To add to Lex's bit, from my limited experience:
Meetings can either be official 'Pre-planning Consultations' or can be more informal. PPC's must be documented and put on the file, but the informal ones not so. The content is generally different too. In an informal one things can be mentioned and discussed, but generally don't amount to a commitment by either party. If either party wants things recorded, they'd do well to request a PPC in advance. In practice, many smaller meetings can take place that aren't worth noting- in some cases a quick 2 minute phone call or somesuch.
However, I have sympathy with third parties in many cases, because this gives the impression that 'off the record' promises or commitments were made by the planning authority or the developer, whether they be details about S&A housing, compromises on open space, quid pro quos re car parking and public transport financial contributions.
To illustrate- I worked as a planning consultant on a project a while back where a large terraced house in Dublin was being converted from flats and bedsits into student accommodation. Not being pre-'63, the usual provisions applied. The architects tried to get as many units as possible into the building but DCC told them it was a non-runner. The second revision (third design) finally met with mimimum space requirements, conservation needs, etc. However, very little detail of these discussions was ever recorded formally. When it came time to submit the PApp, the local residents' association picked up on our wording in the cover letter about meetings, and complained in their objection that a deal had been done between developer and DCC, when in fact nothing could be further from the truth. Between DCC and ourselves, we managed to make a weak scheme much better by prevailing on the architect and developer/client, and probably prevented it from being thrown out by DCC at the first hurdle.
But I did sympathise with the local resident's assoc. I think, for the avoidance of doubt, all meetings should be recorded on the planning file. On the other hand, this belief is grounded in theory. In practice, what over-worked planner has the time or inclination to minute and sign off on a call that consists of:
Dev: How would you feel about us using PVC for the balconies?
Pl: Absolutely not. Your plans indicated steel and glass and we'd like you to stick with that.
Pl: Sorry, that's it I'm afraid.
All of which isn't to say that the occasional underhand dealing doesn't take place - we'd be naive to think otherwise - but many cases have a simple explanation.