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More on validation and information requirements

by on November 29, 2011

LPAs:

What do you think, would you support a common list hosted by the Portal or would the perceived need for local differentiation prevent it?

Agents:

If we can’t achieve the above, would there be any benefit in hosting the existing local lists on the Portal or would that simply be unnecessary duplication?

20 Comments
  1. Alex Bullock permalink

    Many LPA websites seem to hide their LVC’s away and are not always easy to track down without having to click through a number of planning related pages! However, I don’t think all lists should be held by the PP as the initial post suggests it would be duplication and you would need to update both sources when individual LVC’s are updated.

    The local differentiation shouldn’t exist, although flexibility should be allowed to deal with site specific issues.

  2. R T Phelps permalink

    Planning departments claim they are stretched and yet they employed a bunch of people to sort out the validation of applications. Can it be that the Planning Portal is in fact responsible for the current problems? (sorry Portal Director) I happily made planning applications for years on 3/4 pages of forms without many problems and needless Statements. does anybody read the Design and Access
    Statement or are they simply ticked as having been submitted and filed away? From the correspondence on the Portal it seems that the Validation process has created more problems than it has solved. Do away with it or review it and keep it simple! Do away with local list unless there is something particularly significant to be considered.

    • George Stastny permalink

      I could not agree more after 40 years in practice, endless form variations, delays on validation for minor technicalities and do not mention bats or newts to me !

      • Trevor Dennington permalink

        I agree wholeheartedly with George. The Local List has provided a heaven sent opportunity for obstructive and bureaucratic planning authorities to demand God-Knows-How-Many additional reports, and refuse to validate the application (with no right of appeal) unless they are provided. There is scope for dozens of extra reports to be demanded, costing the applicant a small fortune in addition to normal application costs. It often appears that such requests are made merely to be “awkward”.
        I believe that local validation lists should be scrapped. Every planning authority already has statutory authority to demand ANY additional information it believes it needs to consider a planning application properly and the applicant used to have the right to appeal against the requirement if he felt it was inappropriate and unnecessary.
        That appeal right must be restored so that LPAs are not “judge in their own cause”, which is a blatant breach of the principles of Natural Justice.

        Trevor Dennington

  3. PortalDirector permalink

    Whilst I’m very happy to take critiscism where it’s due, I’m afraid this one isn’t down to the Portal.

    We have no influence over the validation regime or indeed any other area of policy.

    All we can do is try and make the process of submission easier and more efficient.

  4. This coalition was supposed to be bring down the amount of red tape, yet we get more and more. The proposed alterations to the planning fee system could see us having to pay different amount to different authorities, because (moderated reference) has not got a clue what he is doing.

    One of the best things to come out of the Labour Government was the Planning Portal, however there is more and more paperwork for the validation which 9 times out of 10 is not warranted or needed. One authority I deal with has come to an agreement with another 7 authorities to agree the requirements for the application to be validated, this document runs to 20 plus pages, including guidance of which 99% is not really required especially for a domestic scheme.

    A standard set of validation requirements if necessary should be included within the Planning Portal site, which all authorities should accept. More complex or larger schemes where additional information is necessary should be agreed during consultation (assuming LA planning officers will talk to you) and be submitted at that time.

    • You are correct, planning is in a pickle and validation is a key area for cutting the crap out of the system.

  5. I think a simplified validation process is overdue. The requirements vary widely between LPA’s. Even when validated the case officer will often ask for additional information, thus standardardized validation should be achievable with local requirements being dealt with by the case officer. What is a real pity is that DCLG did not provide a standard template for web sites.

  6. Material Considerations are different for each application. Whist lists and local lists can cover all possibilities in many cases they cause much additional work for no other reason than satisfy the lists. To paraphrase “any other plans and docs necessary to describe the application” plus the old short list of statutory plans and docs was and is in my opinion quite sufficient.. Even then LAs pushed the boat out to interpret “a plan to describe the location of the site” as it must be an OS plan. The sooner we get rid of the extended lists and reeducate the pedantists who administer them the sooner we can introduce some common sense into the administration process. Immediate validation is not the be all and end all. Of greater importance is that material considerations are considered and that the application describes the application proposal. At least the money reliant determination deadlines have gone and we again have time to discuss applications whilst they are being determined.

  7. H M Edwards permalink

    It does not appear that the advice to the LPAs to be proportionate in their Local Lists and their interpretation, is always followed. Lists are sometimes too wide-ranging in their expectations. Expert reports are being required for relatively unimportant things which could also be covered by the Planning statement, or condition, and the costs to the client in time, hours of work,expert reports, is horrific. I have my doubts about how much is read.

    Having Local Lists is fine for a few situations but ONEAPP was invented to clarify the system; local lists have just cluttered it up, with a lot of frustration and expense too. They should all be on the Portal for easy access and so they can also be compared. The Portal should then head up the section with advice about compliance, as issued. I hope that now is the time that people can come together to help development and developers:- not to produce unacceptable development, but to ease the process of getting acceptable development started.

  8. Keith G permalink

    Surely the underlying point of this continuing dialogue is to set a point at which localism comes into effect within a national standard process. I have always considered that “local” considerations were more to do with design styles, the character of the area in which development is taking place and allowing the planning officers to ensure that their own regions become distinct or retain distinction by this process.

    I can’t see why the administration around this has to vary according to which LPA you are dealing with. More time is spent on the form filling, validation etc. than on doing what these departments are supposed to be doing. A standard process for admin through the portal, with some “not applicable” tick boxes added at the top of the portal forms would reduce the excessive number of duplicated administrators who decide what is and what is not needed before we get down to the nitty gritty of the application.

    As an agent, I find that having worked with 6 different LPA’s in the last 12 months, the planning officers tend to be generally consistent, whereas the admin systems are mind boggling in their differences.

  9. As a planning and heritage adviser, and occasional agent, I agree with nearly all of the above. Local lists reinvent a wheel which would much more cost-effectively be made nationally and inevitably result in wheels whose shapes vary from place to place in illogical ways. This brings the system into disrepute, as is evident from comments above. Genuinely local/site-specific issues can be handled in other ways. Even more importantly, it consumes increasingly-scarce resources which, assuming localism is the aim, would be much better put into local and neighbourhood plan making.

    The key point on validation – though this goes well outside your questions – is that although there is now reasonably good national guidance on proportionality it is not backed up by any sanction. LPAs inevitably have resource- and risk-reduction incentives to increase validation hurdles, so as to discourage applications (especially potentially-complex applications) they do not have the resources and/or skills to handle. An applicant faced with demands for landscaping drawings for purely internal works, or full archaeological surveys of buildings for which LBC is sought for very minor change (these sadly are real examples) has nowhere to go, in the absence of any effective sanction: he can plead, or he can withdraw. PINS is not the place to resolve arguments about whether 1:50 drawings are needed. Now that all the information provided is available online anywhere, it would not be difficult to set up an ADR (alternative dispute resolution) mechanism in which say an applicant would pay a fairly modest fee to an independent expert (from a list of experts, who could be located anywhere) who could decide within days whether a requirement was reasonable (and, if it was not, recharge all or part of his fee to the LPA). This ought to require just a small piece of web-based software with credit card payment, added to the 1APP system. The cost of that should be low, but the incentive on all parties to be sensible this system would provide would have a transformative effect on the validation system – far more than just changing the details of the local list system.

  10. R.Mackay FRICS FCIArb permalink

    The main use of much extra information is an excuse for LPA’s to delay vaildation of applications with extra unnecessary detail.
    When acting for objectors it is much easier to find faults in these applications to argue but really they are points which I should not be allowed to raise as they do not go to the acceptability or otherwise of the project.

  11. Martin Goodall permalink

    There is clearly massive dissatisfaction among planning professionals with the current system.

    For another cogent summary, see Brian Waters’ article in the latest Architects’ Journal.

    Planning officers may be faced with various defects in planning applications, but we should change the system so that the application goes on the planning register immediately it is received, even if further information may be required. Planning officers can then sort out any points that require correction or clariification, and applicants should still have the right to appeal against non-determination if there is an impasse. It would then be for the inspector to decide whether there is sufficient information to enable a decision to be reached, and to grant permisison if he/she considers it right to do so. Costs awards against Councils who unreasonably refuse to process valid applications would soon put a stop to all the nonsense.

    [An appeal agsinst non-determination in these circumstances is currently prevented by Section 62(3) of the 1990 Act (and the DMPO) as interpreted by the judgment in Newcastle Upon Tyne City Council v SSCLG.]

  12. Looks like we all feel the same. I sit on two Local Authority agents panels. No surprises, validation is nearly always on the agenda.

  13. Keith G permalink

    Martin – unfortunately it isn’t always persons as qualified as planning officers who are making “validation” decisions. I know of more than one case of validation being carried out by admin staff members who have been relocated from another LA department due to cutbacks and redeployment. They have no actual experience in the necessary field and after the briefest of inception training they are thrown in at the deep end to follow a tick list, when they have no idea what they are looking at. Not their fault, but how can validation work consistently and effectively if this is allowed to happen.

  14. In the minerals and waste industry specialist information (well understood by specialist planning advisers and planning officers) is required to determine a planning application yet applications are frequently held up by validation – often for minor points of a general nature which have little material bearing on the project. That additional information, when it is provided, will not enable a better or a faster decision to be made. It is another expensive report which is put in the file. The validation lists should be scrapped and all applications should be registered when received. The planning authority has a statutory right to call for any information it needs (“needs” not “wants”) to determine the application and the applicant could appeal against non-determination if the authority doesn’t receive the unnecessary information. After many years in minerals planning, management and development I find the present system demoralising, time consuming and expensive for clients. I wonder how young people going into minerals planning will ever find the fulfilling career it once was because professionalism, interest, pragmatism and initiative has been replaced with box ticks.

  15. Andy Ward permalink

    The general consensus is that the validation system has made matters much worse. For me, it has exposed what seems to be a view endemic within council’s that the default answer to an application is ‘no’ unless an applicant can prove their scheme will cause no significant harm (despite what 80 years of legislation and ministerial guidance says to the opposite). This is not to say it is a problem amongst all planners, or just planners – I speak to many who are frustrated by the way the system works at present. Not least of their concerns is the degree to which they are hostage to the comments of consultees, both internal and external, whose default position seems these days to be to ask for a report. (When trying to persuade a planner recently that a certain report wasn’t necessary, their response was “it’s not me who you need to convince” – yes it is!) What’s particularly galling is the fact that there is no right of appeal against a council insisting on having some document as a validation requirement.

    We can’t just ditch the regulation of validation though. It came in for a good reason: inconsistent application requirements with no clear justification has long been a problem. What it needs is some onus on Council’s to, on request, justify their requirements for each application (no generic justifications either!), and for the regulations to be redrafted so that an appeal against non-determination allows an inspector to pass judgement on what is or isn’t necessary to determine an application.

    Not that appeals against non-determination act as a general deterrent to bad decision making (or bad applications). What I’d really like to see is a proper form of planning adjudication to allow swift decisions to be made on this kind of matter without the rigmarole of an appeal process. Indeed, before the Bonfire of the Quangos I’d harboured thoughts of an Office of Planning Standards (OffPlan?), dealing with overly bureaucratic procedures, bad decision making, and slow plan making, amongst others. Fat chance of anything like that now.

  16. The current validation requirements are a nightmare and need to be drastically scaled back. The latest silly example we have experienced (by a local planning authority that shall remain nameless, but which includes the constituency of William Hague MP!) is the refusal to validate an application for two external canopies over entrances to a school building (no increase in floor area) without a full Flood Risk Assessment as the site lies within a flood risk zone (dangerous things, these canopies, they cause all manner of flooding!!).

  17. And another. On Tuesday I received an email notification that my application would not be registered unless a tree survey was provided as I had honestly stated yes to the question of trees on site. The plans and aerial photo provided clearly show that no trees would be affected by the proposal; registration had interpreted a large pond as a tree!!!!!!!

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