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Its largely business as usual for us, but what about our customers?

by on March 25, 2020

As you will have seen from our earlier posts, we have recently been putting measures in place to protect our staff whilst ensuring continuity of service during the COVID-19 outbreak.  As a digital service, we have been fortunate to have a digitally skilled and mobile workforce that has adapted well to working from home.  That said, it has of course been a mindset shift for all of us as everyone acclimatises to different ways of working.  We’ve been monitoring the online application stats closely too, to try and understand what this means for our customers, at least in the short-term, as well as working with the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and Local Authorities to support the planning process across the board.

As the primary submission channel for planning applications, we are conscious that we provide a very early market indicator of trends.  We had planned to start sharing this information more widely, with our first post planned for April, however in the current circumstances it seems appropriate to start now.

By way of context, it is useful to share the data we’ve seen over the last few months, with a clear growth in planning application submissions since the general election result in December.  Generally, applications follow a similar seasonal pattern, so by comparing numbers with the same month in the previous year we can see any differences.  The table below shows these figures of online applications by month for the last quarter of 2019 and this year so far:

Portal application figures October - February

March had been continuing where February left off but unsurprisingly there has already been a decrease in applications, as measures have been put in place to curb the transmission of the COVID-19 virus.

The graph below shows the daily pattern for March (dips are weekends).  Overall however, the picture isn’t too gloomy and figures for online applications appear to be down around 10 per cent last week and a further 10 per cent so far this week.

Planning Portal applications: March 2020

We’ll update again at the end of the month with further analysis but unsurprisingly it seems that applications have slowed a little, for now at least.  As it stands, we would expect these applications to still be submitted further down the line but it would be useful to get the thoughts of our customers via the comments below and equally to know if there is anything else we can do to support you at this uncertain time.

7 Comments
  1. This is not unexpected, in time you could see an increase in receipts if Agents who regularly submit hard copies choose to convert.
    Local Councils urgently need support and clarification regarding publicity during the Lockdown. It would help if the Government acknowledges online planning register is a source of publicity and could replace the need for either a site notice or neighbour notifications (at least during the current crisis).

  2. Edward McGill Chartered Architect. permalink

    local authorities are asking for extra time to determine applications due to staff working from home and illness.

  3. Jim Parker permalink

    We are only a small practice. It doesn’t look good.
    Site meetings with Planning officers are cancelled, we can’t meet with potential clients or do surveys.
    Existing clients understandably, have other things on their minds.
    We will be forced to close for the duration of the pandemic very soon.

  4. We are appreciative of regular Planning Portal updates.
    The Business Continuity Statement is reassuring, to a degree – practices will not be using the Portal service if they are unable to continue practising during coronavirus.
    Where the refund of an application becomes necessary, perhaps through delay in preparing additional information due to restrictions on site visits during coronavirus, include reimbursement of the Planning Portal service charge as well as the Local Authority application fee.
    Residential units (full planning): requirement to download/complete/upload a separate sheet – to be resolved.

    • sarahchilcott permalink

      Hi Mark. Thanks for your feedback. I just wanted to let you know that we’re working on a change to add a question on residential units – its in testing at the moment and we’ll post an update on this blog once its ready for deployment. Sarah

  5. Adam Tuck permalink

    We are only a small planning practice with six staff. I think people are trying to continue as normal but it isn’t normal. We already have sites where surveys cant be completed and Councils not accepting surveys that have been done recently due to the lock down as they are not representative. Can Councils please be sensible and pragmatic and not use this as another reason to refuse or stifle applications. We all need to work together and be sensible. When we get through this we will need sites and projects to move on to and develop. We are also seeing a lot more neighbour objections as people have time to review applications and object. There are also some of us who are still working hard and trying to keep a small business going so people have jobs to come back to when this is all over. Whether people will be able to pay our bills is another question.

  6. Peter Davis permalink

    Posters – I hesitate to interrupt the flow of Covid19 related posts but I wonder if you could advise/comment on a recent LDC application I have been involved with. I made an application for a certificate for an attic conversion including a rear elevation dormer and replacement of a brickwork chimney stack with a twin walled flue. I receieved a negative certificate because “the proposed rear dormer would not be permitted by virtue of Part 1 Class B 1 (3)(ii) of the T&CP GPDO 2015 as the extension would consist of or include the alteration or replacement of a chimney and the installation of a flue”. But the alteration or replacement of a chimney or flue is Class G permitted development provided certain criteria are met. It seems that I could have applied for an LDC for the attic conversion and dormer without the chimney alteration and would have received a positive certificate. I could then make a second application for the flue alteration and receive a positive certificate for that, but not both on the same application. How absurd is that?

    If I pursue a planning approval for two types of development on a dwelling, say a front elevation porch over three metres high and a rear elevation extension over four metres high I don’t have to make two applications.

    I think we all know what a can of worms the GDPO has been since reform in 2008 evidenced by the quantity of subsequent guidance that has been published by DCLG. But I can’t understand my present situation at all. The 2017 guidance seems to address this but the planning officer takes a different interpretation of it to me. We should not need to interpret PD.

    Any views?

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