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About this blog

The purpose of the blog is to reach out and engage with users of the Portal service and of the planning system in general.

Posts here will generally be about changes and improvements to the Portal and the planning system.

We hope to use it as a forum for your ideas on what works and what doesn’t work about the service. Please give us your feedback but we won’t publish any comments that criticise any individual, any named business or any local authority. We reserve the right to apply our own judgement to what we do or do not publish and to moderate all or part of any comment that we believe breaks these principles.

Any views expressed by respondents are theirs alone and are not in any way validated or the responsibility of the Planning Portal.

About the Planning Portal

The Planning Portal was launched in 2002 and received its first electronic planning application in April 2003.

By November 2012 over 60 per cent of all planning applications submitted in England and Wales were done so via the Portal.

In April 2008 the Portal completed the 1APP project which wiped away decades of inconsistency in the planning process, replacing locally variable planning application forms with a set of standard national forms.

This achievement was recognised in 2008 when the Portal was singled out by the Government Chief Information Officer as an exemplar in his introduction to the Transformational Government report and the Portal was also awarded the Public Value award at the Whitehall and Westminster World Civil Service Awards.

Increasingly, the Portal has become a primary channel for communicating and implementing key policy issues to stakeholders and users of the system and it is playing a key role readying LPAs and business for economic recovery by ensuring the best use of IT to streamline the planning and building process.

The Planning Portal provides services to citizens and businesses, the broad commercial planning and building sectors and all English and Welsh local planning authorities (LPAs), delivering timely, accurate and accessible information and tools that are helping to demystify planning and building regulations.

In February 2012 the one millionth application was submitted through the Planning Portal.

On Wednesday 11 March 2015, the Planning Portal transferred ownership from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to a joint venture between DCLG and private company TerraQuest.

26 Comments
  1. Hi Chris,
    I would like to share my views and thoughts about Planning Web Portal!!
    First of all well done and many congratualtions on such a revolutionary and innovative application of web technology in Planning Processes for the UK Local Government.

    The planning web portal is the true example of technological integration to delivering local public services round the clock. I am currently analysing and evaluaitng Socio-Technlogical System in the UK Local Government for my PhD thesis work but every time I browse and study the Planning Web Portal, I like it more than before!!! wonderful effort to help the local authorities for effective and efficient planning service delivery …..

    Nas Khilji
    Building 45
    Cranfield University

  2. Hi Chris

    I think the Planning Portal is brilliant, such a time/paper saver and the staff do a wonderful job.
    Just an observation you have a link to twitter, will you ever be on LinkedIn

    Regards
    Gary Deverson

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Thanks for the feedback Gary – what a comment to start 2012 on!
      We are currently reviewing our social media plan but only have limited resources to manage the many online comms channels.
      I am personally on LinkedIn, look me up and lets network.
      Chris

  3. Chris i live in a barn in cheshire in a substantial plot i would like to extend the barn in an area which is not overlooked visible from the general public however when i inquired with the council i was told i had no chance whatsoever can anyone help or advise in such a situation??

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi Peter,
      I’d suggest you contact a local planning agent or consultancy.
      They are experts and will know whether there are ways to reach your objective whilst satisfying the local authority.
      you can find a local consultant here on the RTPI database
      Good luck

      • Barry Mercer permalink

        Hi Chris. I do have sympathy for Peter. I have a situation where my client wishes to form a granny annexe within the shell of a detached carport/garage (2 walls closed off already). Local planning officer advises PC required yet another council on their website state the opposite for detached garages etc. I believe the infill of 2 external walls constitutes Permitted Development and use of the space is already domestic. What advice would any of your readers have to offer, As a legal eagle told me once “planning is subjective even at the appeal stage and beyond”.in spite of all the written regulations.

        Regards

        Barry Mercer.

      • I’m sorry Barry but all i can do is post your comment abnd invite opinion.
        Ultimately though as you say opinions vary.

  4. Chris – is there a way to link to your blog? It would be great for my site http://www.homeandbuild.co.uk/

    STUART

  5. Clive Evans permalink

    Chris-I am a Chatered Surveyor and have revently become embroiled with the local planners on Permitted Developmet and they are quoting your Portal on 2 storey extensions in an AONB advising that 2 storey extensions are not permitted. I am building over an exiting rear original 1948 single storey extension another floor under Class A 2 (c) and not beyond the rear original extension rear wall and they are stating that it is a 2 storey extension whereas we have read it as a single storey which is over an original. In additon as the house does not front a Highway under A 1 (d) we belive one can build an extension of 2 storey adjacent to the front elevation as it is only not permitted if the enlarged part fronts a Highway AND forms either a principle or side elevation of the dwelling house.

    I found your portal extremely usefull and interesting that the planning lawyer here is using but as has been pointed out to him it is for guidance only but perhaps you might like to look at these two aspects as this is a relatively new Act and limited case law and on the legal advise I have had the works I am undertaking are permitted but if one takes your portal on this subject as gospital it is not.

    Thanks
    Clive

    (Note from Chris: comment amended to remove the LPA name as per standard.

    If anyone can offer some advice to Clive on this PD matter please do.)

  6. Michael Carroll permalink

    In relation to the points raised by Clive Evans, in my view, a “single storey extension” means an extension having a ground storey only, the floor level of which is situated at or around the same level of the external ground. This being the case, a new extension built above an existing ground floor extension could not reasonably be described as being “single storey”.

    Under the current GPDO, and leaving aside the general requirements which are taken for granted, any such an extension would require planning consent unless it is :-

    (a) located at the rear of the property,
    (b) at least 2m away from a boundary,
    (c) no higher than the existing roof line, and
    (d) project no further than 3m or 4m, as appropriate.

    The question as to the status of the elevations needs to be determined on individual merit. A dwelling will normally have one principal elevation, two side elevations and one rear elevation – but any of these may face directly onto a highway. To illustrate the point, imagine a single isolated dwelling situated in the middle of a traffic roundabout – every side of the dwelling would front the highway; consequently, any extension would require planning permission. So, the status of the elevations can change given the individual circumstances.

    Looking at the situation as a whole, clearly the legislation seeks to control extensions which are visibly prominent and have a reasonable degree of impact on neighbouring properties. As such, where the wording of the GPDO gives rise to doubt, I have always found it useful to consider the intention behind legislation before coming to a decision as to whether the intended work may be construed as permitted development, and I would then be prepared to argue the case accordingly. However, I am always mindful that the prerogative for the interpretation and administration of the GPDO rests with the Local Planning Authority.

    Touching on Barry’s point, the planning officer may well be correct. Garage conversions are not usually regarded as “development”, but if the conversion is designed so as to form a self-contained residential unit with no reliance on the host dwelling, then planning consent would indeed be required. In my opinion, the answer would be to omit an essential facility such as sleeping accommodation or a kitchen, so Gran would need to return to the main house at night or at meal times. But it would be wise to negotiate with the LPA to ensure that the planners agree that the work does not form a self-contained “flat”.

    Hope all this helps.

    • Barry Mercer permalink

      Thanks Michael for the advice. The annexe was to be designed without a kitchen precisely for the reasons you give but is on hold at the momment. One thing that has surprised me is that the planners say the existing flat roof will not be acceptable in any conversion. I think they are overstepping their responsibilities wouldn’t you say.

  7. Peter Garside permalink

    Hi Chris, I am not sure if you are the correct person to ask but if not maybe other correspondents could help. I have been approached by an offshore software company that has developed a automated planning approval application. The application is able to automatically analyse CAD drawings and then examine all aspects (dimensions, clearances etc) and compare these against exisiting building regulations. A report is then generated that tabulates all criteria and whether the design is in conformity with regulations or whether there are non-conformities or issues which might then require further “manual” analysis by an expert.

    Having almost no experience in local authority planning processes I have no idea if this type of application already exists and is perhaps in use or whether it may be something of a revolution in planning circles.

    Are you able to give me your thoughts regarding the attractiveness / applicability of such an application or whether there is likely to be only limited interest in such an application.

    Thanks for your (and anyone else’s) advice and thoughts on the matter

    Peter Garside

  8. Hi Chris

    Thinking about the Smarter planning initiative I would be interested for your thoughts on the validity of electronic decision notices without a signature. Applications submitted via Portal are accepted without a signature by LPA so does this work vice versa with Decision Notices.

    Thanks

    Jenny Donovan

    • Hi Jenny

      I’ll leave it to my far more knowledgeable readers respond regarding your question on decision notices.

      With regards to the lack of signature on application forms, the legality of this was enabled by an amendment to Section 8 of the Electronic Communications Act 2000 – on 31 March 2003 if my memory serves me correctly.

      Thanks

      Chris

  9. As the director of a small architectural practice, we have some real bugbears with the present planning and building regulation systems.
    1. The standard of drawings that is accepted by the planners. We work in autocad and present drawings to scale, coloured and detailled to what we feel is a standard that pleases the client and is presentable to the LPA. When we quote for work and never hear from the potential client, the practice secretary researches the applications website and looks at the applications for lost jobs. We fine that “Bert the plan basher” or the owner have submitted plans that are scruffy hand drawn on gridded paper, are not to scale and then get approval.
    2.The same drawings are then used for building regulations with the note “All work to be carried out in accordance with the building regulations”. The work is carried out on a notice. I am not talking of a porch, but two storey extensions.
    Obviously this is damaging to a small practice such as ours. Firstly LPA’s should not accept poor quality drawings, but simply return the application as invalid. Secondly, the building notice method should be scrapped apart from small works and applications made for anything larger than 3m2. This would mean that work would have to be carried out by trained professionals, who provide a full service to clients.

    • Angus Bearn permalink

      Hi, Bob, I’m afraid I disagree. The planning process should be as accessible by Joe Public as possible. Many applications are granted (or refused) intuitively or for political reasons anyway, and a professional drawing would be guilding the lily in those cases. For the rest of the time, we all know that an expert architect will give us the best possible chance of success, so we’re happy to pay. The councillors often have no building or design experience (and sometimes jibber away nonsensically). It is a bit much to insist the drawings are professional, when the people who determine the application are not. Each to their own.
      On the subject of building regulations, there is so much cheating, site visits are essential. That tends to diminish the requirements for precision in drawings – provided standards are maintained by Building Control Officers.

  10. Beverley Woolston permalink

    As a local authority user when we receive an application submitted via the Planning Portal we have to manually alter:-
    move the details in the Company Name Box for both applicant and agent and to the Applicant Name Box.
    move the Planning Portal No from the Alt Ref Box to the App Ref Box
    edit the address for the agent and applicant and remove “UK”
    alter any entries made in block capitals to normal text
    enter the UPRN number.
    How do other authorities deal with these issues?

    • Scott Alford, Head of LPA Engagement, Planning Portal permalink

      When a customer submits an online application, the information entered in the application form is retrieved by the 1APP connector and mapped into your planning back-office system. It would appear that the information which is not populating the correct fields (in the back-office) is due to the mapping of information and can be resolved by your ICT supplier.

      The amount of information retrieved by the back-office suppliers varies but everything entered on the forms is available to be collected. Some suppliers capture core information as specified by the LPA, while others capture everything.

      For each application, the application service will try to identify the UPRN for the site address by mapping it to NLPG data. For the majority of applications this is matched and the UPRN is communicated via the 1APP connectors.

      As part of our 1APP improvement project last year we made a change to the site address information which was previously being sent to LPAs in capitals but is now being passed through with correct case. However, all other information entered onto the application forms is communicated to the LPA in the case that the applicant entered it. Therefore we always recommend to applicants that they provide information in sentence case.

      I can also confirm that when customers register to submit applications they are asked to provide their address. If completed the ‘country’ field defaults to ‘UK’ and the details are automatically transferred onto the forms. If its not completed the forms are not pre-populated with the user’s address details.

      If you would like any further assistance from us, please contact our Support Desk – support@planningportal.gsi.gov.uk.

  11. David Parry permalink

    Dear Chris,
    Could I flag up something that seems to be a technical glitch, I’m not sure if it is with the Portal or your postcode identification system.

    I have had 2 recent instances where postcode searches have ‘prevented’ proper registrations of applications, one of which was not picked up by the LA for some time and caused over a month of delay, as they initially validated the application, then de-validated it, saying the address was incorrect.

    The issue concerns applications on developments where there is a small mews or group of cottages which appear on the postcode search with both numbers and the mews or Cottage name on the first line of the address. The second line of the address is the name of the more significant road in which the cottages or mews are located. When typing in the address and the postcode the selection box in one instance came up with just Bernards Heath Mews (no number),listed twice, and in the second instance did actually identify both 1 and 2 Dykes Cottages separately, however, in both circumstances when selecting the address, the number did not appear on the form. Even when we typed in the number in manually it subsequently disappeared from the form on submission.

    I am sure we are not alone in experiencing this problem and feel that, if such difficulties are not easily ironed out in the search facility, it should be made somewhat easier to “manually” alter the address on the application form without the tendency to auto correct to an incorrect address which seems currently prevalent.

    I hope you can help with this.

    • David,
      I’ve passed your comment on to our support team who will be in touch with you shortly.

  12. Chris,

    Do you or your technical team have any plans to implement batch upload of documents? The current process of one-by-one uploads is pretty painful.

    Have a look at the NHBC Extranet for a reasonably good implementation of batch upload. The documents need to be named in a certain way, with hyphens separating the ‘fields’ in the file name. The documents can then file themselves in the correct folder, with the correct name, revision etc.

    Now that we’re all heading towards BIM, and we’re all naming our drawings using the 7 fields identified in PAS1192, this should be simple to implement.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Chris. Yes we know that this would be useful for many. It’s definitely one for us to look at with the next site upgrade. Sarah

  13. Natasha permalink

    Hi Chris

    As Planning Agents we have been using the planning portal for all our applications and it has been successful in achieving faster validations.

    There is however, a small but significant factor when sending through an application that has been amended to the LPA. Once an amended document has been uploaded and specified in the Document Comments the entire application gets resent to the LPA who in turn will contact us to email the revisions over as it is not made clear from their end what amendments have been made.

    Would it be possible to look into a way to indicate to the LPA which document(s) have been amended?

    I am not sure what the LPA can see or not see once the application reaches them but maybe if they can see Document Type could I suggest that ‘Revised Document’ or something similar be incorporated for ease of reference.

    Regards
    Natasha

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Natasha
      Thank you for your comments and your continuing support. This is certainly on our wish list for improvements and we know that it would be popular with LPAs and agents alike! We’ll give you a further update as soon as everything becomes clearer here.
      Sarah

  14. John George permalink

    Dear Portal Director

    I regularly view the portal and it is an invaluable resource to me.
    I wonder however if it could be made more clear whether planning changes that occur affect either England or Wales. As an example in the most recent blog the requirement for compliance with the code for sustainable homes was announced to be ceasing, whereas it has ceased in Wales for many months now.

    Thanks again for an excellent blog.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Many thanks for the feedback John. Sarah

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