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Building Control question

by on February 12, 2010

I’m in the throes of working up next year’s business plans and I’ve got to the question of Building Control.
I’m regularly berated for lack of forward movement on this front, so I thought that I’d seek your views.
Given that funds will be very tight next year, if there is only one thing we do on Building Control, what should it be?

  1. Dear Chris,

    In line with your plans to up the usage of the Portal, my suggestion would be to make the process even simpler for our agents and introduction of a true “1 App”, which would include not just a planning application but also a building regs one – which when downloded by us LAs was split into it’s component parts. This might help win over the few holdovers that we all have that are reluctant to switch to submit via the Planning Portal.

    Just my thoughts, hope it is helpful,

    Tracey Carter
    Technical Support Team Leader
    St Helens Metropolitan Borough Council/

    • Les permalink

      I suggest leave as is because:-

      1. Many private Building control companies exist.
      2. Many LB control Authorites combine together to compete against private sector.
      3. The private web sites are far better than the portal. Multi uploads. Better than many LPA’s B Control.
      4. Many new developments are rejected by LPA’s with no consultations hence no reason to submit B regs at the same time. Or even provide a link.
      5. The legislation is totally different.
      6. The portal will get too broad. It should stick to improving what it has got. It does not have the skills; knowledge base. It will costs small fortune. The portal has changed many times from new. From best intentions.
      7. The links to the Inspectorate should be prioritised first. Any new on this?
      8. The private sector are focused already. No competition.
      9. Google provides everything already.

      But again I may be mistaken.

  2. andrew cunningham permalink

    The system isn’t broken, so
    please do your best to not break
    it. Presently the old fashioned
    paper application requires a
    single A4 form. The new planning
    1 app is endless, I dread to see
    What streamlining you can do to
    the application form. Granted the
    submission on line saves time and
    money re drawings but over complicating
    application forms is a step backwords.

  3. Barry Flavin permalink

    Hi Chris,

    I would definately be interested in seeing you develop an on-line application submission package for B’Regs, as exists for Planning. It would be a good thing to promote a more joined up approach to working between Planning and Building Control as suggested in The Future of Building Control. Our Planners use the portal for submissions and it seems to integrate fairly well with our admin package. Having a portal to act as a one-stop-shop for regulatory services on a national basis would be great for our customers.

    Barry Flavin
    Head of Building Control and Land Charges

  4. Mark Wood permalink

    I agree with Tracey.

    To your average Joe Planning & Building Control our synonimous, so why not have a streamlined process that takes them through both parts of the system.

    Its tempting to add that it should start with the Interactive House. But there is a lot of work involved between finding out your need permission and actually being in a position to apply for it:
    – drawing up plans
    – talking to the Pre App Team at the LPA
    – maybe even choosing an Agent

  5. I agree with Andrew; the current B regs form is simple and needs to saty this way. The planning forms are far too long.

    I agree Building regulation submission should be online.

    I don’t agree in one application for both planning & Building Regulatons.
    1). We all know that not all Planning Applications are approved.
    2). Some projects which do get Planning Approval, are not built for various reasons.
    3). Does the client pay for Building Regulation drawings which are not used,a nd a waste of the architect’s time and the BCO’ time.

    We have partnered with our local authority (Vale of White Horse District Council) as LABC partners we have found the service to be very beneficial.

  6. Mark Ringshall permalink

    Considering funds are tight at the moment why not tie in the current Submit-a-plan website with the Panning Portal. It’s pretty simple to use and already up and running with the majority of councils signed upto it.

    I also agree that a combined Planning and Building Regulations Application form would be too complicated and could be a waste of time and money for achitects if Planning Permission is not granted. The current 1app for Planning is already lengthy and complicated, why make matters worse?

  7. Tom permalink


    That is exactly correct. Keeping Building Regulations and Planning application separate is necessary as they require different levels of work.

    Simply the fact that they fall under the same department of the LA is not enough justification for bringing them together.

    Next LPAs will be suggesting full drainage schemes being designed for the validation of a Planning Application…oh wait a minute…

  8. Mark Paflin permalink

    My recommendation is that the portal get into a proper constructive debate with LABC to take advantage of its role in representing the interests of Local Authority Building Control.

    Doing this would enable LABC (though its working groups and central staff) to have proper input into the process of developing online facilities through the portal.

    At present the question posed at the start of this thread seems to smack of the portal going it alone in trying to develop a business case without interacting with the pre-eminent body that represents local authority Buiding Control providers in the UK.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi Mark,
      I pose the question because far and away the most repeated question I and our RAMs face is “when are the Portal going to do Building Control online”
      Before going any further I genuinely wanted to open the debate.

      • Mark Paflin permalink

        So are you going to enter into constructive debate with LABC then, or are you going to ignore its existence?

      • PortalDirector permalink

        Hi Mark,
        I have met with LABC many times and the debate has always been constructive.
        Before wasting anyones time with more talking though, I need to establish whether there is a demand for the Portal to get involved from users of the system.
        Evidence so far is mixed.

  9. Our comments would be please, please, please do not go this way. If the service is anything like that from the current planning application system it will be disastrous. Submit-a-plan works fine, indeed much better than the planning portal and you should concentrate on improving the existing planning application system before embarking on any distracting alternatives.

    I write as one practice who regularly uses, but gets very frustrated with, the planning portal!

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi Chris,
      thanks for your comments.
      I’d appreciate more information on your issues with the application process.
      We are continually trying to improve it (as much as legislation will allow) and customer insight is our best guide.

  10. Mid Sussex District Council would wholeheartedly support a national facility to submit Building Regulations applications online via the Planning Portal.

  11. Mark Paflin permalink

    I am most reassured that you say you are engaging with LABC. This will obviously generate much more reliable information for you than relying on input from a self-selecting group of respondents.

    We are an authority who fully support submit-a-plan and receive a significant number of applications through it. General feedback from our clients indicates that submit-a-plan is better received by users than the portal’s Planning offering. I am also aware that some of the back office software providers have, or aspire to develop, their own offerings.

    Consequently I do not believe that expenditure on a Building Control offering by the portal (other than a link to submit-a-plan or integrate with it) will be money well spent.

    Perhaps a more useful approach would be to secure funding to enable LABC and Resolution to develop/improve submit-a-plan further and to fund a additional central resource to support LA’s in it’s implementation. Clearly LABC and Resolution would be the best people with which to talk this through.

  12. I support the view that there should be a dialogue with LABC, and that you should look to integrate Submit-a-Plan. Having said that, how do you deal with Approved Inspectors?

    The single biggest change that you can make though is to change the name of the Portal.

    I think its fair to say that refering to Building Regulations/Control under the “Planning” banner is Building Controls single biggest bug bare (and I refer you to CLG comments in the Future of Building Control Review). How much time and therefore money to do we all waste explaining the difference to customers? And no, I don’t believe one application is the solution for many of the reasons outlined in the thread.

    If the Portal is to reflect a joint content, then you need to respect the the role of Building Control and the portals name needs to change to eflect that identity.

  13. I would very much like to see an online solution for Building Control. The portal should be involved but what it must do in developing any system is to ensure it fully integrates with the various back office systems that exist. However, I would say that if budgets are limited you should deliver the integration that was promised with consultee access for planning. We were very keen to support that initiative but the integration has not been brought forward and the first phase solution is very clunky and would slow our process down. We are having to develop a work round system to overcome our concerns. Untill it can be proven that integration is possible for plannning (and is delivered) I would suggest there is a need to concentrate on completing that work first. Presumably that would then make a significant contribution to any future work to integrate back office systems with a Building Control Solution.

  14. Tom permalink

    I think it could be a “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Any link-up with Planning will have the Architects/Building Surveyors/Architectural Technicians I know palpitating!

  15. Andrew Windscheffel permalink

    I have spoken to the Building Control Manager and he believes like others, that we do not see the need for Building Control Applications to be submitted electronically through the Planning Portal. Especially when there is a perfectly good system running through Submit a Plan. Is it not possible to integrate Submit a Plan with the Planning Portal to save time and money.

  16. Andrew Savage permalink

    I think we can all agree that where the customer wants an electronic solution to submitting Building Regulation applications it must be both simple and straightforward for them to use. Therefore ‘as funds are very tight’ I would be concerned if it was proposed that the planning system was going to be cloned and then tweeked with. Previous suggestions regarding LABC/Submit-a-Plan may result in achieving more for the available funding. I believe we should be looking for a solution that is accessed through the ‘Planning Portal’ (please change that name) – is the same for agents to use all over the country and is inexpensive for the receiver (easy to import into existing back office systems, receive money, undertake consultations etc).
    Hope this helps.

  17. Hillingdon is interested in on-line Building Control submissions through the Portal. This would be a more joined up working practice with Planning and Building Control.

    The information inputted for Planning could also be used to populate the Building Control Application Forms making life easer for the submitter as it could very easily flow from Planning through to Building Control.

    Though I would add that the process needs to simple and not made over complicated. We currently do our own on-line Building Control and our customers find this easy to use and it the portal application forms are to complicated, then they will probably not take it up.

    The Portal needs to really think and consider how they will deal with the new fee structure that is currently being considered and to deal with each Authorities different fee scales.

    The Portal also needs to enter into discussions with all the Authorities and software companies before commencing on this project. Also as we are now reliant on the Planning Portal to discuss and implement an SLA between the Portal and Authorities so we all know what the Portal is delivering and making sure that any technical changes that the Portal are doing like IP Addresses changing are discussed and advised well before implementation or even if the Portal goes down for a period communication to Authorities and Software suppliers to keep us advised would be appreciated.

    It does need to be noted that there is already confusion caused by having Building Control information within the Planning Portal and to address this we would suggest that if this is the proposal that the title is changed from Planning Portal to ‘Planning & Building Control Portal’.

    Julie Prior
    Business Improvement Implementation Manager

    Ian Inniss
    Building Control & Local Land Charges Manager

  18. I believe that one application for all permissions is the way forward. Many applicants do not understand the difference and do not need to know. It needs to be made as simple as possible The planning Portal is the route for it given that it is now well established

  19. Greg Edmonds permalink

    I have read the question and comments so far. What is concerning is that work arounds are apparently still taking place with planning authorities to make the portal work for them.
    I only came to hear of this “consultation” via an email of the 15th February with something to be done by March. So I am afraid that is not long enough to gather eally meaningful input unless people who have already used the portal have been asked direct for their comments (Owners/agents/builders).
    It is also obvious that one size will not fit all as I can not see Approved Inspectors wanting to use a system “owned” by their competiors (ie submit-a -plan) even if they were allowed to and how many links would you want on the site anyway?
    Do Approved Inspectors actually want to use the portal?
    Why throw thousands of pounds at creating a system that may well not be used enough to justify the expenditure?

  20. Debbie Robinson permalink

    I think we need to start with the customer, we need to make things easy for them – only entering information once eg name and address, proposal details etc then use that data to populate the appropriate application forms, enabling applicants to submit planning and building control applications at different times or together.

    As someone that works on the front line for both building control and planning it seems clear that many people don’t know there’s a difference between planning permission and building regulations. A single repository for information and applications would seem to be a sensible way to go – and dare I say it a ‘joined up approach’ to development.

  21. Trevor Clements permalink

    As a Building Control Manager I would like to put my wholehearted support towards the development of a system for electronic submission via the Portal. I have used the Planning Application system and found it excellent from the perspective of the applicant.
    A similar system that is compatible with our BC software that (as Debbie says above) can conveniently be used in conjunction with Planning applications, would be extremely useful to us.
    Contrary to some of the responses suggesting the benefits of the ‘Submit a Plan’ system, my experience of this is very negative due to incompatibility issues and inadequate technical back up. I would like a viable alternative to assist me in the introduction of electronic document management.

  22. MR REZA SANEIE permalink

    I heard about this only recently through my planning colleauges. I would be very supportive of such a scheme as we in LABC have been long trying to develop our own systems. I have used submit a plan but have not had much joy from it and feel that a centralised system will be far more appropriate. I have tried in the past to design and implement our own systems but in many occasions this has been a frustrating and challenging experience; with little or no result.

    Reza Saaneie
    Head of South Worcestershire BC Partnership

  23. Bob McIver permalink

    As discussed in the Future of Building Control paper using the Planning Portal (albeit renamed) to accept Building Regulation applications as well as Planning application is clearly the way forward. This would open the way for a true 1App for smaller works. The Planning Portal already has some excellent Building Control content, but is not widely publicised due to the name. A rebrand as the Development portal would help resolve this and ease the whole process!

  24. John Burrell permalink

    I’m of the opinion that there should only be one solution and with most LA’s currently not being able to afford to have submit a plan why not intergrate this with the Planning Portal. Please work with LABC and Resolution using Government funding to make this happen.
    However if this is done then access to Building Control on the Portal should be seperate and direct.
    The application form should not expand from it’s current 2 pages ( as planning did) and it should not look any different whether applications are made direct to LA’s or through the Portal. I also agree that the name should be changed to Planning and Building Control – drop the portal.

  25. Jonathan Cornell permalink

    The CLG ‘Future of BC’ appears to be central to this in that it requires closer co-operation with Planning including e-enabled (electronic submissions). There are other providers, however, the doc talks about the Planning Portal as the main vehicle for this delivery (para 1.19). With the luanch of the ‘new’ Planning Portal in early 2010?
    It is acknowledged that not all construction requires PP & B Regs but providing a similar system MUST be benefical to clients/customers (even DIYers) particularly as the basic information required is the same – name, address, proposal etc.
    As one LA we have been waiting for the Portal to get ‘on board’ for this reason, however, if the pace is going to be that of a tortise then as a customer focused provider in a competitive environment who could receive up to 20% of their applications electronically backed by a mobile & risk assessed inspection system the choice is obvious. LABC promote LABCs and as I understand it a corporate response is pending. The Portal HAVE to be involved, whether as a facilitator/provider or both as that is what the CLG doc. is expecting, the question then, is, when and how?

  26. Downlands Design permalink

    It is so frustrating to have submitted a Planning Application electronically and then find you have to submit the B Regs on Paper.

    Most B Control officers do not even acknowledge that you have sent them an e-mail. They need to be dragged into the 21st Century.

    It needs to be a simple but uniform process. I don’t want to have to submit via different systems otherwise it becomes as fragmented as the paper system.

    The uniform Planning Portal approach needs to be carried through to B Regs please.

    Downlands Design

    • David Darlington permalink

      I think its a good point that there should be one point of contact for Building Regulation submissions, however I think you may find Building Control were the first to implement electronic submissions via Submit-a-Plan.

      Submit-a-plan has its faults (as does any ICT system), but then its not had any form of government funding, unlike the Planning Portal.

      Whats needed is an ICT industry standard for connectors and data transmission then we can have the common front end and know that it will connect to whatever back office system we want to use.

  27. Clive Milburn permalink

    Good we are having this debate and thanks for the opprtunity.

    LABC advocates the use of submit-a-plan as one of it’s professional partners. They get a fee from SaP for this continuing partnership so have a vested interest in it being continued, as well as being the sole provider, of on-line submissions under the Building Regulations.

    However, the take up from individual Authorities is quite frankly appalling! In my area I have tried 12 different Authorities and only 1 accepts online submissions from SaP.

    The planing portal offers an ideal format to make online submissions to all authorities with a national form (as designed by LABC Services).

    I do know that all Council’s fee charges are different and it would necessitate checking with each Authority its plan checking fee prior to amking the submission online. A possible solution to this would be for all Authorities to have the same plan fee charge (as used to be the case and agreed by the LGA) and set there own inspection charge which is invoiced at a later date to make up their own level of fees.

    E-government has been around for many years as an ideal but the lack of drive by individual Authoiries is now inexcusable.

    By the way – in terms of E-government – what is the point of the Planning Portal????

    I love it but lets face a massive fact – Its saves us agents on plan printing and hands it all over to the tax payer at a cost I estimate to be in the region of £10 million per year.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      I’m glad you are a Portal fan but I must answer your final point.
      Firstly the Portal wll cost the taxpayer about £5M this year, reducing considerably over the next few years as our revenues grow.
      That said we have conservatively calculated that we saved the taxpayer and business around £65M last year in direct costs.
      Secondly, it is important to remember that half of our users are members of the public who come to use the guidance and tools such as the interactive house.
      Finally, more than 65% of LPAs are fully integrated, meaning that an application submitted on the Portal is automatically transferred to the LPAs back office without intervention. Tokens are enabled within the application meaning every plan can be scaled online and the e-consultation Hub offers a means to transfer relevant application data to statutory consultees without printing anything.
      Hopefully everyone benefits, but itr does take a willingness to embrace change.

      • Clive Milburn permalink

        Dear Mr Director
        I did read your response a long time ago and thank you for reading my little rant at the time.
        I have been meaning to clarify one point which was my reference to how much the system costs each year.
        I did not mean this to be how much the Planning Portal costs to run….. I would again reiterate I believe it to be the best and most innovative system to come out of Local Government in a long time.
        My reference to costs relate to just how much it costs individual LA’s to print plans from the portal. Surely by now Councils should be viewing and distributing these plans electronically and not paying admin ladies to stand at printers all day.

        Hopefully then Building Control will follow suit and start taking electronic applications -which the majority still don’t unfortunately.

        Again many thanks for the excellent work on updating the site.

  28. It is important to remind all readers that there is an alternative to LABC and that is the Approved Inspector route. From my experience Approved Inspectors are fully capable of receiving applications electronically and as private organisations are more aligned with clients needs than local government. Clients that use one Approved Inspector for all their work across the country are saved from the headache of differing LA service delivery.

  29. somasunderam permalink

    Sir Barry Reid’s & Barry Flavin’s comments are similar and you have to take these steps to improve the LPAs by the works of coalition and try make more easy for local applicants to get through both Planning and B Reg in one single application, and also start a simulation process as to what is allowed and what not by using the CAD simulations before so much printing are wasted, Thanks

  30. A Ceschin permalink

    The problem is obviously that the fee for building regulations may be wasted or have to be refunded if planning is not approved . The client would also have paid out for detailed design .

    It could however work for domestic lawful developments.

    What would be useful is that BC inspectors knew more about planning and vice versa to give holistic advice.

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