RenKap CBD Masterclass: Preliminary Planning Assessment

If you are an Architect, Land Manager, Development Manager, Property Developer or Consultant and you are unsure if your site  is appropriate for development or you don’t want to invest money just to find out that the partial or full redevelopment on the site isn’t viable, then this article is curated for you.


The RenKap team have been working hard to bring you a series of CPD Masterclass videos on all the main Site Investigation surveys that we recommend at the early stages of a development. The initial format was a series of 10 minute videos with our expert suppliers which you can see here. We have re-purposed the video content into these short and snappy blogs.


To provide you with an all-you-need-to-know guide on Preliminary Planning Assessment, Jon Bradburn, our partner and industry expert at Montagu Evans Planning and Development Consultancy, is here to assist you  in dissecting some important issues surrounding the site investigation stage of your developments. To view our full RenKap Site Investigation CPD Masterclass video series, which teaches you how to mitigate your site development risks, register here.


This article is not only intended to help you make a well-informed decision on Preliminary Planning Assessments, but it also helps you understand the typical key stages in the planning and development process and anticipates the smoothest path forward on your sites.

What is a Preliminary Planning Assessment?

A Preliminary Planning Assessment focuses mostly on fact-finding desktop research, it defines the major planning policies, and often forms part of the due diligence on what can and cannot be achieved on-site through partial or complete redevelopment solutions.

This is the stage in site investigation where major planning policies and other factors that may impact the extent of development are identified. The planning policies are used to guide the design of the scheme, such as the expected number of additional houses that could be built on site, the height of development, and the mix of housing types that can be achieved.


When considering whether to approve or deny a planning application, the council uses key policies to assess the planning balance of the scheme. This report will help you increase your likelihood of planning success.

What is the risk of not completing the Preliminary Planning Assessment on a site?

Failure to do a Preliminary Planning Assessment of a site has the potential to drastically affect the cost and programme of a project.

The design team must be acquainted with the project location and surrounding region. This information may then be utilised by the design team to make informed decisions about project planning and design. This will also enable the plan designer to create a set of construction plans that will enable the project to be developed in an efficient, cost-effective, and feasible manner.

When would a Preliminary Planning Assessment be required?

A preliminary assessment of the planning status may be conducted on all projects as early as possible within the program. Ideally, this will occur at RIBA stage 0, the strategic definition of the project, to ensure that the plan can be completed and is viable on a strategic level.

What are the typical next stages in the planning process?

The typical key stages that Preliminary Planning Assessment process follows are;

  • Stage 1: Design evolution, which involves taking that preliminary appraisal, and evolving that alongside the scheme design. 
  • Stage 2:  Pre-application guidance sought from the council and statutory stakeholders. This is an opportunity to test the scheme with the decision makers to get their input, identify important issues that need to be addressed before submission of the application, and de-risk the application process.
  • Stage 3: Formal planning process. The submission of an application is typically for full planning permission but can be for outline planning. This will then go through the determination phase and ultimately the council issues their decision.

Does the Preliminary Planning Assessment vary on a site-by-site basis or can we use the same one if the next site is in the same local authority?

As part of the due diligence, a preliminary evaluation must be completed on a site-by-site basis. There may have been a change in policy or the council may have revised the information that has to be included in all new planning applications between sites.


While there may be shared characteristics within the same local authority, when it comes to matters of housing deliverability and affordability, there are specific site designations, thus the planning history for that particular site will be distinct.

How long does it typically take to complete a Preliminary Planning Assessment?

The length of time it takes to execute one of these assessments is determined by the size and complexity of the site, whether it spans local authority boundaries, site designations, planning history, stage of design work, and the degree of detail required by the clients.

What are the key pieces of information that planning consultants need from a client to complete a Preliminary Planning Assessment?

Planning consultants will be able to conduct a study of the site’s development potential if they are given a red line boundary plan and a street address. Planning consultants will also want detailed information about the client’s project goals and objectives through a proposed development plan.

What are the key items that would affect Montagu Evans’ quote?

According to Jon Bradburn, three key points affect the quote that Montagu Evans Planning and Development consultancy provides for this work.


  1. The complexity of the site. Larger sites that could deliver multiple uses, sites that include designated heritage assets, and sites on cross local authority, and boundaries all take more time to review and therefore more cost.

  2. The reporting period. If there’s an urgent turnaround required on a piece of work, then this also may affect the cost.

  3. The extent of information required under the review. For example, if there is an emerging scheme already in place that needs to be assessed against the policy rather than the consultants just identifying key policies that will inform that future design.

What is the output that Montagu Evans provides for the client?

Montagu Evans Planning and Development consultancy offers a preliminary assessment of the property’s development potential in a succinct report that not only spells out the essential planning factors but also provides a commercially oriented interpretation of policy and what it implies for the site. They also provide essential suggestions and assistance to help guide the scheme through the planning process.

Jon Bradburn’s advice to a client on appointing a competent planning consultant?

It is crucial to make certain that the planning consultant has the relevant professional credentials. This is usually someone who belongs to the Royal Town Planning Institute or the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors.


Experience in the local region and/or comparable schemes is particularly beneficial since it may give valuable insight to a project, especially as it approaches the application stage.

What Montagu Evans likes most about being an approved RenKap partner.

According to Jon Bradburn, RenKap’s transition to a digital and more accessible planning system is commendable. RenKap team has helped bring forward smaller sites that will play a valuable part in solving the housing crisis.


RenKap also gives its partners a clear and accessible way to those sections of the market where the planning advice might be left too late in the process owing to the magnitude of the project, resulting in complications later on.

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Complete all your Site Surveys with RenKap

Watch our video to see how RenKap works

Play Video
Site Investigation Checklist

The only site investigation checklist you need

Download our site investigation checklist, which covers the 13 site investigation surveys you need to complete on every site. This includes a rundown of why you need each of them and at what stage throughout the project lifecycle.