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Planning news – 20 April 2017

Read the full story by clicking on the headline.

Councils call for joined-up legislation to protect renters
The Local Government Association (LGA) has called on the government to close a legal loophole that allows landlords to convert properties into multiple “tiny units” marked as self-contained flats to secure the maximum level of housing benefit payments.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

County councils unveil developers shortlist for housing
Two county councils have unveiled the shortlist for a pioneering £1 billion residential development partnership.
Huw Morris, The Planner

RTPI points to missing links in industrial strategy
The government’s industrial strategy green paper is failing to link with its other drives on housing, the environment and climate change, argue planners.
Huw Morris, The Planner

Huge adventure sports project makes waves in Afan Valley
The leader of Neath Port Talbot Council, Ali Thomas, has confirmed that the local authority is in talks over ambitious proposals for a huge adventure sports project earmarked for a 202-hectare site in the Afan Valley.
Roger Milne, The Planner

News analysis: Can SMEs and housing associations help supply?
Diversity is essential if we are to solve the housing shortage – that was the message from a TCPA seminar on the housing white paper.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up
A round-up of planning news
– Cushman & Wakefield to masterplan Birmingham Smithfield site
– Newcastle Science Central secures approval
– Persimmon set to build new homes in Derbyshire
– Europe’s tallest modular tower nears completion
– Rise of the £1 million flat
– Commuters show marathon effort getting to work

Planning Portal new website launch – one year on

planning portal website screenshot

A sneak preview of the new section

Alongside a 15.6 per cent increase in planning applications between March 2016-2017, we have been celebrating a year since the launch of our new fully mobile-responsive website. It has been a hugely eventful year for the Planning Portal, both on and offline, and by way of taking a momentary breather, I thought I would take this opportunity to look back on the year that was.

March 2016 – The Planning Portal website is successfully launched after many months in development. Tens of thousands of user accounts are successfully transferred, alongside 6TB of data. The new cloud-based site is faster, with a more streamlined user journey and is fully responsive to different devices and screen sizes.

Notable figures

  • An average of 10 per cent of traffic to the website is now from tablets and 22 per cent from mobile devices
  • Over 90 per cent of planning applications are now made online through the Portal
  • There are 140,000 registered Planning Portal users
  • An average of 2,000 applications per day are submitted through the Planning Portal.

Our free project management facility, Workspaces, was also launched in March to provide a platform for our professional users to collaborate on planning applications. The service has proved valuable to users working on large or complex projects that involve a number of internal and external stakeholders. Watch this space for news of enhancements to Workspaces in the future.


July saw the launch of Planning Portal’s Find a Trade Professional service, a free-to-access platform for our homeowner audience to locate the right professional for their project.

In response to user feedback, we also unveiled a new and improved volume calculator in July, which gauges the volume for common types of house and loft extension. The calculator is now optimised for mobile and tablet, so provides a better user experience.


Our free weekly newsletter has been running for over 13 years and September saw it getting a fresh new mobile-responsive design. For all the latest industry news and comment, you can sign up for our newsletter by registering as a user on the Planning Portal.


October was a very busy month for the Portal with the launch of our online building control application service which enables applications to be submitted to registered LABC departments and Approved Inspectors.

View a map of local authorities using our service.

Access our Approved Inspectors Directory.

At time of writing, over 3,300 building control applications have been submitted online, and we are delighted with the positive feedback we have received from both our industry professional and homeowner audiences.


Hot on the heels of the building control application service, we introduced the new iteration of our interactive houses and guides, which are now mobile responsive. We’ve come a long way since the first interactive house was unveiled in 2004, using graphics and guidance to help people understand their permitted development rights and the building regulations.


The start of 2017 saw a brand new partnership formed with The Planner to deliver current, industry news to our 53k newsletter subscribers. You can sign up for our newsletter by registering as a user on the Planning Portal.


February was another exciting and jubilant month at the Portal, as we were successful in our bid to manage online planning application services for Wales. The contract runs until March 2021 and provides a dual language planning application service which is designed to meet the needs of applicants and all the 25 Welsh local planning authorities.


March saw another new venture with the unveiling of ReQuestaPlan, an online digital mapping tool. From just £8 per map, the tool enables creation of location plans and site/block plans for submission with building control and planning applications.

Find out more about the benefits of ReQuestaPlan.

The future for the Planning Portal

So, it’s been a busy year and as visitors to this blog are aware, we aren’t ones to let the grass grow under our feet. We are currently working hard on restructuring key areas of our website content, with a view to delivering new and existing content more effectively to our homeowner and industry professional audiences.

Keep checking our blog, follow us on Twitter or sign up for our newsletter by registering as a user on the Planning Portal for the latest updates…

In addition, we are planning a number of exciting developments to our services, as well as increasing opportunities for our commercial audience to speak to our homeowner audiences. Find out about our commercial opportunities.

Here’s to another busy and exciting year. As always, if you have any feedback or recommendations about our services, please contact us at

Planning news – 6 April 2017

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Government launches brownfield registers
Housing and planning minister Gavin Barwell has announced that local authorities across England will now have to produce and maintain up-to-date registers listing all brownfield sites available for housing.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

£40m to boost economic growth on the coast
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced a £40 million cash boost for coastal communities to create new jobs and improve local economic growth.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Lambeth vows to protect workspace
Lambeth Council has issued an Article 4 Direction that aims to prevent offices from being turned into residential units without going through the full planning system.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

10,000 Build to Rent homes under construction in UK regions
There are 10,244 Build to Rent homes under construction in the UK regions, nearly double the number in London, suggests research.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Planning committees suited to dealing with licensing applications
The House of Lords Select Committee on the Licensing Act 2003 has ruled that it was a ‘mistake’ to set up licensing committees when the planning system is well suited to dealing with licensing application and appeals.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Planning news round up
A round-up of planning news
– Care home approved
– Retirement development green-lit
– Private rent developer completes new developments
– 889 homes approved in Hampshire
– Eden Walk regeneration to go ahead
– Warwick development approved
– Appeal launched against Fareham council
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Sarah Chilcott, MD at Planning Portal, discusses the future of Approved Documents in an increasingly digital landscape

Sarah Chilcott Planning Portal MDFollowing the recent review by the Department for Communities and Local Government, we were asked by PBC Today for our views on the future of Approved Documents. We have republished the interview below.

The Planning Portal has recently launched an online application service for building control. Is publishing Approved Documents also part of the new service?

In fact, we’ve been publishing the current and previous versions of Approved Documents on the Planning Portal site since they were first made freely available online in April 2010. We continue to publish them today because it is critical for our professional users – they know and trust that the information they see on our site will be up to date and accurate and they often come back to check that they are working with the latest versions.

What improvements could be made to Approved Documents to help ensure they keep pace with an increasingly digitised industry?

We welcome the Department for Communities and Local Government review and the proposed changes to the Approved Documents. Some are potentially quite simple though vital improvements; for example, the ability to copy, cut and paste, when creating documents will save a lot of time and frustration.

Others, such as the standardisation and improved clarity of information, are potentially more difficult to achieve. This is especially true if you look at the range of different audiences for the Approved Documents.  At the Planning Portal, we have always worked hard to ensure that we use plain language throughout all our communications, and appreciate the challenges a broad customer base can present.

Since our launch in 2002, we’ve been committed to simplifying the planning process and continue to introduce products and services to enhance this. The interactive house is a prime example of where a lot of content that is potentially difficult to understand, is clarified when supported by images. The house, and the other interactive guides, also provide specific information relevant to different developments and further links to planning and building advice.

What are your thoughts relating to the review findings on design and accessibility?

We know that the digital world moves quickly, so it’s not surprising that a number of the review recommendations focus on ease of use and accessibility: better navigation, improvements to search functionality and the ability to access via mobile devices. In our own case, design which responds to different screen sizes was an important element of our website redesign last year, and since the launch we’ve seen that mobile traffic now accounts for over a third of all visits to the Planning Portal.

I was also pleased to see a recommendation for HTML versions of the Approved Documents, which will help users search within and across documents more efficiently. Ultimately, all service users want to ensure their applications are right first time and that they are compliant. Adding context to guidance, clearer information and improved accessibility, whether Approved Documents are accessed online or downloaded and kept offline, should benefit all user groups.

What are the main challenges for these sectors to keep up with, and embrace, technological advances?

I do believe that technology has an opportunity to truly transform the planning and building sectors. It’s something that the Planning Portal has always led on and we continue to do so. There can be barriers such as cost of purchasing equipment, but many of the challenges come from changing the processes and practices of those involved in delivery. Following the recent launch of our building control application service, which caters for both local authorities and Approved Inspectors, we want to work with the industry to consider how it might help to transform other areas such as initial notices or certifications by competent persons, improving collaboration and efficiency and resulting in better delivery for customers.

Application volumes and engagement in general with the Planning Portal building control service have been very encouraging so far and, as always, we welcome feedback on how we can further develop and improve the service to meet the changing needs of the industry and its service users.

This article first appeared in PBC Today.

Planning Portal report a 15.6% increase in planning applications

planning application increaseAs we celebrate a year since our website relaunch, we are happy to report a 15.6% increase in planning applications from March 2016 to 2017. That’s 55,535 successfully processed applications in one calendar month!

Easter falling later will have had an impact, though our long-term stats show similarly optimistic growth. The workday average for planning applications in March was 2,269, up 4.6% on the previous year and between 2015 and 2016 we saw an eight percent increase in online applications. Anyone who has worked on a website relaunch will tell you that it’s a huge undertaking. Though our team can reconcile the somewhat white knuckle-inducing experience with the knowledge that the site is now faster, more streamlined, and fully mobile-responsive. In fact, visitors accessing the site via tablet and mobile now account for 10 and 22 percent, respectively, of all traffic to the website.

So, what next? Well, we continue to see very encouraging figures from the online building control application service that we launched in October last year; over 2.5k valid applications submitted so far. We hold directories for both LABC departments and Approved Inspectors:

Search for an LABC. Search for an Approved Inspector.

We have ambitious plans to develop more content to help users navigate the world of planning and building and will be posting updates in our weekly newsletter.

We’ve also launched a digital mapping tool, ReQuestaPlan, to help our users submit successful planning and building control applications first time. We are committed to keeping our application services free for all users. By choosing ReQuestaPlan we can ensure this continues to be the case.

We’re always looking for ways to improve and enhance our products and services. If you have any recommendations or ideas for our services or the free guidance and resources we offer, we’d love to hear from you. Get in touch by emailing

New developments in the planning application process

Last weekend saw the latest development release to our planning application service. Responding to feedback from regular agents, we have restored the function to amend a ‘submitted’ status application which was disabled when we launched the new website last March. The main reason we chose to remove this function was because LPAs did not receive notification of application amendments that had not yet been downloaded by them. This meant LPAs were unable to locate proposals they had received notifications for, causing confusion with the successful receipt of applications.

To rectify this, we have added a new email notification that will be sent to LPAs if an applicant chooses to amend an application with a ‘submitted’ status.

Amended notification process for ‘Submitted’ planning applications

  • When an applicant selects the ‘amend’ button on applications with a ‘submitted’ status, the current version of the proposal is auto-archived and a new draft version created. This will remove the application from the LPA’s list of available proposals so they do not have the option to download it, until such time the applicant re-submits.
  • The LPA receives an email confirming the application has been withheld, with the applicant’s contact details.
  • The applicant can make amendments and re-submit at their convenience, and the LPA receives email notification of submission in the normal way.

In addition to the ‘amend’ button, applicants will also see a ‘withhold’ button. Selecting this option will auto-archive the current version of the proposal, but will not create a new draft version. Similarly this will remove the application from the LPA’s available proposals and notify them of the withholding.

If the applicant decides to re-submit they can retrieve from their archive list and select the option to “amend and re-submit”.

New draft amendment function added

We have also added a new function that allows applicants to delete a draft amendment application which re-enables amendments to the original application. This is particularly useful if the incorrect amendment option was selected and there was no facility to change it, or when an application has been mistakenly deleted.

As always, we welcome any feedback on our products and services. To submit your feedback, or for any media enquiries please contact If you have any support queries please contact

Planning news – 23 March 2017

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Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Lords approve final amendments and pass the bill
The Neighbourhood Planning Bill has undergone its third reading in the House of Lords, with members approving an amendment that requires examiners to give information to, and hold meetings with, neighbourhood planning groups.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

SMEs and local authorities receive cash injection to update planning system
Nine small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and local authorities have been awarded a share of £200,000 aimed at supporting the development of new tools and innovations to transform the planning system.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Guidance for housing and NSIPs published
The government has published guidance confirming the details of measures that will see major infrastructure projects that include up to 500 homes considered as a Nationally Significant Infrastructure Project (NSIP).
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Devolution for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has announced a devolution plan for Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, which will see residents vote for a mayor on 4 May, 2017.
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Green light for master plan of Cardiff’s ‘garden city’ project
The City of Cardiff Council has approved plans for the remaining elements of Plasdŵr, the £2 billion garden city development earmarked for the north-west outskirts of the capital.
Roger Milne, The Planner

News round up
A round-up of planning news
– Dissington Garden Village approved
– Government urged to deliver on Crossrail 2
– Innovative housing approved in Hertfordshire
– Housing scheme will bring 60 homes to rural Warwickshire
– Plans submitted for new £26m leisure centre
– Oxford regeneration scheme begins with student housing
Matt Moody, The Planner

Planning news – 16 March 2017

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Khan approves two housing developments
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has given consent for two high-density developments that both include more than 30 per cent affordable housing…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Right to Buy ban bill launched in Wales
The Welsh Government has put a bill banning the Right to Buy and associated rights before the National Assembly for Wales…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Southwark to protect its pubs
Southwark Council has issued an Article 4 Direction on all 188 pubs in the borough to protect them from permitted development rights…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Guidance on creating inclusive environments launched
The Construction Industry Council (CIC) has published a guide aimed at creating an accessible and inclusive built environment…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Budget transport funding allocated
Transport secretary Chris Grayling has identified the traffic hotspots that will receive a share of the £220 million funding announced in the Budget…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up
A round-up of planning news
– Centre for Cities chief to head industrial strategy
– Committee to meet to discuss garden village proposal
– Funding for new roads and land in Scotland
– £1.8m for Dundee-London air route
– New power station opens in Manchester
– Midlands council to build council homes
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Planning news – 9 March 2017

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Budget 2017: Transport funding announced for the Midlands and the North
Chancellor Philip Hammond has announced funding for transport in the Midlands and the North of England…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Housing White Paper fails to address coordinated approach to tackle shortage
There is little evidence in the government’s industrial strategy of coordination across government departments to achieve “an economy that works for all”, with the Housing White Paper cited as example, according to a report…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Neighbourhood Planning Bill: Lords vote to protect pubs
The House of Lords has voted to amend the Neighbourhood Planning Bill so it removes permitted development rights relating to the change of use or demolition of pubs…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Plans submitted for garden village near Fareham
Buckland Development Ltd has lodged a planning application for Welborne Garden Village, featuring proposals for 6,000 homes, with Fareham Borough Council…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

Budget 2017: Further devolution for London
Chancellor Philip Hammond says an agreement has been reached between the UK Government and the Greater London Authority (GLA) on joint working to address congestion and infrastructure funding…
Laura Edgar, The Planner

News round-up
A round-up of planning news…
– Dover to review local plan
– new study to assess high-rise accommodation
– Land deal completed in Hertfordshire
– Calls made for bond to raise project finance in Scotland.
Laura Edgar, The Planner


Is community-led housing part of the answer?

The recent Housing White Paper ‘Fixing our broken housing market’ asserted that traditional models for house building are not enough to deliver the housing numbers we need.  Several possible models to diversify the market were floated – all covered in our news that week – but if we are to look for smaller sites for development is there a role for community-led housing in this mix?

This question is currently being explored by a project in a local community here in Bristol.  Led by Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) and funded by Bristol City Council and Arts Council England, the ‘We Can Make…’ project brings together the local community with planning and building professionals, academics, artists and policy makers.  Working together they are exploring how communities can lead and influence development in their area so that it meets their needs and interests.

This isn’t just neighbourhood planning.  It’s a test space for a new kind of housing model and as far as I’m aware this project is the first of its kind.

If you’re interested, to attend the next event it’s next Thursday 16th 4.30 – 6.30pm at the Knowle West Media Centre (Leinster Avenue, BS4 1NL).  To find out more contact

If you’re involved in other similar projects, do add a comment.

[Note: To be open about my interest here, I’m also Chair of Trustee at KWMC (on a voluntary basis) and passionate about the work they do in South Bristol.  Its not often that my two interests collide, but I’m pleased to be able to help when they do]



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