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Ten top tips for a good planning application

by on September 5, 2011

From agent and LPA feedback we have created a top 10 list of ‘what makes a good planning application’ to help speed the process along.

1.   Include a covering letter – If your application is a resubmission list details of any changes in the cover note.

2.   Check LPA validation checklist – adhere to the LPA’s application requirements checklist, a  link to these is provided when uploading your attachments.

3.   Optimise file sizes for online submission – to be readily accepted online by LPAs, document file sizes must be under 5mb. Click here for detailed guidance including how to compress file sizes.

4.   Preferred file format – the PDF format is preferred to simplify LPAs’ processing of documents. A PDF measuring tool is automatically added to all online plans and drawings sent via the Portal.

5.   Drawing size – where possible use A3 drawings and avoid multiple images on larger sizes.

6.   Plans and drawings – always date and include the original paper size, scale bar, at least one key dimension and North sign, where appropriate, on plans and drawings. This avoids the most common validation delays. Using the Planning Portal’s Buy a Plan service is the best way to ensure your plans conform to requirements.

7.   Drawing orientation – please ensure drawings are submitted correctly orientated. This avoids head tilted viewing of your docs on the LPA’s website.

8.   Document naming – clearly title each document to describe content, paper size, scale and your reference (e.g. Roof Plan/A3/1:1250/No.123456).

9.   Application fee payment – payment options supported by the LPA are displayed on the Portal. Where possible pay ‘online’.

10.  Reduce use of colour – please use hatching instead of colour; this greatly helps reduce file sizes.

Please note: Late afternoon submissions may be downloaded the next working day morning by the LPA.

I hope this helps with future applications.

  1. Dear Sir or Madam, in the “Add Document” section of the online application form, could a means for a zipped folder containing all drawings of the same file format (say PDF), and the same paper size (say A3) be included in your options, or at least an automated reference to the first document-size and format to open as each sequential file is posted?

    Also, I find in the “Applicant” details a pre-filled-out list of my details, and then a question at the bottom of the page asking whether I am the applicant or an agent for the applicant, which is all fine, but then on the “Agent” details page there are only blank spaces and nowhere to enter the client’s/applicant’s details. Would someone kindly advise me how to rectify those two pages so that they refer correctly to Applicant and Agent?

    Kind regards, Peter

  2. Comment about items 5 and 10:
    This amounts to dubbing down what architects and other professionals do in order to make it fit the LPA’s limited technical capabilities. That’s crazy. Let’s get the LPAs properly equipped and up to speed: they need

    1) High quality, high speed, A0 colour printers

    2) Maybe an increased planning fee to cover the considerable printing costs if the LPAs are to print out the drawings themselves – so much a drawing, per its particular size, would be reasonable. After all, if the LPA does the printing, the agents/applicants save the cost.

    3) Large screen monitors for Development Control officers

    But let no one believe that a drawing, or worse several drawings, can be properly understood by reviewing on screen**, albeit the larger the screen the better. It is essential to have printed drawings, and to have all of them laid out on the table so they can be cross referenced, studied together, to get a proper understanding of them.

    Few professional offices will want to prepare applications using A3 sized sheets and omit the use of colour. Why? Because producing ‘drawings’ at A3 requires a considerable amount of additional work: technical CAD difficulties of setting up drawings on different sheets and cross referencing them with other drawings; four title blocks compared with one for an A1 sheet; four lots of drawing numbers to register and keep tabs on. Madness. And the use of colour, and embedded colour photographs, makes for clarity. Concerning my own small office, such a move would take me back 16 years to a time before we had CAD capabiliites. The quality of what we do now is hugely improved over what it was then, and there is no way I want to go backwards.

    Frankly, if the LPAs are going to be so incapable of dealing with present technology, then I’d rather abandonthe planning portal system and revert to using the old method of sending in drawings by post.

    ** When we produce drawings, we tend to check them over and over ‘on-screen’, but as soon as we print them out we find umpteem obvious things which are simply overlooked when viewed ‘on-screen’. I don’t know why this is, but that’s the case. Lesson: one need the drawings printed out.

    And another thing: I sit as the RIBA member on a local Conervation Area Advisory Committee where we are subjected to the projection of very poor quality (by the time we see them) drawings, inevitably one at a time. Every month I’m half inclinded to resign becasue I feel I’m wasting my time by trying, and failing, properly to understand what it is I’m looking at. The LPAs just have to be brought up to speed by having good, modern, capable equipment.

    Derek Scoble, RIBA, Steyning, West Sussex

  3. PDFs can sometimes be large particularly if they contain photo images, to reduce open the PDF select File/ Save As/ Reduced Size PDF.

  4. It helps to use the latest version of Acrobat Pro, it comes as part of Adobe CS5, but you can search for free download on Google. we find this works well with Macs

  5. I would like to know why the requirements for planning application forms and fees vary between LPA’s in the same region. One would accept a domestic application form for a fee of £150.00 for the installation of solar panels, another identical application to a different LPA required a general form with a fee of £170 and third LPA with an identical application requested a different form again saying that Solar PV is plant and machinery with a fee of £335.00.(This LPA requested not to use the planning portal?)
    All sites are in the grounds of private residential properties. Yet another requested applying for a Cert of lawfulness, for permitted development rights. (I was told that the variation is due to the interpretation of what constitutes the curtilage of a domestic property.)
    Can you help to clarify the above? Many thanks Jim.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi James,
      as I understand it the installation of solar panels is usually Permitted Development and therefore doesn’t require planning permission unless the properities are listed or in a Conservation area or such. More info on the extent of PD can be found on our website.
      You only need a Certificate of Lawfulness if you feel you need to reassure your client of the legality of the development.
      I’d be interested to know which LPA requested you don’t use the Portal.

  6. I agree completely with the comments by Derek regarding plan size. I have just submitted a Householder Planning application with attached A1 pdf plans to London Borough of Camden. They have refused to register the application as they will not accept plans on A1 size and require me to submit the application by post or submit plans in A3 size.

    A1 plans are the best size for the contractor/developer and applicant and there is much less waste if everything can be confined to one sheet. It is extremely frustrating when Councils are unable to accommodate A1 plans.

Please give us your feedback but we won’t publish any comments that are not constructive or that criticise any individual, any named business or any local authority. Please note, all comments will be moderated before being published.

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