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Calling LPAs: a question about PDF measuring software

by on March 27, 2014

The Planning Portal account management team visits many LPAs each week to improve their understanding of how online planning services are operating and evolving.

A common topic for many visits is the use of the free measuring tools that LPAs use to help them work electronically.

This subject came up again during a trip to a south London authority and I thought the blog might be a good forum to canvas other LPAs on the solutions they use.

We know PDF X-change and Foxit are two free solutions being used by LPAs. I’d be interested in understanding what software other LPAs are using and the benefits being realised for their authority.

Please share your thoughts below.

  1. Jeanette Collins permalink

    Brent uses the PDF xchange solution. Works very well for us

  2. Stoke uses Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro – it is expensive but allows us to alter / redact / add pages to pdfs as well as measure. However, 1-APP forms are locked so any alterations have to be made by the applicant via the Portal which takes longer to do.

    • GRPA permalink

      Can I ask why an LPA would want to edit information in a submitted 1App? Surely they are locked for a reason – if an argument arises at appeal, then the locked original can still be produced. And presumably a PDF could be quickly reprinted to another PDF if redaction were necessary for a web portal?

      • If an applicant misses out a tick box here or there or a date on the certificates or a number of car parking spaces – it is more convenient for them if we agree by email to change the forms for them. Speeds up validation, you see.

      • GRPA permalink

        Yep, can see that and therefore can’t see why they are locked in the first place. And of course you could change application titles and details as well if it suits your workflow and gets it through the system even quicker, But how does it leave its legal status?

  3. Chris Dow permalink

    Coventry uses a mixture of adobe acrobat products which we have had historically, we can measure and redact (signatures emails etc) so it serves our purpose.
    However we have been struggling with the measuring tools which can produce inaccurate results and has proved difficult to calibrate. We have yet to find anything that improves the use of documents especially on site so it frustrates our efforts to move away from paper.

  4. Carl Hughes permalink

    Both and all of the measuring tools are a great addition to reading PDFs (especially the area tool), however from my experience they do not work on all drawings and some times architects, designers and draughters have altered the drawing which means either the scale will always remain at a default scale regardless of the input or the scale input will not interact correctly with the PDF.

  5. You appear to be confusing PDF Readers with measuring tools? Not sure why an LPA would be concerned with measuring tools if the PDFs are readable, but we would recommend MagicPlan by Sensopia if you wanted one to discuss?

  6. Nigel Hancock permalink

    Here at Rotherham we use Adobe Acrobat Pro 9. Yes it was expensive to buy a few years ago but has served us well and seems to produce very accurate results. I just wish that when you bought an adobe license you got free updates to the latest version.

  7. Michael Stephenson permalink

    Another one (Solihull) to add to the list of those using Acrobat Pro 9.

    We’re moving over to an Idox system later this year though and I believe this will then be used for our measuring needs.

  8. Keith Pegram permalink

    In Poole we use Acrobat Pro 9, Adobe Reader V11 and IDOX Measuring tools , all with basic measuring tools. We also use to use FOXIT reader before we went back to Adobe. At one time we were recommending FOXIT to the public to use as a measuring tool as well.

  9. Ian Lanham permalink

    Is it not possible to include on any plan a ruler to the scale of the drawing that can be used to check the dimensions. Regardless of the printed plan size the ruler remains proportional.

    • james francis (architect) permalink

      I like drawing title blocks to have an element, usually a line, that is noted as being a specific dimensions when the drawing is plotted to scale. Our A1 title blocks are 100mm wide and have a bar under the notes/disclaimers clearly labeled as being that length when the off is plotted to scale so even if a scale bar is missing the drawing is still usable

  10. James Francis (architect) permalink

    I was concerned about the lack of understanding of how to print off paper copies of pdf drawings shown by a young planning assistant who was unaware that if you don’t set the print settings to print 1 to 1 the drawing will plot to fit (dispite my drawing having a scale bar noted a in scale units and as a 100mm when plotted to scale) As the pressures on Local Authorities increase and jounior staff are pushed to take on more responsiblity with less supervision it is vital they are given training in such basics.

    Measuring pdfs electronically might prevent these kind of failings occuring.

    • GRPA permalink

      Likewise. A scale bar with corresponding metre annotations and an explicit ‘scaled 1:50 at A3’ note should cover all the bases. Didn’t stop a local LPA from ‘printing to fit’ a set of my plans and sending them out to a neighbour who happened to be an architect! And they tried to pin it on me! And another officer (not assistant) made a phone call to me whilst trying to scale off a quick and dirty A4 print. Admittedly a few years back, so I’m concerned it’s still happening.

      • James Francis (architect) permalink

        unfortunately I have heard similar issues raised by friends dealing with planning departments so there does seem to be an issue (I have also heard of elevations being scaled when on another drawing there is a dimensioned plan!)

        This is not about a witch hunt but I think the planning departments need the industry to lobby to ensure their budgets are viable, particularly as more Permitted Development rights which carry no fees for Prior Approval cannot be helping this problem. Sorry to go slightly off topic.

  11. Richard Grant permalink

    As around 80% of applications are now submitted via the Portal I would assume that many of the drawings have been produced on AutoCAD software or others using the DWG file type. When a drawing is saved with the correct file extension it is converted to an AutoCAD PDF which can be read by the recipient using the excellent FREE Autodesk Design Review reader. The drawing retains its fidelity, can be dimensioned, annotated, lines can be drawn etc. It can then be emailed back to the sender for the suggested changes or comments to be acted upon. This may not suit everyone but why can’t we use other options instead of ADOBE all the time.

    • James Francis (architect) permalink

      The pdf files that AutoCAD generates are very large compared with a simple pdf plot as they have an awful amount of the CAD data embedded in the file rather than just being what is effectively a digital print of a drawing. AutoCAD while popular is not the only software in the market place and there can be regional variations in this to consider. There is also a danger with files that can be easily edited. There are also many pdf plotting applications that are freeware or low cost from sources other than Adobe. (CutePDF was popular in some of my previous offices).

      • GRPA permalink

        Although I use Adobe for my more heavyweight PDF needs, the best viewer I have found (and thus my default) is PDF-XChange – this seems to be the only PDF software that easily allows printing to exact percentages (eg 71% – try converting an A2 doc to A3 accurately in Acrobat!).

      • Michael Stephenson permalink

        The PARSOL “Standards for e-Consultation” guidance notes I was given as a sort of e-consultation bible state that “If the LPA chooses to accept files of larger than
        5Mb, then it is their responsibility to split larger files into individual files of 5Mb or
        under before undertaking consultation”. So the issue of large file sizes, which mainly crops up with large reports, is certainly something which causes us a few problems from time to time. Personally I think with broadband available to the vast majority of people this size limit could be upped to at least 10mb but that’s another story.

        With regards to plans being printed I’m surprised it appears to be quite common for them to be done incorrectly. It should just be a simple matter of ensuring page scaling is set to none. The only time we have problems is when a drawing is submitted via the portal as say an A3 plan but actually needs to be printed at A1. This (very infrequently) happens as it’s a lot quicker to hover the cursor in the bottom left hand corner of Acrobat to see the paper size than search for it on the plan (which sometimes isn’t listed). It’s noticed very early on and reprinted at the correct size.

  12. Shane permalink

    I recently had an issue with a Planning Authority who indicated that they could only print A3 PDF files and asked me to resubmit in this format. This was not possible as at a scale of 1:100 the drawings were larger than A3, plus this would have involved a lot more more for us.

    In the end the only option was to print our drawings and submit them by post, thus defeating the object of the Planning Portal and delaying validation. My question is what obligations do Planning Authorities have in respect of printing drawings?

  13. Val Jacobi permalink

    In our LPA we use the Civica Comino program to store our document images. This has a built in (accurate) measurement tool function, so we are happy that we can measure distance and area from the electronic images as long as we been told the scale.
    we also use the “My Service Planning” for our website, which again has built in measuring tools, so that members of the public can measure critical dimensions on their home pc.
    With more applications being submitted electronically and, maybe more critically, website images being used by the general public, then being able to measure the electronic image as well as reproduce it in paper form with accurate results is essential. The adobe image viewer in portal submitted drawings is not easy for the public to find and use.

  14. Andrew Hirst permalink

    LPAs should not tamper with submitted drawings full stop, they are copyright

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