Pre-application advice

Major Pre-application Advice Service

We encourage developers and their agents to engage in discussions with us for major development proposals. This helps provide early indications of our view of a scheme. Discussions can also clarify the information needed for subsequent applications, help improve the quality of proposals and save time and money on working up proposals.

The more information you are able to supply, the more detailed our response will be.

The Pre-Application Advice Service for Major Developments meets monthly. It is made up of relevant officials across the Highland Council, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Transport Scotland and other key agencies. The meetings are chaired by a senior member of staff from planning.

You will be asked to attend the pre-application meeting which best suits your timescale. At the meeting you will be asked to present your proposal, following which there is an opportunity for questions and clarification from those attending the meeting.

Your completed online Major Pre-Application Advice Form along with the information outlined within and payment should be received by the Highland Council a minimum of 5 weeks before the date of the pre-application meeting.

Meetings are virtual and are on these dates for 2024. These are available on a first come first served basis:

  • 17 January 2024
  • 14 February 2024
  • 13 March 2024
  • 17 April 2024
  • 15 May 2024
  • 12 June 2024
  • 14 August 2024
  • 11 September 2024
  • 9 October 2024
  • 6 November 2024
  • 27 November 2024

Within four weeks of the pre-application meeting, you will receive a pre-application pack outlining the key outcomes of our discussions about your proposal. This pack will contain an overview of:

  • Principle and Policy
  • Constraints
  • Design
  • Sustainability
  • Amenity Impacts
  • Transport
  • Water Environment (including flood risk and drainage)
  • Public Consultation and Application Procedures
  • Developer Contributions
  • Documentation or Information Requirements

NatureScot, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Transport Scotland and other key agencies will provide input to the Pre-Application Advice Pack.

We will make it clear where we consider that modifications or amendments could make your proposal acceptable in principle. Equally, we will make it clear if the scheme is wholly unacceptable due to conflicts with policy or guidance.

Flow Country Candidate World Heritage Site

If your development is within or close to the Flow Country Candidate World Heritage Site then your submission must include a completed screening checklist of the development’s potential impacts on the Outstanding Universal Values of the Site. The screening checklist is the first page in the Impact Assessment Toolkit.

You can find more information on the candidate World Heritage Site.

Apply for Major Pre-Application Advice

If possible, please supply a .shp drawing file showing the red line boundary. If using AutoCAD, please export the data in model space in 2010 version as newer versions are not compatible with GIS software.

Pre-application Advice for Major Developments

In addition to Major Pre Application Advice, we also offer the following service:

Wind Farm Design Workshop - this looks at matters of Landscape and Visual Impact in more detail. This is a solutions based workshop and it is best undertaken when (or just before) you reach design stage.


There is a charge for this service which is reviewed annually. Please note that any meeting booked post 1 April will be subject to revised increased fees, with this to be confirmed ahead of the meeting taking place.

  • Details of how much you need to pay can be found on our main planning fees page. To help calculate what you need to pay, you can use the Scottish Government ePlanning.Scot Planning Fee Calculator.
  • Your fee will be calculated once you submit your application, and we will be in touch to confirm the correct fee.
  • Payment should be received by the Highland Council a minimum of 5 weeks before the date of the pre-application meeting.
  • For information on ways to pay, please visit our Planning Payment options page.

If you withdraw your application within 2 weeks or less of the agreed Pre-Application Advice Meeting date, the fee will not be refunded.

Example pre-application advice pack

Processing agreements

We recommend that all applications involving major developments should be accompanied by a processing agreement. The purpose of a processing agreement is to set realistic and achievable timescales on when an application will be determined. It means the process can progress in a formal manner.

Read our applicant's guide to processing agreements.

Design advice for the City of Inverness

The Inverness Design Review Panel provides free, confidential design advice at pre-application stage for major or locally significant development proposals in the city of Inverness. We encourage developers and their agents to engage with the panel in the initial stages of scheme design. Design reviews take place 6 times a year.


Advice given by our officers does not constitute a formal decision by us with regards to any planning application and, while it may be a material consideration, cannot be held to bind the council in its validation or formal determination of a subsequent application.

Freedom of information

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.

Proposal of application notice

All major developments are required to submit a proposal of application notice at least 12 weeks before submitting a planning application. This will require a Proposal of application form and a check-list for the proposal of application notice.

Every proposal of application notice will be reported to the relevant Planning Applications Committee. This makes sure that issues raised by councillors can be taken into account by the applicant in the submission of any subsequent planning application. For more information on this procedure please see the Guidance on the role of councillors in pre-application procedures presented to Planning, Development and Infrastructure Committee, in May 2014.

Processing agreements

A processing agreement is a way of helping developers, relevant stakeholders and ourselves work together through the planning process. It involves setting out the key stages involved in deciding a planning application, identifying what information is required and setting time scales for the various stages of the process.

We encourage the use of processing agreements for major applications, you should contact us below with a view to agreeing a processing agreement at the earliest possible opportunity.

Download our Processing Agreement Template

Renewable energy developments

Many of the major developments we deal with in Highland are for renewable energy developments. You can read our policy approach, guidance and visualisation standards for more information.