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Authorities achieve Smarter Planning Champion status

In the last few weeks four local planning authorities have achieved Smarter Planning Champion status. They are Newcastle City Council, Northumberland County Council, Thurrock Council and most recently Southwark Council.

As part of the Smarter Planning scheme we work with local authorities to streamline their processes and introduce new electronic ways of working. These include:

  • Updating website content to encourage a channel shift towards online self-service for the submission of applications. To ensure your local authority is using the correct Portal links see our best practice guide here.
  • Signposting the council’s online planning application register as the authoritative source for engaging in the planning application process for citizens, consultees and applicants
  • Endorsing the Planning Portal online application service as their preferred method of submission via a communication campaign to planning professionals, agents and citizens
  • Promoting best practice guidance for application submission and local requirements
  • Communicating electronically both internally and externally throughout the determination of applications
  • Offering online fee payment or alternatives options for quicker application registration and validation
  • Working towards a paperless office

We currently have 47 LPAs that have achieved ‘Champion’ status and are keen to get 50!

A map of the ‘Champion’ LPAs can be accessed here.

If you want to learn more about becoming a Smarter Planning Champion you can find more information on the Portal and register your interest.

Four new application forms now available on the Portal

Here are the four forms launched on Monday 7th April by DCLG.

As with all PDF forms our technical teams advises that you download the forms to your PC and open them with dedicated PDF software rather than try to edit them in your web browser.

Prior Approval of proposed Change of Use of Agricultural Building to a State-Funded School* or Registered Nursery

Prior Approval of proposed Change of Use of Agricultural Building to a Dwellinghouse (Use Class C3)

Prior Approval of proposed Change of Use of a building from a Retail Use (Use Class A1 or A2) or a Mixed Retail and Residential Use to a use falling within Use Class C3 (Dwellinghouse)

Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works to a Listed Building

Calling LPAs: a question about PDF measuring software

The Planning Portal account management team visits many LPAs each week to improve their understanding of how online planning services are operating and evolving.

A common topic for many visits is the use of the free measuring tools that LPAs use to help them work electronically.

This subject came up again during a trip to a south London authority and I thought the blog might be a good forum to canvas other LPAs on the solutions they use.

We know PDF X-change and Foxit are two free solutions being used by LPAs. I’d be interested in understanding what software other LPAs are using and the benefits being realised for their authority.

Please share your thoughts below.

DCLG to launch four new application forms

On Monday 7 April the Department for Communities and Local Government will be introducing new application forms for;

  • Certificate of Lawfulness of Proposed Works to a Listed Building
  • Prior Approval of proposed Change of Use of a building from a Retail (Use Class A1 or A2) Use or a Mixed Retail and Residential Use to a use falling within Use Class C3 (Dwellinghouse), and for Associated Operational Development
  • Prior Approval of proposed Change of Use of Agricultural Building to a State-Funded School* or Registered Nursery
  • Prior Approval of proposed Change of Use of Agricultural Building to a Dwellinghouse (Use Class C3), and for Associated Operational Development

The existing Prior Approval of Proposed Change of Use to State Funded School will also be amended to include Registered Nurseries.

These forms will be introduced in England only and will be published as ‘fillable PDFs’.

We’re within touching distance of 80 per cent online applications

2013 was another bumper year for the Portal with the standout figure being that it looks like we are nudging close to 80 per cent of all planning applications being submitted online.

That’s our target for March next year!

We’re waiting for the LPA figures from Government to validate this but our upper range estimate looks like we might have handled as many as 79.5% of applications online over the three months October-December 2013.


And our data for February 2014 shows the most applications submitted online ever in one month – despite it having only 20 working days. If this trend continues it looks like we have every chance of hitting the 80 per cent threshold by the end of the financial year.

PS1 vs online app

The good news doesn’t stop there. 2013 saw increases across the board for the Portal, a 27 per cent increase in website visits, a 16 per cent increase in applications and a 22 per cent increase in Building Regulations documents downloads.

The value of applications (the associated fees) submitted via the Portal rose from £112,839,181 in 2012 to £169,476,151 in 2013, an increase of 50 per cent.

Hopefully this reflects better times in the market as well as for the Portal. We’d be interested to hear whether February felt like a big month for business.

Online Non-Material Amendment (NMA) form now live!

I am delighted to let you know that we will be introducing the online version of the Non-Material Amendment form on Thursday 13th March.

The form development is complete and has been released on to our ‘test’ website for final checks and review.

We’re delighted to be able to deliver this form as it’s something that many of you have been asking for – both applicants and LPAs.

Thank you for your patience while we delivered this – it’s been part of a much larger project to improve the technical foundations of the 1APP application suite.

Please note: at the moment the NMA form is for LPAs in England only.

New CIL regulations guidance available on the Planning Portal

Following our earlier post about amendments to the Community Infrastructure Levy regulations (CIL) that came into force today, we can confirm that the new regulations can be accessed here.

We have also amended the existing CIL forms to reflect the new regulations and added forms to cater for the new exemption for self-build housing.

How to link more effectively to Portal services

The Planning Portal’s content team has produced a short guidance note with links to the most commonly requested planning and building control content on the website.

Simple but effective linking can save LPAs time and money. Based on a sample of local authorities completing a recent Socitm study, it costs £8.62 per visit for face-to-face interaction and £2.83 per phone call – but just £0.15 per visit if customers use the council website instead.

However, according to the Socitm research, many self-service council site visits are failing their customers.

Improving citizen ‘self-service’ is one of the main ways of reducing call and face-to-face volumes without reducing customer satisfaction. Another is reducing the number of ‘avoidable calls’.

Both these aims can be met through effective website linking strategies. For example, following recent reviews of council websites as part of our Smarter Planning initiative, we often notice that councils link to the Portal homepage for planning applications rather than the specific ‘Apply’ page –

This can confuse the customer journey and lead to additional – and avoidable – contact.    

You can download the guidance note, which contains links to download graphics for buttons and HTML to embed the interactive guides on your website, here:

An update on Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS)

Update: just a reminder that there are still a few places left on these events. If you submit major applications and are interested in the introduction of SuDS these are events will be extremely, informative.

Information on how to register is in the post below.

Register for an event.

Earlier this year Defra minister Dan Rogerson confirmed the Government plans to introduce the necessary legislation for SuDS by April 2014 and bring it into force as soon as possible after that.

Defra has been working with the  Portal to provide a facility to submit SuDS applications – either with an online or paper planning application or separately as a standalone paper application. The introduction of SuDS only affects major applications so these events are best suited for developers.

To understand the latest progress with SuDS and the proposed solution for submission, we are holding a number of events for developers. Read more…

Changes to Community Infrastructure Levy regulations

You may be aware that the Government is amending the Community Infrastructure Levy regulations.

Subject to the Parliamentary approval process, the new regulations are expected to come into force in February.

Among other changes, the regulations will introduce an exemption for self builders and provide for additional flexibility around the re-use of vacant buildings.

The draft regulations are available on the website.

The Portal will publish an application form for self-build exemption claims (for people building or extending their own home) when the regulations come into force.

We will also be updating our current CIL guidance and amending existing CIL forms to reflect the new regulations.


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