Skip to content

Validation – views from the other side?

by on November 8, 2011

I get a lot of correspondence from agents on the subject of validation. In particular on the apparent disparity between what they and citizens are expected to provide.

In the interest of balance, I thought I’d ask LPAs to join in the conversation by telling us of your personal bugbears, horror stories or just plain funny attempts to get permission.

Perhaps you could throw in some top tips, too.

Remember no names – my litigation budget isn’t what it was.

77 Comments
  1. Jenny permalink

    My biggest bug bear? the proposal and the plans not matching – yep, we will notice if you apply for a two storey side extension and on the plans include all those little extras you deem as PD such as roof lights and a conservatory! If you think it is PD then don’t include it on the plans.

    • John Atkins permalink

      Several (most?) LPAs around here suggest that including the PD items, on the application for what needs permission, is exactly what we should do. Approval then avoids the need for an LDC to “prove” it is PD. As an agent, that is our biggest problem – different LPAs all wanting things handled “their way” – and often being very rude/dismissive if we follow the routine asked for by a different LPA.

  2. Barry Mercer permalink

    As a designer of houses and the like I believe planning officers have too much authority over the detail of what is or what isn’t acceptable. They generally have no design training and decisions are entirely subjective. For example recently took on a project where client had purchased a site with an approved house design where it was required to modify the design. Planning officer’s response to proposal was that dormer windows and asymetric roof weren’t acceptable despite the fact that 2 ancient neighbours benefitted from such. She had to eat humble pie when it was pointed out that the previously approved design had such a roof. Different case officer of course lately retired. But the dormer windows had to go resulting in a complete re-plan of the upper floors. Questioned later as to why such windows were not acceptable – they would have provided direct views over open parkland the response was that they made the house too distinctive. Where does one find mention of such in planning law? It’s a hopeless state of affairs.

  3. Ex DC team leader, one-time Non Salaried Inspector and Consultant. Seen most sides of this. I work predominantly in Wales with (nowadays) slightly differing validation requirements (any more) to England. Ive seen many crap applications in my time and have sympathy for LPA’s and pressures it faces to be consistent, thus risk averse, mindful of ombudsman and JR etc.

    My main concern is rigidity/inflexibility and increasing use of (national?) policy docs to require information not required by statute and consequences of not providing them.

    Imagine a scenario (not genuine but very real possibility).

    Land within a settlement, PDL potential for a couple of plots. 5yr land supply shortage. Site in defended floodplain (Flood Risk Assessment required), but then so is entire coastal zone of LPA. Inland area is AONB. We all know development will take place on coast. Lets further confuse it as site is mainly hardstanding but records of Great Crested Newts nearby. Client (a young couple living in a social house couple with child left grandma’s dilapidated bungalow) aghast when advised they need FRA and protected species reports. Minimum £3k + cost and as they’ve just missed the surveying season because granny inconveniently died at the wrong time have to wait until next spring to begin.

    Client is now potentially quite asset rich but very cash poor.

    Setting aside resolvable flood risk and species reporting the key issue is site configuration and principles of urban infill and/or character of development in relationship to neighbours. A recent appeal confirms the highway fine to accommodate modest housing growth but County Highways Officer (who didn’t give evidence at the appeal because hes the only one left and hasn’t got time recommending (again) some minor re-alignment, but you have (uncontested) highways evidence (from the recent appeal) to say its not required.

    Client needs certainty on infill principle and access before committing to other technical reporting costs. Without FRA and Species report I doubt any LPA in England or Wales would validate an application. No point in appealing to PINS after 8 weeks

    There used to be a very useful form of application called “outline’ that enabled principles to be resolved (especially at this small scale). I wonder thus if its time to re-examine some form of ‘without prejudice’ hybrid/outline application.

    I’ve deliberately provoked to raise as many questions as answers, but its certainly not uncommon. .Im aiming to show than a joint and flexible approach could result in problem resolution resulting in acceptable development proceeding but the costs of inflexibility are such that risk too high. Not all clients are large corporations with deep pockets but so many are Mr/s Public locked out of the process.

  4. Thank you for bringing this up. We are continually having problems with invalid applications, due to Agents not refering to our Local list. Maybe this could be made clearer on your website? Our main problems we have are the following, Sustainability and Biodiversity check lists missing when required and on the plans/drawings the horizonal and vertical scale bars omitted, No paper size entered and the words ‘Do not scale’ entered on plans.

    • Planning officers seem to think that all they have to do is issue a list which has been produced without consultation with those submitting applications and as a general guide and has to cover all types and sizes of applications & applicants are then at fault in not providing everything on the list. Just a few years ago the planning officer would simply pick up the phone if there was something he or she required, this would then be submitted a couple of days later. We don’t need lists, we need a proactive service

      • John permalink

        Hi J Rowland. As a planning officer I can confirm that we still have to do alot of picking up the phone and asking for things! But as we are increasingly being asked to deal with more issues and review more information, and all more quickly with less staff, I don’t think that it is remotely unreasonable to expect that agents visit an LPA’s website before submitting an app to do a quick search for validation requirements and make sure that they provide all the necessary information. Agents, after all, can charge that extra 15mins to their clients whereas the time taken by LPA staff (and printing and stamps etc) all has to come out of our fixed fee. This is not supposed to be a provocative response, just an explanation from the LPA side…

    • By the way, you need to include ‘do not scale’ for legal reasons becuase if the building ever gets built it is essentail to ensure that it is built to stated dimensions.

  5. Barry Mercer permalink

    Well said John Atkins. We too have the same problem. Sometimes think the LPA officers make it up as they go along.

  6. Bryan Cadman permalink

    The validation process is a significant consumer of resources and we currently run at just under 70% of applcations validated first time. Some agents have close to 100% sucess rate, but others (too many others?) are at the other end of the scale. Our record is one application needing 5 requests for further information/clarification before getting registered. Biggest reasons for failures are inaccurate/missing plans, no fee/wrong fee, incorrect/incomplete forms and missing documents. We encourage the use of a check sheet based on local and national requirements, but very little take up of this. We are happy to arrange ‘how to’ training sessions and are now looking at whether an accredited or fast track agents scheme might help. Also happy to look at other suggestions.

  7. I’d say (as an agent) add a national validation requirement for ‘quality of plans’: “The use of crayons or lack of a ruler will invalidate your application”.

    There. I’ve said it.

  8. Nigel Scollin permalink

    A personal bugbear is agents who fail to understand that just because a site is in a Conservation Area, it doesn’t mean that the development needs Conservation Area Consent!

    • John Holliday permalink

      Ah yes, but there’s a problem during the online submission… a few times I’ve made a planning application (knowing full well that conservation area consent isn’t needed). The next thing I know, a few weeks later I receive a letter (or snotty phone call) stating that I don’t need conservation area consent (which I never actually applied for) and ‘will I please stop wasting time’… seems to me that the portal automatically submits for conservation area consent even when it’s not needed!

      • Hi John, I know that selecting the Full Application app *used* to result in the Conservation Area option being selected by default but we fixed this. If this has happened recently, please let me know and I’ll ask our service desk to look into it and/or contact you.

  9. David Cook permalink

    Can I support Pete Lloyd’s comments. As an architect doing a large number of small projects I have regular requirement for the principle of development to be established. The planning system does not allow this nowadays.

    In this part of the world we have an LPA which has a layer on their mapping which incicates bat risk. This layer is not available to the public. So before we submit we have to GUESS whether the property is in the bat protection zone.

    I could also query why the planning system is being used to protect a species which is protected by other legislation. perhaps we can look forward to the enforcement of all legislation through the planning process including speed limits on highways adjacent to the development!!

    • As an ecologist who carries out bat surveys to accompany planning applications I am very familiar with David’s points. I have some sympathy about the problem of knowing when or if a bat survey will be required. Given that bat protection is the same across England, it has always been something of a mystery as to why survey requirements are not determined nationally rather than locally. Whilst the species of bats vary across the country, the range of activities likely to impact on them is fairly standard. In defence of the LPAs there is a duty to only request surveys where there is a reasonable risk that bats may be present and affected, so those that use a bat risk layer are trying to minimize the number of survey requests by its use, rather than to make life difficult. As I say, a straightforward national list of the types of work that require a survey would seem easiest for everyone.

      With regard to David’s second point, the issue here is that bats are uniquely vulnerable to activities that may be permitted or otherwise under the planning system. A large proportion of roosts are in buildings and other structures that may be demolished or altered in ways that could eliminate or kill bats. Bat roosts are protected under legislation from whoever might impact on them. Granting planning permission for (say) demolition or alterations without knowing whether bats are present, could therefore be a breach of legislation. It cannot be assumed that the applicant will check for bats or take the correct steps to ensure they ate protected because of (a) lack of awareness about what to look for and (b) self interest in wanting to carry out their proposals. I have carried out more than 5000 surveys over the years – in all but two cases my client has assured me that bats are not present, yet my surveys have found roosts on hundreds of occasions.

  10. Richard Cawley permalink

    The main problem with LPA’s is the lack of commericality and any realisation that delays caused by their slow and poor serivice, caused applicants time and a lot of money.

    One LPA in my area changed its computer system with applicantions just sitting in the ether for two or three weeks before being validated. This results in clients jumping on their architect, who appears to be a lax as the council.

    If an LPA cannot register and upload an application within 5 working days, then the applicant should have a 1/3 refund, 10 working days a 2/3 refund and 15 working days a full refund of the planning fee. This should make an LPA act in a more commercial manner.

    LPA should also be fined by the govenment if they drag out an application for many months. I had one application for a single dwelling took an LPA 12 months to approve after an appeal.

    • Ludyper permalink

      This post shows no appreciation for the significant amount of LPA time wasted by needy agents/Applicants phoning and emailing LPAs rather than letting the LPAs officers get on with the work. EVERY phonecall and EVERY email slows the process down, and your flat fee for the application doesn’t cover the time you waste contacting LPAs…

      • Richard Cawley permalink

        I would have thought that contacting an LPA with a query via phone or email is part of the LPA “service”

        As an architectural practice of 30 years standing then it is part of our service to clients to contact the LPA and resolve issues that could delay/invalidate an application. I do not consider that requesting clarification of a planning issue is wasting an LPA officiers time, To suggest that it is wasting an officiers is an arrogant point to take when applicants pay the fee that pays your salary!

      • Steve Harwood permalink

        I do somewhat agree with Ludyper in that we do get a large volume of calls and emails that take time away from dealing with applications for example I had someone wanting to talk about an application they will be putting in next year ‘2013’ and as for the point about paying back money for delays in dealing with an application can the LPA charge extra when time is wasted when we need to request the information that is either a national or local requirement and has been for 2-3 years or more and is published on websites as it takes me longer to deal with an invalid application than a valid one specially as sometimes I need to explain to a member of the public who is not using an agent why their application is not valid plus can we ‘bill’ for these calls like agents can?

  11. Alex Bullock permalink

    Having now worked on both sides of the fence, it is completely unfair to lay the blame wholly with LA planners.

    There are far too many “agents” that completely ignore opportunities for free pre-application discussion or have the pre-app then choose to ignore advice given.

    Many simply cannot draw their proposals correctly, often failing to show that the house they are building is on slope rather than the flat topography they show.

    Next, is their inability, for non householder applications, to include within the red line access to the public highway!

    This is followed by a complete lack of understanding what should be included within a Design and Access Statement and complete failure to actually discuss design treatments whatsoever!

    The list is endless.

    • Richard Cawley permalink

      Alex The pre-application is no longer free.

      I the past I have been able to email a drawing to an LPA and expect a response from a planning officier, but now there is a charge for this service.

      What is the difference for a face to face as opposed to emailing a drawing and then speaking to a planning officier?

      I carry out planning applications over a wide area so simply calling into the planning office to see the duty officier isn’t that simple.

      • Alex Bullock permalink

        Richard,

        Not all LA’s charge for pre-app. Whilst LA’s are entitled to do so, not all do. Mine for example does not! We also offer a free Do I Need Planning Permission service.

      • Steve Harwood permalink

        We don’t charge for householder applications meetings with an officer at present or for the ‘do I need planning permission’ written service and only charge a reasonable fee for a meeting with an officer just like you would pay for a metting with a solicitor or accountant.

  12. Michael Hayes permalink

    The obvious answer is to scrap local validation. There is no genuine justification for it. Take Greater London and the boroughs surrounding the M25 for example: a suburban street in any of those LPAs is indistinguishable from any other. So why are those 50 plus LPAs each claiming that they need to impose a “special” layer of widely differing validation bureaucracy? Furthermore, are the streets and buildings in those boroughs really so radically different from those in most other towns and cities across the entire country that validation could not be standardised?

    LPAs have hijacked the validation process and are imposing unreasonable requirements merely because they have the power to do so not because they really need to. What is required is a clear cut national validation process that acknowledges the very small number of genuine variations between rural and urban areas because local validation has degenerated into a farcical postcode lottery.

  13. For agents the fact that Supplementary Planning Guidance differs between LPAs is a nightmare. But even then there are numerous areas where a screening exercise is required before the actual validation requirements can be established. And even after that the LPA can change it’s mind and not validate. We can give our clients NO assurance that validation will take place, even after we have scrupulously observed the checklists.

    And then there is no time limit on validation – it has taken months in some instances. Some LPAs delay validation as a means of ensuring they do not incur penalties for late decisions. In one case I delat with validation took months because of mistakes by the LPA. It took the threat of the Ombudsman to get them to move and acknowledge their mistake. But the application still took way over time!

    And it has been a cause of frustration that drawings which are totally inadequate have in the past been accepted and validated because the applicant is doing it themselves – agents would never be allowed to get away with such work.

    Ban SPG and put adequate fines on LPAs for delaying validation. And ensure there is one law for the agent and the general public.

  14. Re Alex Bullock’s comments

    I too have been on both sides of the fence.

    Agents who show a flat site when it is nothing of the kind are incompetent and should not get any work. But I have seen planning officers who can’t read plans or envisage a 3D entity from those plans. If they can’t do that they are not competent to adjudge the application, any more than an agent who can’t design in 3D is competent.

    And my experience is that planning committees are likewise not competent largely to adjudge matters of design (many councillors I dealt with couldn’t read a plan).

    Raise the standards. Applications only from competent agents. Adjuged only by competent officers.

  15. Currently 80 applications are invalid 55 of which were received from agents, 25 from applicants. Over 50% of agent applications are invalid because no fee has been paid or insufficient fee has been paid compared with only 20% of applicant applications.
    Agents (applicants)
    30% proposed works are not clear or plans/elevations/reports do not match (40%)
    18% no critical dimensions (12%)
    17% Plans state Do NOT Scale(4%)
    17% No block plan (16%)
    5% No site Plan (36%)
    9% No flood risk assessment (4%)
    18% No archeaological assessment (4%)
    8% No D & A assessment (8%)
    2% No ecological survey/report (0)
    5% Ownership Certificates not completed (24%)
    2% agricultural certificates not completed (0)
    5% Forms incomplete (12%)

    One agent has refused to give the applicant’s name
    It must be noted that the rate of invalid applications has recently dropped, this appears to coincide with our new validation check list which has been adopted by nine local authorities in the area. If only all agents and applicants used the check list and information available on web sites to gather the required information and site constraints, the rate of invalid applications could be minimal and the registration process speedier.

    • Mick, interesting stats although a significant proportion of invalidations seem to arise from the creep of non-statutory – ie local requirements and lets be honest we all occasionally miss a box out or forget to tick a section of the form. to err is human and all that… .

      I love the portal for its standardisation of things (although it has a number of other minor things that irritate the hell out of me).

      Whats the issue with do not scale and why is that a validation consideration – especially where you have critical dimensions? We all know print skews sizes. If you want to scale badly printed drawings be my guest but dont blame the agent if you get it wrong. How often do A3’s get printed at A4 or vice versa? Do not scale seems pretty wise to me (and arises of course from the construction side where very precise dimensions needed for setting out and coursing etc). As as we move increasingly to electronic means of viewing drawings and augmented reality scenarios, plan scale may be less relevant than dimensions.

      Want to know about the LA who refused to validate because promap 1.1250 site plan incorrect and held an application invalid for over 2 weeks? Topo, site plan, floor plans all printed using plotter. Site plan issued via portal but they use a different printer for A4.. After checking line length of promap and scaling in the office, all the hard copy plots at my end tallied. Why? No idea. I had to drive a 65 mile round trip with a scale rule and my own copies to secure validation. The issue was that the A4 printer had been set to 106%. LA couldn’t correct it until IT came and changed the printer setting.

      Ok a really bad example and VERY rare, but true.

      Im not validation bashing by the way, but id simply say, no two sites are the same, and adopting a standard approach reduces things to number crunching. Thats where our professional judgement – assessing how best to deal with an application is just as important and is overlooked by box ticking.

      Pick up the phone, talk to us… some of us are human, have local knowledge and can communicate to get things done.

      • PortalDirector permalink

        Hi Pete,
        thanks for the supportive words re the Portal.
        I’m willing to bety that my list of things that irritate the hell out of me about the Portal is longer than yours.
        Unfortunately like just about everyone else in the public sector we must fight for every penny. Its a tough fight and we’re tenacious but we haven’t won the battle yet.

      • Pete
        Do not scale has arisen from an enforcement case where the Inspector did not accept the scaled measurements being used because the plans had this statement. We therefore require all applications that have such a statement to be either removed or written confirmation that they can be scaled for planning purposes. This only appears to be reasonable otherwise the plans would have to have every line dimensioned which is unrealistic.

        I also understand that mistakes do occur and these are on both sides, we also have stated to all staff in the nine authorities to use their discretion in applying the local list, which has been formally adopted and is therefore statutory, but agents and applicants can assist us in explaining why they consider the requirement is not necessary. As you state communication is simple and we are willing to look at any of our procedures to try to improve the service we provide.

    • Clive Milburn permalink

      Mr Morley
      In reference to 50% of applications being invalid due to lack of fee, I get this a lot. Usually because I submit my application via the Portal and use the portal reference number to cross reference the cheque which gets posted the same day. In the day or 2 that it takes the cheque to get to the Council I get an invalid letter with this as the only point.
      Having ticked the box on the portal to say I will be paying by cheque could a little more leeway be given to allow for posting.

  16. Graham Townsend permalink

    My bugbear is inconsistent attitudes. The same agent who when representing a client in an enforcement appeal complains that a building that is perfectly clearly identified on the plan is not shown accurately to scale, but then in another case gets shirty when it’s pointed out to him that a drawing claimed to be to a scale isn’t, saying we should be able to ‘work it out ourselves’ from the little scale bar in the corner of a badly photocopied map.

    The point of validation requirements should be to enable the LPA to issue consents (or reasons for refusal) that are fit for purpose.

    All LPAs are overstretched, most agents recognise this and try to work sensibly with their LPAs to arrive at a solution that will deliver good development. A small unscrupolous minority of agents wage a relentless campaign of complaint against LPAs.

    Agents who work with LPAs to ensure their applications are as good as they can be, should be assisted by officers through helpful and constructive advice, rather than bureaucratic obstruction. Agents who won’t listen should have their applications determined as submitted and not be allowed to try and correct their howling errors during the appeal process.

  17. Here’s a good one, received today: “We need a statement describing what the proposed solar photovoltaic panels will be used for”

    Hmm…

    • Richard Cawley permalink

      I can match that one Kenny! On a site plan I located a area for ground source heat pump coils, mainly as the client had requested the said area. The site plan was being used for a ground investigation as well. LPA requested a drawing if the GSHP coils Planning officier didn’t understand that they are buried

      Oh Well

  18. Nigel Tedder Go Planning Ltd
    Never thought I would post a comment hey ho
    My biggest concern is the time delay if for wahtever reason you
    the agent has not crossed all the t,s and dotted and the i,s for the
    LPA to contact you and allow a simple mistake to be rectified and the
    submission duly validated

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi Nigel.
      welcome to the blogosphere.

  19. nish kumar permalink

    Hi everyone,

    I just wanted to have your take one openness of the green belt, and your definitons to it. We recently applied to permmisson to convert a hotel into a bigger hotel to make it feasable,but the LPA decided not to deffer the decison so that further highway reports and the protected trees reports could be handed to them even though our archtecs and planning consultants state they did on time but the LPA didnot respond so we were refused the permission. They state there would be harm to the openness of the geen belt but our development was below ground where the openness would not be affected at ground level, only if you were flying in a plane would you see the subteran development. With it refusing the permission its lost the site and the communite areound 500 jobs from start to finish and about 300 if the hotel got up and running. At a time when jobs and development are crucial to sustain the economy its it time planners actually thought out side the box.

    nishkumar

  20. Alex Bullock permalink

    Let us not forget that the Local Validation Checklist is a tick box exercise and cannot on the whole assess the quality of the information provided. e.g. an agent can submit a Planning Statement and therefore satisfy a requirement on the LVC but it can be so poorly constructed that it is in reality not worth the paper it is written on.

    Too many profess to be planning agents but offer up tripe, that it makes the job of LA planners all the more complicated to determine the application within the allocated time frame. As someone else notes there should be some form of quality control on the abilities of agents which would inturn guide an applicant to an agent who was worth paying or having to pay a fair price!

  21. Martin Goodall permalink

    What these various comments show (and what my own professional experience confirms) is that there is an urgent need to do away with all the nonsense of ‘validation’, by scrapping the requirement for D&A Statements, abolishing national and local validation checklists and restoring the right of appeal in respect of non-determination of an application where an LPA is asking unreasonably for information they don’t need. [As a result of amendments to primary and subordinate legislation, there is no longer a right to appeal under s.78 where the application has not been ‘validated’ by the LPA; so the unreasonableness of the LPA in refusing to process an application which they allege is ‘incomplete’ cannot now be independently tested.]

    The government is currently consulting on procedural reforms to speed up the planning process. The changes outlined above would go a long way to tackle the frustration and annoyance which applicants and their agents currently suffer at the hands of LPAs. It is undoubtedly a major factor in the complaints about the planning system which are currently excercising the government’s concern.

  22. Emma permalink

    We as a local authority have worked with our agents to try and reduce the number of requirements on the local lists. We have also created a checklist so that agents have something to refer to as a double check – yet still the majority of applications we receive are invalid. We do ring the agent or email them if we can and often its resolved the same day which helps. However, the amount of invalid applications received has resulted in a backlog of validation because it takes so long to sort the invalid applications out and often we find we are dealing with them two or three times over. Please refer to the local lists and please ring us if you are unsure and please use the checklist – It will help!!!

    • Steve Harwood permalink

      I totally agree Emma with what you said as it takes so much longer dealing with invalid applications with some needing several revisits before you get a valid application with these one’s also taking precious time in answering calls and emails as to why we need something as we are just “doing it to annoy them” as they often apply!

  23. PortalDirector permalink

    Folks,
    I have had to decline one or two comments that were a little intemperate.
    I do understand the frustrations on both sides of this argument and hope in my own small way to help foster a dialogue that might lead to some insight and understanding.
    I’m also keen to see if there is any way the Portal can assist.
    Keep the comment coming but please try and keep it constructive if at all possible.

  24. Dave permalink

    My main critisim of the LA validation process is the inflexibility of the LA’s in looking at the actual application in front of them. At least half of the applications we have flagged as invalid are eventually accepted without ammendment but only after sometimes protracted discussions. Examples of reasons not to validate have included:-

    Location plan not at 1:1250 (it was at 1:5000 due to site area being approx 2 sq miles! even though it was a 20 sq m extention to a small building)

    No roof plan – on a change of use application that included submitted photos and involved no alterations.

    No roof plan for an open car park

    No ‘existing plans’ for a building that had burnt to the ground over 10 years ago.

    Not identifying 2 named roads – the nearest road junction over 1.5 miles away

    No arborcultural report for a first floor extention on an existing single story building when plans identifed that whilst there were trees in the garden there were none within 30m of the building. And on same site not identifying individually all the trees on the site (prob about 150).

    No Postcode – When there was No Postcode but site was identified by Grid Ref.

    Twice we have had returns for lack of fee after the cheque has been cashed!

    It is understandable that the validation process may be done by less well trained officers but authorities should have a ‘wise head’ to have a reality check before queries go out, we all make mistakes and occasionally forget things but I feel that a lot of the problems could be avoided if there was a ‘common sense’ test before asking for more info!

  25. RichardW permalink

    On a lighter note I had the experience early in my career of an agent submitting an application where nothing untoward was identified at the validation stage, neighbours were consulted, the proposals assessed and permission granted. Then the “applicant” came back from working abroad and pointed out that the agent had completed the application on the wrong house altogether.

  26. Emma permalink

    Its not just local lists that are causing the problems though, although they can add to them – Sometimes its the basics – At our authority, we get location plans with red lines that dont meet highways or no red line at all, or not to a recognised scale. We get titles on plans detailing a completely different proposal, or the wrong scale, application forms with questions unanswered (please tick ‘not applicable’ so we know you haven’t missed it!) and plans that dont correspond such as windows shown on an elevation and not on a floor plan -Perhaps a completed ‘Checklist’ should accompany applications that ask these basic questions to act as a prompt, such as ‘does your red line meet an adopted highway’? As I mentioned above, we do already have one of these checklists but I have never received one from an agent. I feel we all get frustrated by it – I like the suggetion of a county wide or even a regional local list so agents at least can have some consistency within their areas.

    • Ted Leggett permalink

      Emma,

      Having dealt with untold amounts of invalid applications, I think its a superb idea to include a check list on the application forms. They currently have a smaller tick sheet, but this does not prompt people to check the validity of their own applications, and advice such as the red line meeting the highway, making sure the fee is correct etc would reduce a great number of applications being made invalid. I do feel that many agents regard the reasons for invalidity as minor, but if they are so minor, perhaps they should get them right first time?!

      • Emma permalink

        Hi Ted

        Yes quite!! – Its easy to make a mistake but a checklist might just prompt an agent to double-check – We dont like to make applications invalid unless we have to as it impacts on our time too, so it can be frustrating when its minor but still needs amending.

        All we would like to do is work with agents to make it straight forward for both of us!!

      • Steve Harwood permalink

        One funny thing regarding the checklist on the national forms is that if I had a pound for every time I got a call for “where is this ownership and agricultural certificates its asking for?” As they have already ticked the box for the question ‘completed forms’ so I can see a member of the public getting confused as it could appear to need another item to complete the applicstion 🙂

  27. Dear PortalDirector,
    I agree with you entirely – I’ve spent 40 odd years pulling my hair out on both sides of the fence regarding registration of applications – it’s just part and parcel of the territory and we all have to just accept it. Nevertheless, what really irritates me is when a County Council tells a District Council that my application for a noise bund or similar is a County matter. The District generally agrees because it doesn’t want the agro but I always have the last laugh by refusing to change the description of the application at which point it gets sent back to the District. I can hear them pulling their hair out – to all those in the private sector this is very good sport so try it sometime.

    • Ted Leggett permalink

      an excellent suggestion to waste public funds and LPA time, if only everyone was this forward thinking, there wouldnt be a so-called ‘credit crunch’

  28. Lego Builder permalink

    Here is a rib tickler for you…

    Small two storey extension to a three bedroom house. Pre application advice Planner ‘A’ (before charges came in) positive …yes no problems great addition to a familly home done lots of times in the area..great I thought so submitted and got validated all ok until….Got a call from a new planning officer ‘B’ can you come in to discuss the application as we are not happy with the scale/massing of the proposal, would not discuss it further over the phone. Could not meet me however for another 10 days, very inflexible on when we could actually meet. Anyway I re arranged my meetings to suit and we set a date. Got another call 3 days later can we re-arrange meeting…same process again, now it was 7 weeks after validation when we finally got to meet at the LA offices.

    Meeting lasted no more than 5 minutes…they now considered the proposal to be too large and wanted the depth at the rear reducing by 500mm. I was a little shocked as pre app had gone so well, but hey ho I thought we can accomodate that.

    ‘Sure no problem I will reduce the plan area as you have suggested and will update all of the drawings, I could get them to you by the end of the week’. I said.

    Reply – ‘Sorry it is too late we will have to refuse the application as we have to make a determination before the 8 weeks are up’.

    I was flabbergasted. After several emails and drawn out conversations the decision stood.

    We bit the bullet and put in a revised application and it went through finally 12 weeks later.

    I know this may be an Isolated incident but it does highlight the inflexibility and down right lack of awareness that some people who work for LA’s have, no commercial, real world experience at all without a care for the consequeneces of their actions.

  29. David LLoyd-Griffiths permalink

    In development control operations I clients and builders are frustrated by decisions on simple applications persisently taking longer than 8 weeks. Why can’t non controversial householder applications be cleared faster than 8weeks? planning portal submissions are submitted, then languish in the individual LPA accounts a week or more until the LPA dains to download and begin validation. Cheque payments are persistently not matched to applications.Then approvals are draped with conditions eg contaminated land survey even though there is no history of any activity likely to have produced any pollution, landscape condition for a private garden (base layout featured in submitted plans) Extraordinary time taken to process applications for the discharge of conditions. Commercial applications are subject even more pedantics. All these delays and unnecessary complexties add expense to clients and undermine the value of the planning system and adversely affect local economies.

    D.LL-G.

  30. Maria permalink

    Dear Clleagues,

    I am an agent and recently have been asked to give an informal advice to my old client on his neighbour’s householder planning application – My client lives in a house next door to the applicant’s semi. My client wants to keep a good relationship with the applicant and made it clear that he is not going to submit any objections to the council.

    It is a current non-online application and the application has been already validated.

    Having seen the application posted on council’s website I am appalled how incompetent and incorrect it is (obviously I have drawn this to my client’s attention).

    – a site location plan has been clearly drawn from memory, because not only the shape of the site is wrong but also road layout is incorrect (I have submitted a similar application for the adjacent site a couple of years ago.)
    – the form says that it is for a rear extension but plans show both side and a rear.
    – the form says that works haven’t been started, but the contractor demolished existing side garage and laid foundations even before application has been submitted
    – we can read on the form that building materials will be: ‘pitched roof’ and ‘flat roof’

    By the way, this is an application for both owners of a semi to have identical extenisons:

    – but the plans show only one existing side elevation (also indicating a proposed part) and say that for the other half of the semi it should be handed – but, each of the semis already have totally different exisitng side extensions!; Clearly the agent has not even visited the other semi and just handed elevations and layouts
    — and, the usual: no vertical sliding scale
    – sloping ground shown as level
    – etc etc
    I won’t bore you any more.

    Having submitted hundreds of similar applications and having spent a lot of time making sure I deliver accurate drawings and applications it makes my blood boil to see shuch poor standard of applications accepted by the LPA and then them taking decissions based on incorrect and incomplete information.
    So, what would you do? Keep your blood boiling?
    🙂

  31. Keith permalink

    Bigest problem for applicants is you seek advice from the LPA and they give their advice. You follow it and apply for planning based on their wise counsel.
    Then the council refuse planning permission using delegated power (one man no democracy). The council has improved its planning budget and the applicant is left poorer and maybe wiser. This is a very common scenario and it is a shame that it is legal.

  32. Thanks for publishing this.

    Having read all this sorry mess the present planning system seems to suit no-one.

    In my Local Planning Authority all the experienced, capable planners have been replaced with cheap untrained labour to validate applications and I have had virtually all of the above happen to my submissions to it ( including” the red line around the site is too orange”…their printer was running out of red ink)

    I also get to see the quality of submissions and some are pitiful.

    I have also had one application to this authority validated where plan and elevation didn’t match but this was later resolved in two hours and two emails when I was dealing with a professional planner.

    “14. Applicants who submit an application electronically to the local planning
    authority can communicate in this way throughout the whole application process
    unless an alternative approach is agreed between the local planning authority and
    applicant. Where applicants have chosen to communicate electronically with the
    local planning authority, the Decision Notice can also be issued electronically.”
    Guidance on information requirements and validation

    26. After the introduction of the standard application form, some LPAs developed
    validation processes that resulted in very high initial levels of invalidity. Some of this
    may have been due to poor quality applications. However, some LPAs may also
    have been too rigid in their validation requirements. A ‘tick-box’ approach to
    validation offers clarity for applicants in setting out which information items are
    required, but in some cases LPAs have applied this too mechanistically without taking
    individual scheme characteristics into account. LPAs are encouraged to ensure that
    validating officers have been sufficiently trained to identify what information is
    necessary for the purposes of validation.

    27. LPAs should make proportionate requests for information, and should not use
    invalidation to prevent the start of the determination period where an applicant has
    taken reasonable steps to fulfil the information requirements set out on the local list.”

    The above Government Guidance on the subject seems to have been completely ignored.

    This is a rubbish system that needs scrapped root and branch so that we can get on, in a professional manner, with building a better environment for all.

    So much talent wasted in needless bureaucracy.

  33. Jacqui permalink

    I’m a Parish councillor but also a retired A level Maths/Further Maths teacher, so I can spot mistakes and inconsistences a mile off.
    I’ve just skimmed through the comments here and noted the comment about the use of crayon and the lack of a ruler. My similar point is that I’ve wanted to respond to an application with
    “do I comment or colour it in? ” or “couldn’t you get someone over 7 yrs old to do this?

    One of the problems is with altering CAD plans each time the client changes their mind- sometimes after a few changes the roof plan doesn’t tie in with the rest. I’ve also had a room that hadn’t got a door or place to put one. There is a problem with inconsistent or incomplete plans- I’m not sure if its sloppiness or a deliberate mistake.

    Someone mentioned a planning decision inconsistent with pre application advice- the equivalent is having a pre application consultation with Councillors and neighbours where everyone thinks its* OK only to find the actual application has sprouted a really contentious feature.

    What is important is that there are new standards because of the paperless planning system. e.g. Clear plans that can be read on a screen, Relative positions of neighbouring houses and a streetscene for householder apps.

    Still, there will be a free for all if the NPPF comes in, won’t there

  34. Bryan Cadman permalink

    A question if I may, is to ask why councils generally ask for checklists to accompany applications and agents rarely (from my experience) supply them. I have a theory, but better to hear from the horses mouth….

    • John Atkins permalink

      All the LPAs checklists around here are manual – non interactive PDFs
      Print out, tick and/or write in the answers by hand (illegible with my writing), scan back in – all far too laborious.
      We type our own checklists, but what’s needed are checklists that can be completed on line

      • I’d agree with that – harmonise the checklists and add to the Portal – one-stop-shop and all that. Or add a third party link on the Portal application to that particular LPA’s checklist based upon the site location….

      • Emma permalink

        Hi
        As a local authority, we have to scan plans received and yes its laborious so understand what you mean – impacts on our time. However, we have a ‘word’ version of a checklist – its never completed.

      • Following our Agents Forum at Charnwood Borough Council we have added a “Response” column to our checklist to ensure that a valid application is submitted and to help speed up the registration process.
        The document is created as a “Word Form” with tick boxes or a text box to be completed to detail how each requirement has been provided or is deemed not necessary.
        This form can be submitted via the Portal as “Optional Documentation” under the Supporting Docs tab.
        Please view our “Downloadable Forms” on our website where there is an example of a completed form. We welcome any feedback which we always act on if possible especially from our valuable agents.

  35. Andrew Rogers AADip ACArch DipTP MRTPI DipEnv&Dev permalink

    Apart from pre-app confirmation of the acceptability (in writing) of a scheme that was then refused permission by delegated powers (and later won on appeal), this was my first experience of paid-for pre-app consultation: Client paid £1,000; LPA’s leaflet promised a meeting date within 10 days and a written report on the meeting 10 days later. The meeting was eventually held after five weeks, the report came six weeks later (and included issues not discussed at the meeting) – by which time the client had lost its funding. The client refused to sue the LPA for breach of contract because of other work it had in the same area.

    When variable fees and therefore competition is introduced into the planning system (as for Building Regs), perhaps LPAs will act properly. But can the Planning Portal cope with the nightmare of variable fees??

    Andy Rogers.

  36. Bryan Cadman permalink

    so, based on this sample survey, the message is that 100% of agents (who have responded) will use checklists if they are on the web as part of the Portal package.

  37. Jacqui permalink

    Pleased to see that conclusion, one checklist on the web as part of the portal package. Should the next thing be to decide what’s on the checklist? It should be different for householder apps as I said earlier.
    Should show relative positive position of house to neighbours and distances measured on the ground, not taken for granted from a desk top study using inaccurate plans.(or GIS)
    Plans should be suitable for scanning

    L.A. Planners shouldn’t have to spend time correcting applications.

  38. Keith permalink

    The most important thing would be for LPA’s to apply planning law as the law has been written and not “feely touchy” our interpretation of the law is!.
    If most other professional bodies followed such practice they would be prosecuted.
    It is a shame that costs in planning can not be pursued against LPA individuals.
    LPA’s can get costs against individuals but not vice versa.
    My experience has shown me that LPA,s can be brought to account as I have done but it is a painfull process stacked against the individual.

  39. Jeff permalink

    Another long serving, ex local authority now private sector planner here, who also works nationally. As predicted by many when local lists were introduced, its a recipe for mess and inconsistency in practice, which ultimately helps neither side. As also pointed out, the replacement of planners with admin staff to deal with validation just makes it worse as it removes scope for any sensible discussion over silly or incorrect validation matters: eg application invalidated because only 2 elevations of an identically sided, blank, ISO container included; invalidated because the ends of a line showing where a cross section is taken were outside the red line (“Er hold on though, thats not actually something we’re building, it just shows where the cross section is taken from” Response: “But it says on my checklist that everything must be in the red line so I’m not validating it, you’ve got to change it”). Another classic is S.73 applications for non compliance with conditions. The Regs don’t actually require a plan, simply something to identify the consent with the condtions you’re applying to change. However, you try to help by including a copy of the orginal red line plan, then get told to change the red line in some way because its “not right”, even though its not relevant in that case and is simply a matter of historical fact from the orginal consent.

  40. Michael permalink

    With the increasing amount of information required for even basic applications now, how much of it is actually digested – do planning officers really read through each and every Code for Sustainable Homes assessment, Bat survey, Flood Risk Assessment etc or is it just a case of making sure they’re all there and ticking boxes?

    For example, I am bemused by my LPA’s refusal to validate without a detailed landscaping scheme with species and densities of plants, planting schedules etc. Are planning enforcement to be sent out to check for correctly planted herbaceous borders now? Will action be taken if a client plants a prunus spinosa instead of a crataegus monogyna, and if not, why be so specific in the first place? If the landscaping scheme is present as requested, do planning officers really consider its suitability and creative merit or is it just a case of “there it is – tick”?

    • Steve Harwood permalink

      I would just like to say that most of the reports/surveys that might be needed for larger application are often read by the professional who has been consulted by the LPA like the County Highways Engineer or Eccolgy Department and based on their comments the planning officer with make a decision. For example an applications that an officer is happy with but because Archaeology disagree with a poorly written heritage statement and know its located on a Saxon burial ground which wasn’t in that statement the officer would refuse it based on the reply from consultees.

  41. Keith permalink

    My local LPA makes applicants apply to convert garages to livable rooms. On older houses there does not appear to be deeds of covenant to state a garage must always be a garage unless the LPA agree via planning application, as is common with new houses. There does seem to be validation confusion and this blog does seem to show that what ever side of the fence you are this is so.

    • Martin Goodall permalink

      A robust approach is clearly called for in such cases. If you are confident that what is proposed is either not development at all or is PD, then tell the client to get on with it and tough out any threat of enforcement. Once they come up against a planning professional who clearly knows his or her onions and is prepared to stand their ground, most planning officers will back off with their tail between their legs.

  42. terry white permalink

    Most of the points raised are valid. Validation is a nightmare and must be sorted out or abolished.
    After 55 years of putting up with the rubbish and aggravation received from LPA I am glad to retire but for the sanity of those remaining Please sort the system out.

  43. Yes a nightmare indeed. Many examples I could add from both sides of the fence dating back to the late 70’s but here’s a case on which to ponder – 5 linked applications in relation to one site required 2 subsequent trips to the planning office to provide extra red edging on proposed buildings in addition to red edged site boundaries already submitted and to explain to the admin person which submitted plans already showed the required floor/roof plans which were claimed to be missing. At the second visit I was assured by the planning admin person that all was now in order but the applications could not be validated and sent out because they had to be seen by the planning case officer who only works on 2 days each week and nobody else in the building could do this job. Several days later I have discovered that one of the applications has still not been validated but nobody can tell me why and guess what, the case officer won’t be at work again for another 3 working days. Meanwhile my client is going bonkers and can’t understand why an experienced professional is having so much trouble with a simple admin task! Oh yes and who is going to pay my fees for all this additional unnecessary time and travel?

  44. martin white permalink

    One point been missed here is many ‘agents’ (i prefer the term Chartered Town Planner for myself) often work extremely hard behind the scenes as the conduit between the LPA and our diverse range of clients. Many of the comments here refer to agents mucking them about but thankfully most officers i deal with mainly in the North of the UK are helpful. Our job as agents is to be effective middle men to balance up what the LPA want and to advise our clients of what they need to do but at the end of the day they can choose to ignore our advice and accept the risks of non validation etc. Also in these times many clients need to get applications, particularly for industrial developments and important infrastructure etc (why are single dwelling apps seen as the important stuff what about water pipelines, flood schemes etc), processed quickly and i do think LPA officers can fail to appreciate the sheer cost of putting an application together with EIA, FRA, TA, Breeam, photomontage not to mention s106 etc. Time delays in validation or anywhere in the process can literally be the difference between a client choosing the UK or elsewhere, when jobs will be operational, funding grants etc. I have experienced where even the Councils own developments are delayed because they have waited two weeks to be validated. Also late requests for changes to plans previously deemed suitable by LPA’s and then submitted subsequent to conditions can cost clients in contractor clauses that require automatic compensation for changes and i doubt many planning officers understand the commercial implications of their decisions. Often we work hard to make sure officers are happy with our submission before it goes but once that is done it is reasonable for our clients who are at the heart of our economic futures to expect an efficient and communicative service. My bugbear is waiting until the full 8/13/16 weeks is up when many applications are ready to go much sooner than this particularly where there is no objection. This is particularly annoying when it is a non material amendment or a discharge of condition (why oh why 8 weeks for conditions!) which effectively mean many developers simply cannot wait until it is formally discharged. I dont think this is a case of bashing agents but understanding that is often our clients (i include public sector as referring to users of the service as their clients to) who have frustrations at the process and i do think planners all have an equally central part to play in helping society along whichever side of the fence they are. ‘Them and us’ attitudes don’t help the profession move forward.

  45. Keith permalink

    If you had a poll of the public you would see that the average member of said public thinks the system is corrupt, this is not good, but planning appears to be one area of law that is not interested in its appearance to the public. Some of this is because, many do not understand the rules governing planning permission (reasons that are covered by law for objection). The other reason is the poor application of law. Old adages such as “every application on its merit” and “we can not comment on another application” are seen as side steps at best.

    The comment made on LPA’s sticking to time scales 8,13,16 is also followed by the planning inspectorate and the secretary of state. I feel that this is stuck to for the purpose of showing the matter has been given the weight it deserves thus avoiding claims to the contrary.

  46. I have no paricular issues with not getting apps validated, it doesn’t happen to me often.

    What I do have an issue over is the way our LPAs expect to see certain levels of quality and detail from some agents, whilst other ‘one-man-bands’ (no offence meant) can submit nothing more than a fag packet sketch…..lack of consistancy or just expecting more from those who can?!

  47. we recently submitted 2 applications for a class q change of use using all the same supporting documents and one was deemed illegible therefore invalid. surly some common sense in the scanning department is needed and regular mandatory calibration/ cleaning checks on the said scanners would be useful to save the planners and the publics time.

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.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: