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 on a monthly basis. 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 meeetings are chaired by a Senior member of staff from the Planning and Development Service. Meetings are available on these dates for 2023.

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.

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

Scottish Natural Heritage, 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.

To apply for this service please complete our Pre-application Advice for Major Developments on-line form. If possible, please supply a .shp drawing file showing the red line boundary. Please note if using AutoCAD, please export the data in model space in 2010 version as newer versions are not compatible with GIS software.

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

Street Design Review - this service aims to provide detailed feedback on the road layout at pre-application stage, to help align planning applications with the requirements for Road Construction Consent. This service is open to both Major and other large-scale housing developments which we define as any development of more than 20 houses.

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. We will spend up to 2 hours with you looking at how the design meets the criteria set out in our Onshore Wind Energy Supplementary Guidance. Utilising wirelines and, where appropriate, photomontages prepared by your landscape consultants we will consider what the key design viewpoints are, whether it meets with the design rationale for development in the area and what if any further design changes are potentially required. This service goes hand in hand with our Pre-Application Advice Service for Major Developments.


There is a charge for this service which is reviewed annually.

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.