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Bristol aims to improve validation with agent accreditation scheme

by on April 12, 2012

Application validation is a subject close to all our hearts. Bristol City Council is the latest LPA to launch an agent accreditation scheme to try and improve the validation process for planning applications.

According to Bristol City Council, the scheme works on the basis of accrediting planning agents who agree to follow a ‘code of practice’ when submitting planning applications.

The code of practice contains a checklist of items, which the council regards as essential to the efficient processing of applications.

In return for submitting an application in accordance with the code of practice the Council will:

  • Register your application without it going through the normal validation stage.
  • Ensure that it reaches the case officer’s desk within 24 hours.
  • Target to determine the application within six weeks, as long as it can be determined under delegated powers.

LPAs tell us they want a closer working experience with applications to cut down on application validation time. Agents tell us that validation delays are a bugbear.

Many of you have already given me feedback on whether agent accreditation is the answer to validation. If you want to add your thoughts, please add a comment below or on the previous blog post.

(This is a subject that elicits passionate responses on both sides of the fence so please read the house rules below and take a deep breath before posting your constructive advice.)

I’d be particularly interested to hear from agents or council officers who have been involved (or are involved) in accreditation schemes at other LPAs.

Finally, if you do offer accreditation scheme at your LPA, please let me know the details and provide a link and we’ll look into the feasibility of managing a central list in the near future.

  1. Full marks to Bristol LPA

  2. This may be an issue for application submitted via the planning portal. We have continual instances where a fee cheque is posted following online submission and we receive correspondence telling us the application is invalid before the cheque is received. This alone would prevent us from being allowed on to an accreditation scheme!

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi Luis,
      many Agents give their customers access to the application process in order to enable the customer to pay the fee online, thereby speeding up registration and validation and alleviating the issues you report, without impacting on their company accounts.

  3. Bryan Cadman permalink

    An update from Bristol, so far 14 Accredited Agents –, and 4 applications under the scheme received.

  4. Perry Stock, FRICS permalink


    I would ask that whatever the checklist is – let members of teh public see it so that they do not (mistakenly) fear that a club or cabal is being created to keep them out of the route sought by many – of faster turnaround of the applications.

    Perhaps this would also lead to an appreciation that making an Application is a bit more complicated than is assumed by many – who then wonder why they end up with a refusal when they could have engaged a knowledgable person to help them address the issues before application / to articulate thier case better.

    Transparency should lead to a better understanding that it isn’t a dark art – more a scientific process

  5. Steve permalink

    I am sure this meant to be helpful, but allowing LPAs to make their own criteria is just complicating the whole process and making a nonsense of a national body i.e. Planning Portal. What is required is a straight forward system which can be used by all.

  6. Don Shearer permalink

    We need validation of applications to be centrally controlled through the Planning portal, not the LPA. Over recent years Local requirements by LPA’s have further complicated and delayed validation. Dealing with over 30 different LPA’s we know that there is no consistency at all in standards of applied validation. Accreditation could easily work by Planning Portal accepting say RTPI, RIBA & ARB members applications as validated before they are passed onto the LPA (thus removing validation from the LPA), saving very substantial costs. By automatically allowing these applications to be validated, guarantees of service standards could easily be applied through random monitoring, with the accreditation being withdrawn by (Planning portal) if the accredited practice failed to apply the national code of practice in more than one application case.

  7. Perry Stock, FRICS permalink

    I fully appreciate the strange ways adopted by some LPA’s. One used to have such a big backlog of work that they often used to respond (a few weeks after we had dropped off the full Application pack) that there was information missing and thus delaying the registration process and the timeline starting..

    My colleagues remedied that by taking along a receipt form and getting it signed by the front desk clerk when they were dropped off, to show that a full set had been submitted. That which is proposed of ensuring a consistency of submissions – is a good idea.

    By the way, would Chartered Surveyors who are in the Planning & Development division be included in the list of suitably qualified / experienced persons?

  8. martin white permalink

    seems a good idea in principle if you are applying to Bristol City Council on many occasions, but agree most of us in the private sector are dealing with many different Councils at any one time and want to rely on the planning portal. That said, I do find most planning officers are helpful enough to make sure there is no disconnect between the officer and the person validating it and always worth a call than solely relying on the electronic age (although i guess this is more difficult in bigger urban authorities). I would also say that i was amazed recently when a validation person spotted a small error on a plan that we were actually quite grateful for but was pragmatic enough to let us resubmit the plan without delaying the validation.

  9. Simon Evans permalink

    In days of yore, planning applications were received and immediately allocated to an officer whose first task was to validate it. That system led to early and relatively painless registration but often resulted in requests for further information later on that frequently led to delays in determination.

    The current system was aimed to address that problem by a more rigorous validation process at the start. This has meant that the statutory eight week determination has been more reliable but the overall time between submission and determination has probably lengthened. This is good for an LPA’s statistics and bad for applicants and their agents.

    I suspect part of the problem of registration nowadays is that it is dealt with by admin staff rather than planning officers.

    I wonder if there is a way that LPAs can set the requirements for a particular application via the Portal? Then when documents are uploaded, the system can check automatically that everything required has been submitted. When received by the LPA, applications could then go straight to an allocated officer and avoid the need for a dedicated registration team.

  10. Keith Baker permalink

    How to Tame Agents. Favours demand/expect Favours in return. I cannot see that giving preference to one agent/applicant over another can possibly be Legal.

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