Planning and the strategic road network in England

Find out about National Highways' pre-application advice service and its aim to be a proactive planning partner.

When to consult National Highways at pre-application stage

We are a statutory consultee in the planning system. You are encouraged to seek early advice from us if your development proposal:

  • is likely to result in an adverse impact on the safety of, or queuing, on the strategic road network (SRN)
  • is likely to prejudice the improvement or construction of the SRN
  • consists of or includes the construction, formation or laying out of access to or from the SRN

Additionally, you must consult us before you apply for a Development Consent Order (the ‘pre-application stage’) on nationally significant infrastructure projects, where this is likely to affect road or transport operation and/or planning on the SRN.

The Network Management Map shows the location of roads we manage, which includes trunk motorways and major A roads.

Our engagement with the planning system

Pre-application discussions are an effective means of gaining a good, early understanding of any issues that might have a bearing on the way in which the development is planned and/or delivered. This, in turn, helps avoid delays and difficulties further into the application process.

Depending on the nature of the site and the proposed development, you may submit a written scoping report and/or request a meeting with us. Where a meeting is arranged we would encourage other relevant parties to attend as necessary, including the local planning and highway authorities. We would particularly recommend this for larger and more complex sites.

If a scoping report is to be prepared, we would advise this includes:

  • details of the development, such as location, access arrangements, use class, size or number of units, likely phasing, maximum number of parking spaces and any other relevant information
  • proposed methodology for estimating the vehicular trip generation and distribution on the SRN, and resulting trip generation figures
  • proposed methodology for assessing the impact of this trip generation on the SRN
  • proposed methodology for assessing the environmental consequences of the transport impacts of the development
How to submit a pre-application enquiry

Please provide us with the following information:

  • your name and contact details, and if you’re acting on behalf of a client
  • the postcode or grid reference of the site and a location plan showing the boundary of the proposed development
  • a project description, including what you’re planning to build and the type of permission to be obtained
  • the type of advice you want, for example a written response, face-to-face meeting and/or document review
  • any relevant plans or reports

You should send your enquiry to the relevant regional team inbox as listed below:

East of




Yorkshire and North

If you are unsure which regional team to contact you can view Regional leads by county and local authority.

A spatial planner with knowledge and experience of the area will be assigned to assess and respond to your enquiry. We will advise whether the development proposal is likely to be of interest to us and of any known potential constraints to the proposed development. Where it is likely that a proposal will be considered unacceptable in principle, we will provide guidance as to what, if any, steps could be taken to address the identified concerns.

Where a meeting is requested, we will usually respond within 7 days and arrange this with you.

We will provide a final response to most pre-application requests within 21 days, with larger or more complex developments often requiring ongoing discussion beyond this period in accordance with an agreed timetable.

In 2024 National Highways was granted powers under section 54A of the Planning Act 2008 and regulation 12A of the Infrastructure Planning (fees) regulations 2010 to recover costs incurred in providing services to promoters of ‘Development Consent Order’ (DCO) projects brought forward under the Nationally Significant (NSIP) regime, which was established under the Planning Act (2008).

We are commencing transition to recovery of these costs during spring of 2024.

Given the complexity and different impacts on the Strategic Road Network (SRN) across the portfolio of NSIPs, we will be utilising a time charge system with the fees recovered varying from project to project. This will be determined by the level of input required from National Highways in providing advice and input.

  • Our charges will be based on a schedule of rates. Rates applied for National Highways staff time will be informed by our pay scales, and the cost of staff overheads, which will be apportioned on a ‘per capita basis’. These include (but are not limited to) pension, National Insurance and building/office costs in line with accepted practices for capitation. This will ensure that National Highways does not generate a profit from the provision of services and operates in compliance with the requirements of its licence and in line with HM Treasury guidance for Managing Public Money (charging at cost).
  • Costs will be recovered for the full range of services that we provide. In addition to case managers, the services provided by National Highways in engaging with DCO schemes under the NSIP regime for which costs will be recovered include, inter alia: legal support, review of transport models and specialist engineering advice. This will in particular include geotechnics, structures and highway design for those projects that will require physical changes to our assets – or that may impact the safe operation of the network. This includes, for example, directional drilling for under the National Highways network by new energy and utilities pipelines.
  • We will also recover costs for time incurred by our external legal, spatial planning or other consultants, on a direct cost transfer basis. These services will include, but are not limited to, external solicitors who will be procured via Crown Commercial Services Legal Services Frameworks, or spatial and transport planning and technical advisory services procured through National Highways’ regional Spatial Planning Advice frameworks. 

For new schemes, we will engage with scheme promoters to notify them of the scope of services to be provided and costs to be recovered. These will be set out in writing on a project by project basis.

For existing schemes, we will engage with promoters to set out our transitional arrangements for introducing cost recovery for these projects from 1 April 2024, when the new powers come into force. These will also be set out in writing on a project by project basis.

Further guidance on the introduction and application of these new powers to recover costs for DCO schemes can be found on the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities website.

Planning policy and guidance

The Department for Transport Circular 01/2022 is the policy of the Secretary of State for Transport in relation to the SRN, and should be read in conjunction with the National Planning Policy Framework, National Policy Statements, Planning policy for traveller sites, National planning policy for waste, Planning Practice Guidance and all other material considerations when strategic-policy making authorities are setting policies and making decisions on planning and development proposals.

You should also refer to National Highways' planning guide if you are a development promoter or involved in plan-making/decision-taking in relation to any proposals which have the potential to impact the SRN. In particular, this sets out our commitment to work with you to:

  • consider the most appropriate locations for development
  • develop strong policies and proposals that are sustainable, practical and well-designed
  • make the best of opportunities around our routes
  • assess potential impact on the strategic road network
  • consider how best to deliver new development
  • minimise adverse impact
  • assess requirements for mitigation works
National Highways planning guide

Development Affecting Trunk Roads Direction

This document is the direction made by the Secretary of State for Transport under section 77 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, which sets out the requirement for local planning authorities to consult the Secretary of State where it does not propose to determine a planning application in accordance with National Highways' formal recommendation.

In such circumstances, a local planning authority must not issue an approval decision otherwise than in accordance with one of the outcomes identified in article 5 of the Direction.

The Town And Country Planning (Development Affecting Trunk Roads) Direction 2018

Contact us

Where you require a response in relation to an individual development proposal, this should be directed to one our regional teams listed above.

If you have a general policy-related query please contact the Economic Development and Spatial Planning team: