Stroud District Council developed the Pre-Application Community Involvement Protocol in partnership with Gloucestershire Rural Community Council. The protocol was created to enable community engagement at the earliest stage of a proposed development and is enacted when applicants make a first approach to a planning authority or community.
The protocol sets out steps to agree a pre-application consultation process ahead of the submission of a planning application. This allows community views to be taken into account at the initial design stage. This is designed to address a commonly voiced concern that consultation processes conducted later in the planning stages have little teeth and are often rubber stamp proposals.
The protocol sets out principles for good practice in early stage community involvement. These include agreeing who makes up the community which will be affected and consulted, openness and transparency, leadership from the applicant, and with a shared responsibility to establish professional working relationships between local authority officers, applicants, elected members and the community.
The protocol is intended to ensure communities can engage at the ‘blank sheet’ stage of a proposal, enabling them to share their priorities, knowledge, concerns and aspirations for a proposed site. This should result in more locally relevant and distinctive designs, which respond better to local needs.
For planning applicants, this can result in a faster and less confrontational process. Local authority officers should benefit from managing fewer proposals that face significant local opposition, while elected members will have clearer evidence for decision making.