Skip to content

Validation Part 3 – Agent Accreditation

by on December 9, 2011

Prompted by the clearly polarising topic of validation and information requirements I took a few minutes to browse around the web at the weekend and was surprised to see a significant number of Agent Accreditation schemes in play.

 You may recall we tried to put some weight behind this idea a couple of years ago with limited success. As these schemes offer a win-win for agents and authorities alike I thought I’d ask for your views.

 I’m interested to know how many LPAs are operating the schemes, how are they working out and if there is anything we can do to help.

58 Comments
  1. A great idea. It now takes more time to get a scheme for a simple house validated than it does to design it. This can not be right.

    The biggest obstacle to an efficient system of validation is that Local Planning Authorities can, and do alter the criteria on a whim and that there is no effective appeal process against non validation for silly reasons such as “the red around the site is too orange”

    In one Local Planning Authority I have studied 82% of applications were not validated within 5 days and those that were submitted through the portal didn’t fare any better than those submitted on paper.

    Because of the trouble we are seriously looking at going back to A1 sized paper submissions with a cheque attached and with red lines so that our clients don’t suffer when the Local Authority’s printer runs out of red ink of the planners dont talk to their finance department.

  2. Surely your own Planning Portal “Planning for a greener future” is a good form of accreditation for all the LA’s as far as clients are concerned. Unfortunately however, there are LAs who can’t manage to produce the drawings they require from the electronic data provided.

  3. Bryan Cadman permalink

    Although we were part of the sw pilot that Chris talks about, and concur with his ‘limited sucess’ conclusion, we are preparing to dip our toes into the water again and will be rolling something out at the start of next year.

    Only one thought on ‘what the portal can do for us’ question, is maybe a few words about what an AA scheme is, and links to LPAs that are doing it?

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Will do Bryan, we’re gathering the information at the moment.

      My post was partly designed to elicit feedback on schemes that we may not be aware of.

      Chris

  4. Michael Hayes permalink

    What about licensing private firms of “Planning Assessors” to offer an alternative service to LPAs. They would be required to register applications immediately upon receipt and then, instead of an upfront validation procedure, they would be authorised to request further information on an as neeeded basis under the commercial imperative of not wasting their own time or anyone else’s.

    The private firm of “Planning Assessors” would evaluate applications against the LPAs published policies and give the LPA a report recommending a decision. Applications that would normally be dealt with under delegated powers would have to be compulsorily rubber stamped by the LPA in accordance with the recommended decision. And in the case of applications dealt with by committee the recommended decision would have legally enshrined due weight at appeal if ignored by the LPA.

    My clients would certainly pay for that.

    • Clive Milburn permalink

      A private alternative to LPA’s would certainly galvanise Local Authorities into thinking more about a customer focused service instead of the constant battle we are currently having.

  5. R OBrien BSc Dip.Arch.Dip.TP.RIBA permalink

    I used to like using the Planning Portal but not any more. With the introduction of the block plan as a separate Mandatary Document I now find I cannot include a location plan and block plan on the same drawing. It is going too far to dictate the content which I can or cannot combine and show on my drawings. It is wasteful in time and printing costs to force separate drawings into existence for no good reason.
    I am fed up with filling in sections of the form online only to find I have to keep repeating this as information vanishes after I move to the next section. Yes – I have tried different computers and browsers. If this continues it will mean going back to the old methods.
    The idea of a “National Form” is now a joke. Different authorities now have their own horrific Validation Requirements” which they wield like a cosh. My LPA has one about 26 pages long and others have similar. We are now asked for Bat surveys for even minor proposals affecting roofs and the cost of this is often three times the cost of the Householders Application. I have asked LPA’s for an example of where a Bat Survey determined the final outcome of a planning application and to date I have not been given a single instance. It may affect timing but not outcome. If permission is not given it is of course wasted money. We are asked for tree surveys even when the works cannot affect any trees. and so on. I can honestly say that it is now more difficult and unpleasant to make a planning application than ever before in the history of the planning system. The old application forms were about four to six pages long. Look at it now, its beyond a joke. Common sense is gone out the window in favour of dictat. What happened to useful concepts such as “where relevant”. The system now is so bad that one concludes the intention is to make it as difficult, awkward, time consuming and expensive as possible to make a planning application.

  6. Clients pay for and have a legitimate expectancy to have their planning applications validated and determined in a proper manner which conforms to published approved guidelines and the T & C Planning Act.
    Planning Officers and their Admin Support barely know the correct process or their Councils policies thesedays. When the issues are raised with them, they generally bleat of being under resourced.
    What happened to proper qualified Planning Officers ?
    In respect to outsourcing, whoever the case officers may be, they should have a thorough knowledge and understanding of the location they are dealing with. Our experience is Assessor Companies from outside of the area subject to the decision are making error prone decisions.

  7. Chris – what exactly do you mean by Agent Accreditation Schemes?
    Personal experience is that validation is generally reasonably efficient although I have received one rejection for failure of LPA to print plan in colour.
    The Planning Portal saves on paperwork which is welcome. However the upload process is time consuming particularly where large photograph files are involved.
    The increase in reports required to accompany applications rather than Planning Officers exercising their judgement or consulting and the introduction of charges for pre-application advice are elements of planning policy that I oppose, except perhaps for large schemes.
    Richard Hosking

    • Trevor Dennington permalink

      The increase in reports required to accompany applications rather than Planning Officers exercising their judgement or consulting and the introduction of charges for pre-application advice are elements of planning policy that I oppose, except perhaps for large schemes. Richard Hosking.
      =============================================
      Correct, Richard. Those are indeed two of the biggest problems.
      There is an old adage saying “Give a bureaucrat power to demand something and he will – whether he really needs it or not.” And my experience (from both sides of the fence) is that there is a considerable amount of truth in it for many local authorities, with national guidance about proportionality in 2010 validation guidance casually ignored owing to the denial of a right of appeal against unreasonable demands so long as they appear in the Local List.
      There is also no justification for fees (alleged “costs”) for pre-application discussions, which benefit both the authority and the applicant, being charged to the applicant alone, particularly when there is always a rider on any advice received to the effect that it is at officer level and therefore one cannot rely on it in any way at all. (If I sought to charge planning consultancy fees for services offered on that absurd basis I would soon be devoid of clients and facing bankruptcy. Only in the rarified and monopolised atmosphere of local government would it be deemed an acceptable service term.)
      CIL is also showing signs of turning into a blatant financial racket, but that’s another discussion for when planning authorities express astonishment that sufficient new homes are not being built in their areas.

      • Pre Application advice where fees have been paid may be actionable.
        Should be investigated.
        Yes, there always the waiver “this is the opinion of a Planning Officer and may not be the views of the Council”. Is this comment unrealistic in Law ?
        The Officer making the comment should know the views of the council, after all, he is representing the LA and will most probably be a senior officer. One would expect that person to be well versed with their UDP’s and guidelines.

      • I absolutely agree with this. Too often the phrase “this is the opinion of a Planning Officer and may not be the views of the Council” is used when everyone knows that if expressed over a negative attitude the Planning Submission will not suceed whatever.
        In the case of pre-paid advice, the phrase makes any comment worthless and the payment therefore demanded under false pretenses. The pre-advice is to all extents just a personal opinion, like anyone elses. Why should our clients have to pay for this worthless opinion?

      • sunrise permalink

        I have to agree with Michael.
        Surely offering charged-for and allegedly professional advice on the basis that the recipient cannot rely on it in any way, and the final decision on the proposal will be taken by others who do not agree with the advice SOLD, cannot possibly be tenable in law.

      • Have used the pre-application system, supplying officers with the same level of information as when submitting a formal application.

        I’ve found pre-application advice often vague.
        Too vague to be of much use.
        I’ve seen pre-application advice ignored!
        Different officer opinions.

        For the Pre-application form to state that Councillors can overrule officers, without indication that officer opinion may change in the light of information received during the Formal Planning Consultation, is misleading.

        For the Pre-application form to state that Officers aim to respond in writing or meet the Applicant on-site within 14 days, and only after the applicant has paid, send a letter indicating that officers may need to take specialist advice from other areas of the Council, which can take up to 8 weeks, is also misleading.

  8. Andy Paton permalink

    I would much rather LPAs worked with agents on each application and requested the information they actually require to consider the submitted application, rather than simply requesting what has been included on their extremely long validation lists.
    To remain competitive I must offer a fair service and provide value for money; I feel it’s about time the LPAs worked in the same manner.
    In respect of the whole validation process I feel LPAs have very little regard or understanding about my time and/or the cost to my clients.
    I too have been asked all too often to use a different shade of red (when the council’s printer ran out of colour ink), change application description from ‘proposed conservatory’ to ‘erect conservatory’, different requirements from different officers in the same LPA, etc
    I do not believe that signing up to a validation scheme would rectify the underlying issues.

  9. Trevor Dennington permalink

    As Mr. OBrien has indicated, the Local Validation List has caused immense problems for applicants and their agents because of the way most planning authorities have seized on it and gone completely over the top with disproportionate demands for information which will have little bearing on the final decision. This is done despite much-repeated urges in national validation guidance that demands must be proportionate. (A typical example is demanding a contamination survey for a single infill dwelling when there is no reason whatever to suspect contamination and no known previous use that could have produced it, on the basis that the proposal is “vulnerable” development – viz residential use.)
    Many Local Lists are of nightmarish proportions and are seldom clear about what actually will be required in any instance, instead listing everything the authority can think of and thereby leaving the way clear to require any of up to 70 additional reports or surveys on the list after the application is submitted.
    It is vital – and entirely in accord with the principle of Natural Justice that nobody should be judge in their own cause – that in all cases where bureaucrats can issue binding administrative decisions that exceed the reasonable exercise of their powers to an extent that can be seen as inept or mischievous and gratuitous obstruction, there should be a right of independent appeal against their demands.

  10. Michael Smith, MSDA Ltd.

    We welcomed the Planning Portal – and in fairness still do when memories of plotters grinding out 8 copies of drawings for Listed projects – but the forms to fill are becoming onerous and often take hours with problems caused by poor Broadband consistency and PP dropout which can cause dating inconsistencies.
    The Building Control aspect in Private Assessors has been very successful for us, and in two cases removed a very bad tempered and bloody minded LA problem. If a Planning alternative Private Assessor system can be acheived it would certainly ease many applications where over zealous (if not poower crazed) Planning Officers at the moment cause serious problems… OK these can always be overcome in the end, but our client’s time and often additional costs should be considered; they, after all are the members of the community which the LA is supposed to be helping with positive guidance.

  11. Trina permalink

    Local Government validations have unfortunately appeared to have slowed down.

    The planning portal was the key to validate everything, hence why are validation officers still required in such large numbers? Or has the portal or LG or applicants not got it right yet.

    Multi downloads are still required to speed things up.
    I asked 3 years ago.

  12. Adrian Berryman permalink

    Although I only work part time now, so don’t submit too many planning applications, I’m afraid I can agree with most of the comments above. I too have been asked to vary the wording of the proposed development, submit documentation that I didn’t consider was relevant to the application, (but it’s on the checklist). I think most of the problems relate to the verification procedure rather than the officer consideration of a scheme.
    I have had occasional problems with the Planning Portal website, but not recently and think it’s a big step forward from the paper based systems – though I have heard planning authorities complain about the amount of paperwork they now have to print out!

  13. Graham Townsend permalink

    Some entrenched positions emerging on pre-app charging that may benefit from further consideration. Advice has to come with caveats, otherwise what you are asking for is a planning permission without the statutory process being gone through. What comes in at application stage often differs from what was discussed at pre-app, with the obvious result that the advice given may also need to change. Also, whatever an officer advises beforehand, an application can get called to committee and members will not be bound by an officer’s pre-app comments. Good pre-app advice comes with an explanation of how the views axpressed in it have been arrived at, so that its context can be better understood.

    The main point of charging is that free pre-app advice costs even a small rural authority like mine hundreds of thousands of pounds every year to provide. Much of it is ignored or at best interpreted very selectively, and many enquiries comprise questions that could be answered by reading the local plan.

    Pre-app advice is just that – advice. It advises developers what the LPA’s stance is likely to be in relation to a proposed application. If it is reversed without justification and results in an unexpected refusal then no doubt it will be used at appeal and in a costs claim against the LPA.

    If a client goes to an agent to discuss a project and asks “what are the chances of getting consent for this?” the agent will give an opinion. More often than not, the client will be charged for the time taken in researching and formulating this opinion. The opinion will not guarantee planning permission. If a meeting takes place between agent and LPA to discuss a potential application then why is it acceptable for the agent to get paid for this but not the LPA?

    Pre-app done properly is valuable, but it comes at a cost. Is it fair that this cost all falls on the taxpayer?

    • Yes, pre-app done properly is valuable. Our experience is that it is occasionly way off the mark. We have found that Planning Officers in some Authorities have given advice which clearly contradict their own UDP’s. You may be a Planning Officer, we would like to hear what the client is supposed to do then ?
      Corporate complaint (Level 1-3) and then Ombudsmen! More time and cost!
      This situation as we have previously suggested could be actionable. After all, if practices give clients worthless advice, they would have no clients and almost certainly be liable to claims.

    • I think this response is not quite true. The cost suggested is inflated as It does not consider the resulting staff time saving from good pre-app advice. And in my practice we have never charged for pre-app advice or submissions / discussions with LAs for pre-app.(we do charge minimum time fee if the pre-app requires drawings or sketches to illustrate the scheme – usually considerably less than the LA fees.). All too often the LA pre-app advice is vague, negative and unhelpful. It could, at least, represent the Planning Office view – so a devolved application would, if taking the pre-app advice be considered positive. What is wrong with that? We still have to draw it out and submit. We all understand the vagaries of Planning Committees.

  14. Trevor Dennington permalink

    why is it acceptable for the agent to get paid for this but not the LPA?
    Pre-app done properly is valuable, but it comes at a cost. Is it fair that this cost all falls on the taxpayer?
    =================================
    ALL council services are valuable (or should be) and “come at a cost”. It is acceptable for the Agent and not the council to be paid for pre-app advice because the planning officer is salaried whilst the Agent is not, and the local authority is supposed to be running a planning service for the benefit of the entire community.Pre-application discussion is a valid part of that process from which both the applicant and the authority – and hence the taxpayer – benefit ; indeed, this mutual benefit is used by many authorities to seek to persuade applicants to engage in pre-app discussion.
    The lpa should therefore be engaging in it willingly, enthusiastically, and without direct charge to one party it claims will benefit, rather than casting around for excuses to make charges and calling them “fees”.
    Fees are earned by Agent professionals working directly for, and accountable in law to, their client and his interests .The planning officer is not in that position. His primary loyalty (and duty) is under contract and to the local authority. He owes no loyalty to the applicant and has no accountability to him in law …. unless of course the High Court ruled that the disclaimer used by virtually every lpa is unlawful.
    One really cannot expect any applicant or agent to have much confidence in a charged-for pre-app discussion when it is accompanied by a rider which disclaims all responsibility for its content.
    Incidentally, some pre-app charges I have come across appear to indicate that the planning officer providing the pre-app “advice” is on circa £100,000 a year, so the fact is that many LPAs are simply ‘on the make’ with these charges, just as they are with CIL.

    • I do not charge for Pre-app advice – nor do other Architects and Agents that I speak with. So why do some LAs? It surely must be in the best interest of the members of the community that the LA represents and the LA Planning Office to iron out any problems before making submissions – as Wandswoth, and others do (for instance). But the advice is useless if it has no legal or other standing by others within the Planning Office or Planning Committee. Our client (who will be a member of the LA community) is just paying for a random Planning Officer’s subjective advice which can be empty of any substance. This does NOT provide good value for the members of the community supposedly represented by the Local Authority. It is just money grubbing.

    • Graham Townsend permalink

      Sorry to risk provoking more ire, but I can’t see the logic of saying that pre-app should be free as the P/O is salaried but the agent is not. Why does the same not apply to planning applications? Pre-app is part of the process, and an increasingly time consuming part. If LPAs get paid for applications but not for pre-apps then where is their incentive to devote resources to improving their pre-app service? There has been much adverse comment about the quality of pre-app advice and its reliability – this is less likely to improve without charging. If advice is free then people will often ask for it anyway, regardles of how much use they expect it to be, but applicants/agents will only pay for good advice, not for bad.

      As for the £100k a year P/O – the public sector has costs as well you know! If you’re charged £50 for an hour long meeting then don’t forget the research, the admin, the office costs and the overheads that support that hour. The recent PAS/CIPFA benchmarking exercise for possible fee setting by LPAs has produced incredibly informative material for LPAs about how their costs are made up. If the application handling parts of planning services are expected to be self funding, as we are led to believe is the government’s intention, then the decision will need to be made about charging for pre-app advice on the basis that if it isn’t paid for up front then it will find its way into the application fees or have to be funded by the taxpayer.

      The Portal can help with some enquiries. Those relating to PD rights and those where the enquirer just needs directing to the local plan for their area being the most obvious. Links to government guidance, relevant legislation and best practice (such as PINS guidance notes etc.) can all be useful. Maybe the Portal operating a system that records the enquiry, pointing out through a pro forma the areas of information that need to be provided by the enquirer and offering the LPA the chance to attach links to their response via the Portal, could help in some cases

      Receiving, validating and sorting the fees out for applications can account for 20% of an LPA’s overall application processing costs, so anything that can be done to simplify or smooth the process must be welcome. Any move away from rigid adherence to a checklist needs to be transparent, as LPAs get plenty of complaints from objectors to planning applications for not asking for information as well as from applicants and agents for asking for too much. It’s a good subject for discussion at your LPA’s Agents’ Forum if a consensus is to be reached based on a full understanding of the issues.

      • Trevor Dennington permalink

        Graham

        In the immortal words of Mandy Rice-Davies “You WOULD say that, wouldn’t you ?” 🙂 🙂 🙂

        More seriously, the government has – rightly or wrongly, and I believe wrongly for reasons I have already elucidated – decreed that an LPA can charge for pre-app discussions. Quite how they decided that I don’t know when the advice given is legally not worth the paper it is not written on, or even the paper it IS written on when the standard getout clause appears like the proverbial rabbit out of the hat at the end of it.

        To my mind, the LPA is delivering a charged service under false pretenses, and pretending to usurp the role of an independent agent by “advising” the applicant if the applicant is acting alone.
        (I concede that a properly qualified and experienced agent will be able to detect when advice he is receiving is biased or otherwise flawed, and should then perhaps challenge the charge for it. But I know of no LPA with a formal procedure for that.)

        I am reminded of the adage “You cannot serve God and Mammon”.
        In the final analysis, the PO is paid to pursue the objectives of the planning authority. He is therefore not an impartial adviser and should not be claiming payment for advice he offers, which is in reality on behalf of the planning authority, not the intending applicant.

      • Trevor, I agree. The great flaw is that we have twice had advice from LA Planning Officer – who has then left (sick or maternity leave) and case officer picking up completely disagrees with positive suggestions / agreements made by departed officer. In meantime, full of enthusiasm, client briefs us for agreed scheme – only to be greeted by refusal. We have, in these cases reduced to very basic fee, but the system, with its fee is farcical if not seriously illegal..

  15. PortalDirector permalink

    Clearly emotions run high on this topic.
    What I’d like to try and do is bring it back to a constructive place and ask participants how they feel the process of pre-app might work better and indeed where it does work well (and why).

    I’m especially interested in ways that we at the Portal might help.

    • As Planning Validation is a box ticking exercise it should be done when you submit your application through the Planning Portal. The Portal knows who the Local Planning Authority is and there is no reason why the audited local list cannot be incorporated.

      After all, we tick the box that we have submitted a Block plan etc why then can we not just tick a box for the local list when we have to submit a flood risk assessment.

      Validation is a job for a machine not for sane educated people to get frustrated with.

      • PortalDirector permalink

        Arnold,
        whilst we can confirm whether a document has been attached to an application, I’m afraid we can’t validate whether its contents are fit for purpose.

      • The problem that most applicants have is that the person validating an application is not fit for purpose.

        Applications are being validated that should not have been and others that should have been are not. I think you can see from the posts the stress this causes.

        I have spent some time looking through the weekly list of applications to my local planning authority and the vast majority are submitted by people who know what they are doing. A very few are submitted by people who can not hold a crayon let alone a pencil. The vast majority of applicants therefor are suffering stress and delay as a result of these very few.

        Leaving aside bloody mindedness on both sides a lot of the reasons for non- validation comes down to information not being supplied or being requested when it is not needed. A clear list of what is needed to validate an application on the PP and a self validation tick box would clear up 85% of the problem.

        The person who ticks the box and doesn’t provide the goods gets an email from the LA planner that it can not be dealt with. This happens now with applications that have been validated but additional information is required.

        The bloodymindness can be dealt with by an independent adjudicator who could decide quickly whether a block plan was a block plan or whether the red line is too orange.

        This is a problem that really needs to be resolved soon otherwise I fear we will all end up with stress induces heart attacks.

        I think planners and architects forget that mostly we are on the same side in wanting to build a better environment for us all to live in.

  16. barry sutton permalink

    One clear way to encourage use of the portal would be to get councils to eg offer a guaranteed three day validation (or rejection) of cases submitted through the portal.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Barry,
      your suggestion is similar to that offered by West Cornwall.
      The following excerpt comes from their website “all applications received from an accredited agent will be fasttracked through validation and registration with only minimal checks being carried out.”
      One criteria for their scheme is that applications are made online via the Portal.

  17. sunrise permalink

    I do not agree at all with the concept of planning authorities effectively endorsing certain agents, which is the interpretation Joe Public will attach to an accreditation scheme.
    The concept is based on the idea that relations between planning authorities and agents is extremely cooperative and civilised, whilst most agents I have spoken to in 22 years do not frankly have a good word to say for their local planning authority or the way it deals with planning applications. That has recently been extended to the way they deal with validation and, in particular, additional information requirements under the Local List.
    My own experience is that the LPA/Agent relationship is often stressful and extremely combative as a consequence of LPAs adopting the bureaucratic “tick box mentality” roundly criticised in the March 2010 CLG Guidance on Information Requirements and Validation of planning applications and have failed to apply its repeated urging for proportionate requests..
    There is abundant evidence that many if not most planning authorities have not even carried out the review of their Local List required under 5.1 et seq of that guidance, but are still using a catch-all list and picking and choosing requirements from it for individual applications, without any noticeable consistency between different planning officers in the same authority or even for a resubmission of the same proposal.

  18. Just had an very small householder application held up weeks over Christmas because I’d drawn the block plan on same sheet as the 1:100 plans (or vice versa for sake of Planning Portal entries) and, tho the sheet had a scale bar marking up 1:100 lengths, the block plan only had 1:500 written under its title, duh. Surely Officers understand the concept of scale?

    But sorry sounding off, positive suggestion instead: Same LPA asks for nearly all the info required for a full Application to be presented for a pre-app assessment. This means that not only is the advice not worth much due to unreliability from often junior officer, it doesn’t save my (client’s) time either. How about a pre-app section via the PP accepting a reasonable level of sketching to explain a proposal which an LPA could download and email back ‘not too bad’ or ‘come in to discuss’ or a favorite: ‘too bulky’.

    Come to think of it, this prelim design stage was once what the D&A statement was supposed to demonstrate, before that got bureaucratised into a useless title-filling exercise.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Frances,
      sorry to hear of your troubles.
      I’m going to look into the block plan issue as you’re not the first to report it.

      With regards to your pre-app suggestion, again its been suggested before that we investigate this and so we shall.

      it’s just a matter of prioritising our limited resources where they will have most impact.

  19. re Agent accreditation, I’m not sure what really advantages there are/would be. I think Joe P should judge us by what we do and have done and one way would be to be able to search for our applications online. I think this is possible with Bristol City Council, no doubt Brian Cadman could confirm.

    To be honest though I’m tempted to look at the situation the other way, and suggest that our local LPAs should take an objective look at themselves in the same way to see if they are up to the mark. I mean how many of us are really happy with the overall performance of local government planning departments!

    Re validation delays: North Somerset Council have an unofficial arrangement with some regular agents that the 8 week clock will start ticking when the application is received from the PP, any additional info can then be requested afterwards, this seems to work very well.

    • I agree with Andrew Hirst.
      North Somerset Council have an unofficial arrangement with some regular agents that the 8 week clock will start ticking when the application is received from the PP, any additional info can then be requested afterwards, this seems to work very well.
      Good for North Somerset. This is surely the sensible way. We always respond within 24 hours or less if any query from LPA, as I am sure most do – particularly now query and response is by email rather than Royal Mail.

  20. I’m eating humble pie now – my LPA has come back re the multiple scale bar issue & explained that they attempt to enable the public to work out sizes using ordinary ruler. Seems reasonable in this age of universal access.

    I agree the suggestion for registration first queries later, especially if minor, would be a good way to do it. I am not keen on formal accreditation – it would inevitably lead to a two-tier system, at best by the number of apps habitually submitted, at worst by cronyism or fee charging.

    I am astonished though (now that LPAs have websites allowing that universal access!) just how varied the standard of applications are, and how rudimentary a plan can sometimes be to still get registered as a valid application. There must be some obvious signals to the plan-checkers which indicate the equivalent of a typo on an otherwise competent application versus ones that are just inadequate for purpose and deserve to be held back.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Dont worry Frances,
      we all benefit from a helping of humble pie once in a while.

  21. Bryan Cadman permalink

    To respond to Andrews question, and if I understand it right. Anyone can search for applications by agent. All you do is go to http://planningonline.bristol.gov.uk/online-applications/search.do;jsessionid=BC3C7FC0E6E55B489453E4AE3BDC1EE6?action=advanced and in the ‘Application Details’ box, click on the down arrow in the ‘Agent’ section and you can then search under any agent listed. Maybe if I was looking at engaging an agent to do some plans etc I might do this, but suspect not many people will think of it.

    On a related point, I always advocate agents going online to check how their applications looks, and looking from the perspective of the next door neighbour who wants to know whats going on and won’t want to (or can’t) come into the office to look at a paper copy. For me one key test of a validation process, should be whether an interested party can look online and fully understand the proposal and any implications. If they can’t, should it be registered ??

  22. The present accreditation system is open to potential abuse by LPA’s.

    Architects / Agents who complain when LPA service is poor, can be encouraged to stop complaining or technical faults may be found with some of their submissions resulting in them being de-accredited.

    I detail examples of poor LPA service. Naming the individuals responsible and drawing attention to processes and procedures that allowed it to occur. And Cc all who scrutinise / look in at the LPA in order to discourage future poor service, and encourage change. It’s better than just putting up with it.

    Architect / Agent accreditation should be independent of LPA’s.

    • Michael Smith permalink

      I absolutely agree with Laurence Wills. Although architect / agent accreditation is surely just additional bureacracy and will make no real difference – except to remove the easy right of all members of the public to use, if they wish, their Local Authority Planning if they feel capable and perhaps give unnecessary additional cuedos to some over others?.

  23. Architects / Agents who complain when LPA service is poor, can be encouraged to stop complaining or technical faults may be found with some of their submissions resulting in them being de-accredited
    _______________________________________________________

    Yes agreed, and if you don’t believe this you are in for a rude awakening.

    In the past I have had two applications which were quite transparently badly handled, one for a commercial client held up for over a year and one where the objecting neighbour was extremely well-connected. My complaints expressed (politely) over both of them (not in the same year) made the situations worse. Oh and going to Appeal and raising these issues (clear evidence given) also caused an apparent closing of ranks.

    Officers invariably seem to believe themselves hard done by, but it is applicants who risk losing income & reputation when trying to achieve a fair outcome for clients in difficult situations.

    This may be opening a whole new subject, but an arbitration service from the Planning Portal would be very welcome. The ombudsman route seems inappropriate and is too late after the event. Maybe such a service would make accreditation more feasible?

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Marriage guidance for planners and agents – now there’s a thought!

      • sunrise permalink

        Frances – only TWO ?
        You must tell us your secret ! 🙂

  24. Trevor Dennington permalink

    Classic example this morning of over-the-top box-ticking response to a perfectly straightforward and innocuous planning application for a temporary agricultural dwelling (i.e. mobile home ) in the county of Lincolnshire as provided for in PPS7.

    “Your application cannot be validated : Please send scaled floor plans and elevations” ! ! !

    Surely mobile homes are much of a muchness and a particular one will not be sought or bought until planning permission has been granted. Control could therefore be exercised effectively and simply via a planning condition requiring written approval of the proposed mobile home proposed prior to siting it ?

  25. Rick Phelps permalink

    A local authority i occassionally submit planning applications to has just issued a 73 page consultation document regarding a ‘ Local List of Information Requirements’; so much for 1apps!

    • Michael Smith permalink

      I am sorry, I just see accreditation of Agents / Architects as yet more and more bureaucracy.Why is it needed? Does that mean that “open government and transparency and a return to the people” or whatever jargon our current leader uses will now exclude the common house owner from submitting a planning application, despite possible capabilities? What, exactly is wrong with the current scheme which I have happily used for over 40 years? Have you all gone balmy? I believe I actually begin look forward to escaping from the lunatic asylum of bureaucratic Planning idiots.

      • Michael. I could not agree more. The planning systen has got itself in an unholy mess that suits nobody (except perhaps the validators who take a perverse delight in not validating).

        It should stop digging by ladling on more more and more bureaucracy. Validation is a system not fit for purpose and it should be scrapped now.

    • sunrise permalink

      Rick, I would be less than honest if I didn’t say “By and large, that is precisely the kind of thing bureaucrats DO.”
      1APP itself is a ridiculous document, excessively large because it seeks to cover most eventualities and therefore includes many questions that are totally inappropriate for cetain applications.
      It is about time we had 2APP, 3APP, 4APP etc modelled on the sensible forms LPAs used to use before the 1APP effort was designed by – sorry – people with a vested interest in making it as complex as possible.
      As I have said before, (1) a provision for appeal against disproportionate requirements from the Local List is way overdue. And, (2) give a bureaucrat power to ask for something and he often will …. whether he really needs it ior not.

  26. Trevor Dennington permalink

    If the planning system worked the way it should and simply involved filling in a form to put forward a proposal which resulted in a rational decision based on an absence of demonstrable harm in the proposal, perhaps we wouldn’t need accreditation of agents at all.
    As it is, however, it must be acknowledged that the planning system is by and large an adversarial system. It is therefore blatantly and entirely inappropriate that one adversarial party in the process should be able to effectively “rate” its opponents.
    Either way, therefore, accreditation by LPAs is a dido of a concept.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      In the 10 years I’ve been involved in planning I have to say I haven’t met anyone who was deliberately doing a bad job. No one that I’ve met supports bureaucracy for its own sake and whilst I’m sure there are jobsworths on both sides of the fence I’m also sure the majority just want to get the job done.

      For my own part the Portal are always striving to help. Admittedly 1App is not perfect but we are doing our best with limited resources to improve it where we can and there are significant improvements in the pipeline.

      As I understand accreditation where it is offered, it is in a genuine spirit of co-operation and is designed not to rate Agents but to agree a way through the bureaucracy that works for both the LPA and Agent. Where it results in greater trust and efficiency it can only be of benefit to everyone including citizens, who should find more officer time available to them.

      LPAs are working under greater constraints than ever with in many cases inexperienced administrative staff taking up roles previously held by planners. In this scenario it is inevitable that mistakes will occur and this will lead to frustration for all.

      I’m happy to provide this forum for debate but please remember bureaucrats are people too and the more constructive we can keep the debate the better chance we have of improving things.

      • “I haven’t met anyone who was deliberately doing a bad job.”

        I unfortunately spend a lot of time in planning receptions where the face of Planning is presented to the Public (customers) and I have to beg to differ.

        It may be that they are trying to do a good job and frustrated by a broken system but a lot of very unhappy people exist in planning receptions.

        I think I posted a comment I overheard an agent make to his client in the planning reception (sentence deleted by Chris Kendall)
        Another said she had had better service when she lived in Malawi.

        When you have an application not validated for 3 weeks because the site was outlined with “the wrong shade of red” you start to wonder about people doing a good job.

        This is not good.

        It is not a system that I am proud to be part of.

      • Well, being sadly long-in-the-tooth I’ve been putting Planning Applications from somewhere back when it was run as a public service instead of a bureaucratic control device – in whose interest it is difficult to tell.

        ‘Once upon a time’ it seemed Planners and architects were on much the same side, even though Planning brought in that occasionally client-upsetting idea of ensuring the good of the local community and the built environment. The conservation movement became influential but development was still (as ever in the UK) invariably lead by QSs and the bottom line. Often the only way to get a modicum of cash spent on design was by an alliance of Planner and Architect, with even Conservation departments being a help not a hindrance. Well-informed Planners-with-judgement had a hand in some of the better townscapes where quality new build is slotted alongside old with at least some regard for proportion and materials. Of course there was plenty bad building and plenty of architects (prefer to think it was technicians!) who obediently built cheap rubbish.

        Nowadays architects are treated as Planners’ enemy, and far too often the only way to get permission at all is to let a self-opinionated Planner tell you what your building should look like – rarely with any sense of 3D or purpose. If Committees are involved then the planners will go with the most powerful lobby; if neighbours are involved they will go with the most influential social club (usual suspects) that they mutually belong to. Any sense of the greater good is long gone in favour of back-covering by a mountain of paperwork.

        I’m really hoping that the concept of sustainability will be getting us out of combat and into more urgent priorities, but even this driver seems to be gathering a set of ‘acceptable’ cliches in the minds of Planners.

    • Michael Smith permalink

      Trevor, I’m with you all the way. After 40 years of battle, I swear its the LPAs who have turned my hair grey…..

  27. Trevor Dennington permalink

    This has just occurred to me ……….. Rather than having planning authorities effectively “rating” their opponents – i.e. agents seeking to correct their errors – let’s have planning agents rating LPAs on THEIR performance in dealing with planning applications.
    It makes as much, if not more, sense !

    • Michael Smith permalink

      Now, this idea had me smiling…. If only!!

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: