Pre-application advice

We are taking steps to allow us to continue to deliver our services for the duration of the COVID19 situation. Details of our full position can be found on this page.

We are no longer operating under business as usual in order to focus on priority and statutory services. The Highland Council is planning for greatly increased staff absence levels over the coming days and weeks. Staff will be working remotely, so capacity and access to our usual systems will be significantly limited. It may therefore take longer to process planning applications, building warrants, and related aspects of the Planning and Building Standards service including customer queries, complaints and public comments during this period. Your patience and understanding is appreciated.

If you need planning permission, we encourage and welcome the opportunity to provide you with advice before you formally submit your planning application.

If you are unsure whether or not you require planning permission for your proposed development, then please use our Development Enquiry service to find out.

Pre-application Advice

As of Monday 16 September 2019, there are three types of pre-application advice available:-

We also offer pre-application advice for Listed Buildings and for those proposed changes that will require planning permission.

There is a fee for these value-added services. Please check our Other Planning and Environment Fees and Charges document for more details on how much you need to pay and for a full list of categories.

What is Pre-application Advice?

The Highland Council is responsible for determining applications for planning permission, advertisement consent, hazardous substances consent, listed building consent, conservation area consent, certificates of lawfulness and works to protected trees.

In advance of submitting applications for planning permission the Council’s Planning Service provides advice and information to members of the public and developers on the issues which require consideration as part of the planning application process.

This pre-application advice service is not compulsory and may not be appropriate in all situations. However, if you know you will require planning permission for your proposed development, we actively encourage pre-application discussions for all development proposals.

The extent and detail of any pre-application advice issued by the Council for either Local Small, Local Medium or Major advice relies principally on the quantity and quality of the information submitted with the enquiry. The more information you can provide, the more comprehensive our response will be.

Any pre-application advice issued by The Council does not constitute formal consent and does not therefore guarantee that any future statutory application will be successful; nor does it provide consent for a development to commence. You are free to submit a planning application etc. to the Council regardless of any pre-application advice you may receive.

All pre-application advice requests require to be made in writing, using our on-line form (for Major please use our paper request form). If a request for pre-application advice is received by the Council with one or more pieces of mandatory information missing, then it will be returned along with any associated fee.

Why should I seek Pre-application Advice?

There are considerable benefits in seeking advice before making an application such as:

  • it gives prospective applicants an opportunity to understand how our planning policies will be applied to a development;
  • it will result in an appraisal of the merits of a prospective application site at an early stage and can identify where there is a need for specialist input;
  • it will assist applicants in preparing proposals for any future formal submission;
  • it may lead to a reduction in time spent by the applicants’ professional advisors in working-up proposals; and
  • it may indicate that a proposal is unacceptable in terms of policy and therefore prevent prospective applicants from spending time and money unnecessarily.

Pre-application advice will help you to submit a valid and accurate application. It will help to avoid delays during the formal application process and will flag up problems/issues with your development proposal at an early stage.

Developer contributions

Anyone planning to develop in Highland may need to make a financial payment towards service and infrastructure provision, known as developer contributions. Before submitting a planning application likely developer contribution costs should be calculated by the applicant using our developer contributions guidance Developer contribution costs should be budgeted for when buying land for development and working out project costs.

Planning pre-application advice and street engineering review

We are currently trialling a new process for giving early and detailed feedback on the road layout to help align planning applications with the requirements for Road Construction Consent. This pilot is open to both Major and other large housing developments. If you would like to find out more about participating in this pilot, please contact

Street naming

If you are submitting a planning application for a new housing or retail development which requires the creation of a new street, you will need to submit a street naming request. If you get planning approval, you should submit the request as soon as possible after that. Further details of how to submit this request can be found on our Street names and house numbers page.

Freedom of information

The pre-application advice service is an optional value-added service and any applications we receive are treated as confidential and are not publicly available on our e-Planning Public Access site. However, under the Freedom of Information Act, we may be asked to provide information regarding inquiries for pre-application advice and copies of any correspondence or advice provided. This information may only be withheld if its disclosure could prejudice commercial interests, inhibit the free and frank provision of advice or exchange of views during the planning process, or could prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs. Those seeking pre-application advice should provide a covering letter that sets out the reasons why, and for how long, any information relating to the case needs to remain confidential.

It is at our discretion whether information can be treated as exempt from disclosure and it should be recognised that the point of the legislation is to make information accessible unless there is a pressing reason not to. The passage of time may remove the need for exemption as information becomes less sensitive. Generally, notes and correspondence relating to pre-application discussion will not be treated as confidential once a planning application has been submitted and the case is in the public domain.