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Planning & Building Control – crossing the divide

by on May 27, 2009

As any of you who have read our Business plan will no doubt already know (what do you mean you haven’t!) we would like to do for BC what we’ve tried to do for DC. I hope you will have noticed the integration of Building regs within the Interactive House and the fact that you can download all the approved Docs for nothing as a start.

However we hear regularly from agents that we should do more than we are doing and we talk often with the good folks at LABC, Submitaplan and others about developing things further.

Before we make our next steps though I’d like to invite your feedback on where you feel we can best add value or indeed where we should leave well alone.

From → Building Control

  1. Enterprise Planning Services permalink

    A welcome initiative.

    Some reservations however with “crossing the divide’ – just hope it will not encourage unqualified and inexperienced planners referring to matters which are strictly building Regulations requirments and which should have no bearing on the outcome of planning decision.

    Here may not be the most appropriate place to raise such issues but I recently had a refusal for a residential development due to the case officer believing wrongly that the proposal did not comply with Building Regulations Part B requirements for Fire Appliance access.

    Bob Griffiths

    • David Poole permalink

      As a practicing architect my feeling is strongly in favour of keeping building control and planning seperate.

      The Building regulations are becoming increasingly complex and even full time experienced Inspectors seem to be struggling to keep up with the changes (as do we architects).

      The planners have enough of their own planning changes and government decrees to cope with already and I can see no way that they or the inspectors are going to cope with assimilating the complexities of the others disciplin.

      Its a truly ridiculous idea which could only be suggested by someone who has no idea of how difficult it already is to keep up with the constant stream of legislation and change emminating from government. (or the EU)

      • PortalDirector permalink

        Sorry, I should have been clearer.
        I’m not proposing amalgamating the two disciplines but simply e-enabling some processes where it would add value and provide some tools and services as we have for planning.

      • John Holliday permalink

        Therin lies the very problem!

    • John Holliday permalink

      Absolutely agree with this problem of Planners (and conservation officers) overstepping their remit; I myself come accross it quite regularly and it usually costs us time & money.

      However it is also the case that the two disciplines contradict each other – also wasting time & fee. Could there be a case to amalagamate the processes into one ‘Building Permission’?

  2. Yes I like the idea of being able to submit Building Regs applications online as I can planning applications. PP works well for planning applications and a similar BR scheme would be good. But it should ‘work’ as well as PP usually does or else it will not be taken up.

    On a related note, I know that appeals can also us PP but the process is not as simple as planning applications. If BR applications were to be introduced please make it as easy as PP for planning. i.e do not make it as difficult as appeals. ( Can you make the interface for appeals as easy as planning please )

    We do however need the split between BR and planning as planning officers do not have the skills for making valid BR decisions and Vis-à-vis.

  3. Don Welburn permalink

    With the planning applications I submit they are checked for their correctness by an administrator who is not a planning officer and does not fully understand that the time they take by sending out a letter instead of emailing or telephoning for speed costs time and therefore money. I would hope that if BC & DC are combined that some better system could be implemented.
    At present I obtain planning permission first and then complete plans for the building regulations so that I am not wasting client’s money if the planning permission is not obtained. If both are combined I hope that these can be kept separate bearing this in mind.

    Don Welburn ICIOB

  4. Mark Stevenson permalink

    Good idea, I always recommend my clients work through Local Building Control as opposed to the expensive route of architect fees for BR Certification so anything which will help in this are will be welcomed; the LA’s do an excellent job in my view and this will further bolster their role especially now we are having to seek more cost control.

    Mark Stevenson

  5. In principle it makes sense breaking down back office silos, but keeping the two ‘specialist competencies’ separate. Enabling joint on line support from the Portal, accepting that back office systems such as GIS and EDRMS often have a shared data base with DC,is the reality. It is inevitable and already happening.

    The focus now needs to be on work flow and intelligent permission processing, supported by the increasingly complex back office systems to free up those specialists to continue to be proactive. The BC and DC officers deal with increasing complex legislation, and this means those disciplines cannot and must not merge, to do so would undermine build quality and create a ticking time bomb, buried in the future built environment.

    This closer working on a shared infrstructure would make compliance and monitoring conditions a higher priority. Pre-applications advice and going out and seeking regeneration opportiunities to meet LAA and MAA ambitions, closer partnership working across LPA boundaries need to be a priority.

    The Portal has a role in supporting that, especially as Killian Pretty will be focussing us more on back office re-engineering and ‘standards’ of process. And if we all explore open source software and the whole service orientated architecture debate, coupled with ‘Clouds’ taking it all up to a national centre? That potentially meets competitive barriers in software providers, but closer working is also driven in times of finacial difficulties, which is where we are today.

    And of course we can ask the question, how many LPA’s shared the PDG monies across DC AND BC in the past? Not many I suspect, and that is the real challenge, we need to recognise we are all fellow travellers.

    And CLG needs to recognise that PHDG money needs to be directed at allowing lots of closer working, bring consultees, agents and the wider place shaping community on board in both disciplines. And that means follow the money.

    Look at funding investment in the back office developments through Pendleton2. GIS developments in LPA’s dragged the wider corporate world down that road, funding work flow and EDRMS will do the same, pump prime the transformation agenda to give a faster processing regime. Free officer’s to do the profesional role they have on site and through remote working as the norm not the exception with the Portal core to that.

    The World class planning service, should be World Class Place Shaping Regulation. And we have the high quality people who can deliver this. We just need to invest in allowing them to transform it to meet the ambitions we all have. Easy Peasy?

  6. I feel that the planning portal process for submitting planning applications is very simple, clear and effective.

    It makes perfect sense that the building regulation application process is mirrored in the same easy to use format.

  7. Barry Brooks permalink

    Excellent idea!

    Obviously Building Regs. application process will be seperate from Planning Application but using the portal would mean familiarity with completion of data input.

    Take care when allocating to Authority as I am “Partnered” with one Authority who vets my plans wherever the job may be in the Country.

    Gathering appropriate information for relevant fees for each Authority would be a commplicated issue.

    As an aside could you add a “same as” button to the site/applicant address in the Planning form – its tedious having to write the same address twice?

  8. I am fully in support of electronic submissions both for planning and building control. Planning Portal works well for me and recently I have used Submit-a-plan for Builidng Regs applications. Only trouble with S-a-P appears to be making payment (although this may be a local authority problem with accepting credit card payment), otherwise it seems to work very well.

  9. After using the Portal since its introduction, it makes life much easier and more economic apart from the new tier of bureaucracy in the planning processing team. I do not know why they ask for telephone numbers or email addresses as they appear to only communicate by post I thought the portal was trying to reduce paper and postage! Thus speeding the process up and making it more efficient?

    I recently submitted an application to York City Council using a 1:500 location plan which was invalid because according to the ‘team’ was not in accordance with the regulations: it should be 1:1250 or 1:2500 scale? Why! Do regulations prefer a smaller scale, less detailed plan? Then I realised my client had to pay an additional fee for a sub-standard plan to York CC. I suppose it’s another way of extorting money from an unsuspecting public. Which delusional faceless illogical minority of bureaucrats dream up these regulations?

    I always wait until planning is obtained before an application for building control is made. I think the two applications should still remain separate

    I normally make an application by sending an email to the local building control administration department attaching pdf drawings and scanned local building regulation forms and a cheque in the post duly identifiable after the email is acknowledged by return receipt.

    It would be better to make the application through the Portal with standard forms and on-line payment facilities as it formalizes the application and keeps it separate. I have tried ‘submit-a-plan’ in the past but had to revert to the above system.

    However, please do not let it create a further tier of bureaucracy.

    Keith Jenkinson MSc MRICS MCIOB

  10. It is important to note there are options of providing Building Regulation approval (unlike planning). Perhaps an option when starting the registration of the application to choose the Approved Inspector route (with a drop down list of AI’s) could be the first screen.

    Perhaps also all of the LA’s would need to be an option as there are Partnerships which deal with all applications throughout England and Wales. E-commerce is evidently the way forward and the Electronic Communications Legislation supports the efficient and effective process via the Web.

    I also agree that the validity of the “application” is a key issue – there are some critical dates and timescales for legislation and there can be no doubt of submission dates.

  11. Ken Elener permalink

    I feel,there should be better integration of Planning & Building Control reference the E factor. However I think you should try to aspire to the Submit a Plan standard. Their system, in my experience, is more user friendly, quicker to use, easier to upload to.

    They appear to have researched requirements better. I find the portal somewhat of a chore for submissions with in particular the faffing about required when you only wish to submit one plan. Try it I suggest. I do use the Portal for all applications, whilst it takes longer to fill a form in than by hand the cost saving in materials is substantial.

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