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Printing correctly scaled PDF plans and drawings

by on July 21, 2011

We understand that some Local Planning Authorities (LPAs) are having difficulty with scaling PDF plans and drawings correctly when printing them and instead requesting paper copies of plans. 

If you are having these difficulties, please use our Guide to Correctly Scaling for print.  This problem is easily resolved and the guide will lead you through a simple process to overcome the issue and also includes advice on printing A1 plans on A3 paper – very useful for LPAs without easy access to an A1 plotter or printer.

It is also worth noting that all plans and drawings submitted online via the Planning Portal contain measuring tools that can help to avoid the need to print. Further details about these tools and when they are applied can be accessed Here.

Equally if you’re a Planning Agent and submit your applications online, the measuring tools are added to your plans and drawings which can be accessed by downloading a copy of your application from your Portal account. This can then be sent to your client for information.

If you continue to have difficulties and would like further assistance, please contact Scott Alford.

  1. ian hewitt permalink

    This is a great article………. if only to send to a significant number of LPA’s who just love to hide behind ‘we can’t print out your drawings to scale’ as a means to delay registration and unreasonably hold as invalid applications made in good faith and correctly!
    The sooner LPA’s have all their feeble excuses removed and begin to use the Portal as a means to speedy submission the better but currently, waiting up to three/four weeks for confirmation of validation is frankly ridiculous and contrary to the aims of the process.

    • Nigel Colins permalink

      As someone working for a LPA, the advice on printing to scale is nothing new. How about advice for agents on making sure that plans are correctly scaled in the first place, making sure north arrows are correct, and making sure that detail isn’t lost through unprintable margins.

      Printing plans costs LPAs a lot of money. A bit of checking by agents for schoolboy errors BEFORE they are submitted would save considerable public money in having to re-print the eventually corrected plans.

      • GRPA permalink

        @ Nigel – Your LPA is obviously one of the many that can handle the new discipline well, so the post/reply was obviously not aimed at yours.

        But in my view it all needed to be said for the minority of LPAs that still can’t/won’t cope.

        Likewise your point about agents handling the new disciplines well is also very relevant and timed – a significant minority on both sides still have much to learn!

  2. GRPA permalink

    Interesting post… I have had officers in London LPAs (no names, no pack drill!) printing down A3 PDFs to A4 using ‘scale to page’ (and then taking, and quoting, measurements off inaccurately) and even one occasion when incorrectly scaled drawings were sent to neighbours – one of whom was a jobbing architect and accused me via the council of either being unable to draw accurately or being deliberately misleading.

    The reason why us agents should always include both a scale bar and an explicit indication of scale expected on a defined page size (eg ‘1:50 on A3’).

    Onto your printing tips… not all printers have the fine-grained advanced print scaling settings and expecting people to change/reset non-default settings is problematic if constant switching is needed for different page sizes.

    I prefer to use the excellent free ‘PDF-XChange’ Viewer from Tracker Software – it is the only viewer I’ve found that has a custom page scaling for printing (so you could for example set a 71% scale for going down one A series page size – eg A2 to A3 – or a 50% scale for two A series page sizes eg A1 to A3). I have no idea why the market leading PDF viewers do not offer such a setting!

    Hope that all helps!

  3. Robert Dabell permalink

    Way to go PP ! It’s only taken 3 years to acknowledge this as a problem. I had an application refused in 2008 by an outer London borough – it was obvious from the refusal documentation that they had printed the drawings at an incorrect scale and then attempted to measure door widths to see if they were Part M compliant. I contacted PP and was told that the planning authorities are under no obligation to ensure that plans are printed at the correct scale. I had no option but to re-submit the application. Who can I bill for wasting my time and for the delay to the Client ? It seems that no-one is accountable.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi Robert,
      sorry you had problems but this isn’t the first time we’ve raised this issue, more of a reminder really.

  4. NED- Tech permalink

    Great advice, much appreciated.
    Another question, an agent has submitted plans to an LPA stating B1 sized paper as a recognised scale! Printer settings only contained B4, B5 & B6….would these plans be acceptable/recognised?

  5. NED- Tech permalink

    Re: my previous post

    i have B1-B4 on the plotter

  6. David permalink

    Who on earth scales off a drawing and expects it to be accurate?
    Surly we all have a standard note on our drawings “Do not scale this drawing. Work to written dimensions only”

    • GRPA permalink

      Well, I’ve had LPAs reject my plans for using exactly that wording. The reasoning was that it would give an excuse for inaccurately scaled drawings to slip through the net! The only drawings now that include that note are ones specifically for builders.

  7. Very interesting article pointing out the difficulties
    faced in this area. As an agent of mostly small developments, we
    find it preferable to have all of the drawing on an A1 sheet where
    possible. We feel this is also better when viewing the drawing on a
    screen rather than broken down into endless separate sheets. We
    have had instances where LPA’s will not register applications
    submitted online and request photocopies of the plans as they do
    not have A1 printing facilities. The sooner they learn how to scale
    a drawing for copying to A3 the better. Perhaps they should
    download the excellent PDF-Exchange as suggested by GRPA, Another
    problem we have found on a few occasions is when submitting amended
    plans via the PP, for example, when extra dimensional details are
    requested by the LPA. The LPA has not “noticed” that amended plans
    have been submitted, despite an acknowledgement of the
    re-submission by the PP.

  8. This comes as no surprise. It is common knowledge that PDFs’ are inaccurate.
    At agents meetings prior to online submissions, I suggested to some Councils that they adopt the DWF format as default. DWFs’ are more accurate as well as being lighter in file size so take up less storage space. The DWF viewer is free of charge from AutoDesk.
    AutoCad is the industry standard which makes it more practical for agents.
    I guess the Councils would rather pay for Adobe Acrobat than take a far simpler route.

    • I believe the problem is that LPAs need to bear in mind the ability of their citizens to subsequently view the files.

      Whilst DWF may be better for professionals would it not preclude the ordinary member of the public from viewing the drawings without downloading viewing software?

  9. Yes this is a good article although quite heavily PC based.

    Re the Baz comment I’m not sure that it’s correct to say PFDs are intrinsically inaccurate, I think it’s down to the ‘do not scale’ print option as the article highlights. If your CAD drawing is to scale then the PDF should be also.

    To anyone still struggling with PDF file size when making them it’s well worth making the PDF then going to File/Save As/ Reduced Size PDF. This option is on the Mac version of Acrobat Pro, not sure if it’s the same for PCs. If in doubt ‘Google’ it and someone will know!

  10. Mrs S Killman permalink

    Why do local authorities ask for 1:1250 scale plans from leaseholders when they confirm they hold these plans themselves? They seem to want so make life as expensive, bureaucratic and difficult as possible for applicants. Also, very difficult to upload all you supplementary evidence to the Portal particularly from an iPad, and lastly, planning speak needs to be put in plain English!

  11. Linda permalink

    Exactly the issue and also includes advice on printing ( hp support assistant) A1 plans on A3 paper very useful for LPAs without easy access to an A1 plotter or printer.

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