The impact of electronic working on the presentation of planning applications
Thanks go to John Danahay in our hard working account team for the following article.
With electronic submission via the Planning Portal regularly exceeding 60% of applications (and as much as 80% for some LPAs), an increasing number of LPAs no longer print a copy of a Portal application at all.
This lets these LPAs make cost savings but still maintain, or even improve, determination times, particularly of smaller applications.
At these LPAs planning administration and technical staff can accurately check plans and drawings on-screen using on-screen measurement software. Planning officers can access the electronic case files and some even use a laptop or tablet on a site visit.
Many consultees also view planning documents on-screen via the LPA’s website and comment online and most applications have been electronically presented at committee meetings for a few years now. However, for LPAs to get the best from electronic working there may need to be some changes to the traditional way in which a planning application is packaged and presented.
Although an application needs to meet the standards for validation and registration, it may no longer be enough just to convert a paper application into electronic form. And of course, that is without the implications of BIM (Building Information Modelling) that must eventually come into the equation.
Traditionally, multiple plans and drawings have often been presented on a single sheet of paper. Obviously larger developments will require a larger sheet size depending on the scale, but is surprising how many smaller, less complex developments are presented using multiple plans and drawings on a single, large sheet.
In the paperless planning office and for electronic consultees, on-screen viewing of a single, large sheet with multiple plans and drawings of varying scales can be a real problem.
Although many LPAs have now equipped planning staff with bigger screens, an A1 sheet containing multiple plans and drawings means the viewer will probably have to scroll around the sheet and zoom in and out, and although the on-screen measuring tools are simple to use, this can make on-screen interpretation more difficult.
This will be even more the case with consultees and members of the public who are less likely to have big screens. Of course, some of these people may still want to print a copy of a specific document, so using smaller sheet sizes will also enable printing, if required, on more easily accessible office and desktop printers.
LPA electronic documentation systems also require that documents are tagged with metadata, eg the document type, to make categorising and searching for them easier. The Planning Portal is designed to let the applicant categorise these document types on upload. When multiple plans and drawings are submitted on one sheet some LPAs have to resort to making multiple copies of the document to represent different document types.
Therefore, a little bit of thought about how a document will look and work on-screen and in an electronic documentation system will help the increasing number of LPAs who are adopting paperless planning systems to process your application more efficiently and effectively.
Many professional architects and planning agents have already adapted their systems to this way of working internally, so have made many of these steps already.
- Where possible, separate plans and drawings on to different sheets with a single scale, and with a preference for A3 sheet size or smaller if possible
- Clearly indicate sheet size and scale and at least some key dimensions (always check the LPA’s guidelines/requirements)
- Make sure the document is correctly aligned for on-screen viewing
- When uploading the document onto the Portal make sure it is uploaded against the correct document type. (Some LPAs use these to automatically tag the document for their document management system)
Please do not upload all your documents against the Portal’s mandatory documentation section. Many other document types are actually available in the local level requirements and additional documentation – where there is also a user defined option
Fortunately, the Planning Portal multiple document upload feature now makes uploading multiple documents much easier and faster!