional and local policies will be applied to development;
  • early identification of areas which will need specialist advice and input from Council officers;
  • early Planning Policy input into discussions where an enquiry falls outside land use allocation or where divergence from planning policy may be an issue;
  • a potential reduction in time professional advisers spend in working up proposals
  • (for large scale projects) establishment of planning obligation requirements such as affordable housing, highways and education.
  • clarification on what application form to use and what drawings and information to submit for your planning application to be considered ‘valid’ and registered quickly.

I just want to know if I need planning permission for my project

Planning permission is normally required before most building works are carried out or changes made in the use of land or premises.  However, certain types of work are covered by 'permitted development'. This means that they can be carried out without planning permission, as long as they comply with the permitted development rules and restrictions.  

The only formal way that the Council can tell you that you do not require planning permission for a project is for you to apply for a Certificate of Lawfulness.  You can find information about how to do this on our website.  See Do I need Planning Permission?  

The Government’s Planning Portal (www.planningportal.gov.uk/permission/house) provides free, simple-to-use interactive guidance for householders about a wide range of planning related matters.


Can I be assured that my planning application will be dealt with within statutory timescales?

The speed at which we are able to process planning applications is affected by a number of aspects that are outside our direct control.  These are: 

  • The rise in demand for our planning services - St Albans currently has the busiest District planning department in the country 
  • The general scarcity of trained planning officers, something that all planning departments are experiencing
  • The buoyant market for planning officers and our proximity to London. 

We aim to process 75% of all planning applications within the statutory timescales. At present, we are achieving 75%.   

However, clearly, by following the Pre-Application Advice provided, you are more likely to have a straight forward application and therefore a timely outcome. 

Date of last review: 12 January 2017