The fourth recommendation of the Killian-Pretty review calls for substantial improvements to this "critically important" stage of the planning process.
The government should strengthen and clarify national policy and guidance and clearly set out what it expects of applicants, statutory consultees and local authorities, it maintains.
There should be a presumption that formal talks will take place for major schemes involving all relevant parties, including elected members and communities.
The review urges the government to encourage greater use of planning performance agreements. Although tested in a number of areas, take-up has been low despite government backing.
The review advised that a more streamlined approach, centred round an agreed timetable, could be appropriate for less complex schemes.
While the review does not go so far as to suggest making pre-application discussions compulsory, it says the government should keep this matter under review.