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Planners plan ahead, don’t they?

by on August 7, 2014

From our Head of Corporate Development, Stuart Mockford:

…well no, not always.

Our Account Managers often receive calls from planning professionals that are desperate to get applications in at the last minute. These are usually to do with attachments – compressing detailed plans and drawings; dividing large documents (e.g. transport assessments, Environmental Impact Studies) or converting files into acceptable formats and so on. 

Understandably, the level of frustration and annoyance builds as the deadline approaches, particularly, but not always when the successful submission of the application triggers a staged service payment.

We’ve talked a lot in this blog about the 5MB limit and we know it is an issue for many of you.  In the future we hope to be able to increase this limit, at least for applications to those LPAs able to receive larger files, but until such time here are our top tips for reducing the deadline stress:

  • When specific supporting documents are provided by specialist third parties, we recommend issuing them with the following guidance to ensure you receive documents in manageable sizes and formats.
  • Upload all supporting attachments as soon as they become available, safe in the knowledge they are securely retained on the Portal as part of the draft application which can be updated and replaced at any time.  This helps avoid the scramble to upload multiple attachments at the same time (up to 10 can be uploaded together) in the last few hours before submission.
  • If you are a member of a team contributing to a planning application, consider asking for access to the Portal user account which will eventually be used to submit the application. This means you can add your document to the application as soon as it is complete. This can be done by sharing the submitters user account or activating the ‘Agent Administration’ facility by following this guidance note.

Alternatively, your Portal Account Manager will be happy to help.

If you are not sure who your Account Manager is, please email me stuart.mockford@planningportal.gov.uk

10 Comments
  1. Hi – if we wnated to put a link on our Council Planning website for anyone interested in subscribing to updates from the Planning Portal about new features or new legislation, which page should I link to? Thanks.

    • Hello Bethany,
      the best way to find out about new Portal features and legislation updates is to subscribe to this blog for email alerts to new posts. To subscribe to this blog use the facility on the top right of this page. The link to this blog is https://portaldirector.wordpress.com/ which you can add to your site. Please let me know if you’d like a logo or other Portal image for your local authority’s site.

      Users can also subscribe to our weekly e-newsletter which includes industry news and also our latest blog posts.
      To sign up to our newsletter, either register on the Planning Portal (http://www.planningportal.gov.uk/wps/portal/PpRegister) or edit existing account settings in the communications section.

      Hope this helps
      Portal content team

  2. ithreeadmin permalink

    This is an interesting point about last minute applications…

    We’ve been looking in detail about some of the impacts of this. Data from one client is typical and shows that overall 62% of applications from agents are invalid, but for those submitted on a Monday the rate is only 58% while those submitted on a Fridays the invalidity rate rises to 68%!

    This may well be a result of trying to clear the decks by the end of the business week?

    As a PS, we’ve also found that applications that are initially invalid take longer to go through the system EVEN AFTER they have been made valid and are up to 50% more likely to get a refusal.

    It would seem that some applications have quality issues that are trackable at every stage in the process.

  3. We often overcome the 5mb limit by uploading a 1page document explaining that the ‘real’ document is too large, and providing a written/clickable link to our own secure server, from where the LPA can download the large document directly.
    You could also use Dropbox.
    Some LPAs still struggle with this, in which case they can still have a CD copy in the post if they wish (which is actually more complicated than a download) but most have dealt with it successfully and validated our application on the same day.

  4. Hi Steve,
    Having your own secure server where LPAs can view larger attachments is a great asset that seems to neatly address the problem of attaching large (>5MB) files. Regretfully, in order to view these files you essentially have to download them. While this may not be a problem for most LPAs it can be for members of the public with limited broadband capabilities. This will become less of a problem as broadband speeds and bandwidth slowly improve but in the meantime we are stil encouraging LPAs to accept larger files and, where possible professional planners to minimise attachment file sizes or subdivide larger files sizes into 5MB sections.We recognise this is less than an ideal solution but one I feel we have to live with for a while longer.

  5. Simon Evans permalink

    The 5Mb limit has been a hot potato almost since inception of the Planning Portal and gets more anachronistic with every passing month. But it cannot be easy to resolve or we must assume it would have been by now.

    Steve Edgeller’s workaround seems sensible, given that it is increasingly common for large files to be sent using a file sharing service or cloud storage. Email systems are gradually building this in at root.

    On a different point, how fascinating that ithreeadmin has experienced such high invalidity rates. This could of course mean that all those applicants have simply been careless. Experience on the applicant side suggests other causes as well. Not being told at pre-app what the requirements were (in relation to local lists, for example). Or loss of documentation (it happens!). Or most often of all, what we on our side might think of as just petty bureaucracy! Things have changed and what was once done by experienced planning officers and remedied by a short and timely telephone call is now done by basic admin staff for whom the most insignificant transgression results in “invalidity”. Brave New World, etc.

    • Jen permalink

      ‘Basic’ admin staff ….Nice. I am lucky to work at an LPA where the validation team are well trained and experienced in validating applications so the ‘experienced’ planners can concentrate on determining applications.

    • Michael permalink

      Simon Evans – an interesting theory you have about “basic admin staff” but from my experience the reality is the complete opposite. The LPA I work for took validation away from the admin team and gave it to planning officers and the result is that the whole process is now not only inconsistent but slower too. Where before 2 people who sat next to each other validated applications now we have 15 officers all working to different standards (on far more than one occasion I’ve seen one planning officer make something invalid that I know others would have accepted). The officers also have a vested interest, if they’re snowed under or behind with work they’ll trawl through new applications looking for the slightest thing to invalidate the application and buy themselves a few extra days. This was never an issue when admin did the validation as they just wanted the files off their desks ASAP.

      So from what I’ve seen you couldn’t be more wrong I’m afraid.

  6. I must comment as regards validation of a planning application.
    An LPA validated an application and issued documents to that effect. Seven weeks later they deemed that they could not consider the application and promptly withdrew the application without reference, and returned the fee.
    Any comments on the validity of this as I consider this could be illegal.

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