Latest news

Architect Bulletin - July 2018

Published: Tuesday, 31st July 2018

Financial Transaction Service announcement, 1App question changes, How important is BIM?, It’s time to overhaul the use classes order and more stories...

At the Planning Portal, we have always been passionate about refining our service to add value for users wherever we can. It has become increasingly obvious to us that the biggest pain point within the planning process is validation, with around 25 per cent of all invalid applications being due to missing cheque payments. Delayed or missing payments cause a huge headache for everyone involved, eating up value time and delaying the validation and processing of applications, ultimately meaning slower decisions for you and your clients.

In early September 2018, we will introduce a new financial transaction service. Our service will eradicate this issue from the English planning system and simplify the process of paying for applications for everyone. The service will be completely managed by the Planning Portal, meaning less time spent chasing, paying or reconciling planning fees for everyone else. Agents will be able to focus on activities which generate income and LPAs will be able to get on with processing applications.

As well as smoother, speedier validation for your applications our new service will offer you:

  • A consistent set of payment options across all authorities – including online, telephone, bank transfer and cheque
  • The option to nominate a third party to pay securely for the application
  • The ability to pay for your application 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year – either online or via our call centre
  • A receipt for the payment emailed to you as standard

We will now send applications and payments to the relevant local authorities together, as soon as we have confirmed successful payment. This will keeps the process rapid, succinct and tidy and prevent problems which arise from missing information. It will also allow authorities to start validating planning applications as soon as they get them. 

There will be a per application charge for the service. This will be payable by the applicant on any application submitted via the Planning Portal which attracts a fee. Applications where no fee is payable will be sent directly to the local authority with no service charge applied.

The User Guide available here includes all the information you need to understand more about why we are launching this service, the charge that will be applied, how it will work and timings around the transfer of fees and applications to the local authority.  This will help you make sure that you are aware of any impact on your own working practices and agreements with your clients.

As well as covering the cost of the additional staff needed to manage this service, the service charge will cover direct costs such as banking and finance fees. The remainder of the income will be used to improve the planning application service and to ensure that our services, advice, guidance and support continue to be available and up-to-date.

System updates:


We expect the following changes to be implemented in early August.

  • Application question content update

The following amends are being made:

  • Authority Employee/Member - The wording of this question is being updated to account for the changes made by MHCLG. The information requirements of this question remain as is.
  • Residential/Dwelling Units - Currently, the options presented on the system do not account for starter homes or self/custom-build dwellings. We have agreed a workaround with MHCLG to allow these details to be provided via completion of an additional supporting document until a proper fix can be implemented.
  • Details of relevant ‘permission in principle’ on applications for ‘technical details consent’ - Full Planning Permission applications for technical details consent require applicants to provide details of the permission in principle that is being relied on. The wording of the ‘description of the proposal’ question is being updated to reflect this requirement.
  • Update to fee exemptions

The more general exemption in regard to Article 4 directions and planning conditions that was removed in January as part of the changes to fees is being reworded and re-introduced to specifically refer to the Regulation 6 exemption that is still in effect.

Separately, the exemption in regard to the first resubmission of an advertising application has been reworded to better convey the legislative restrictions that apply to it.

Building Control

The latest round of fixes for the Building Control system are now live. These fixes are focussed on removing issues that could potentially hinder submission of applications:

  • ‘Date the work was carried out’ now appears correctly in the PDF output for Regularisation Certificate applications.
  • Agent address details will now validate correctly with single line addresses.
  • Payment method configurations for Building Control Bodies will enforce that at least one method of payment is selected (ensuring users don’t reach a dead end).
  • Building Notices and Regularisation Certificates no longer require any supporting documents to be provided.

There have also been various content and help text updates to provide better assistance to users in selecting and completing their applications.

PDF forms

PDF forms generated for online application submissions now better reflect the question order and content from the online system. This will allow easier comparison of the online system and PDF output.

While this means that they differ slightly from the ‘blank’ PDF forms we supply (which are still based on the MHCLG templates), they now give a more accurate impression of the questions that have been completed online.

Separately, the blank PDF forms we provide have all been updated to ensure they match the templates provided by MHCLG.

The CIL additional information form has also been updated to ensure that questions 2b and 3b correctly and consistently reference residential annexes.

Building Information Modelling (BIM) is a 3D-modelling process which involves collecting and managing as much information as possible on current or proposed structures. We would like to know if you currently use this technology and what BIM means to you and your organisation.

With BIM, information is made digitally available to all relevant parties, which in principle means professionals involved at every stage of a project can make better, more informed decisions.    

We would like to know if you currently use this technology and what BIM means to you and your organisation.

Please complete a short survey to help us collect information that will help us improve our service.

It will only take a few minutes to complete.

Complete the survey

The information you provide in this survey will be used to help us write a report, due to be published in the summer.

If you would like further information about our research or would like us to share this report with you, please email

The planning system is struggling to cope with modern ways of living, argues Jennifer Ross. What's needed are use classes that reflect how we choose to live in the 21st century

Cast your mind back to 1987. The Channel Tunnel was given the go-ahead and the pop phenomenon that is Kylie entered the UK charts for the first time. It’s also when our Use Classes Order was last properly updated, following a 1985 review.

That system replaced the 1972 order, which contained fabulous reminders of a bygone industrial age. Blood boiling, bone burning and maggot breeding were all removed and amalgamated into a far less evocative B1 class (even if planning authorities still uphold distinctions between respective sub-classes). This 1987 order has seen 14 revisions, but not yet been subject to a full review.

Just as we no longer need Dickensian industries, so a snapshot of society from 30 years ago is not helping to tackle today’s challenges.

The gig economy has changed everything; boundaries between living and working have blurred. We need to widen the scope of use classes to better cover these areas and the many ways they cross over.

Over 18 months my colleagues and I have come up against:

  • Co-working including living accommodation – C1 or C3 or B1 with ancillary living or sui generis?
  • Warehouses on an industrial estate being used by groups to live, work and create – not quite C3, not quite B1, a sort of co-living model. The process is ongoing and through discussion we are settling on a new concept – warehouse living – a sui generis use?
  • An extra care facility with self-contained housing, a health spa, a restaurant and an element of extra care – C2, C3 or sui generis?
  • Co-housing models with more than six individuals – not quite hostels or HMOs, but not C3 either. Default sui generis?

Couple this with debates on other Class C uses, including student housing, aparthotels/serviced flats and the growth of AirBnB-type short lets and the time is right to reassess the way to categorise property.

We are open to new forms of housing and have a pressing need for more, so let’s reduce uncertainty when it comes to deciding whether changes should engage with the planning system and how policies should be applied.

And this should not be done in isolation. A complementary set of building, fire and amenity rules should ensure the delivery of appropriate living and working accommodation. To avoid the confusion that arose in relation to live/work in the 1980s, a review of related taxation rates and mortgage lending criteria would help. And viability assessments need more flexibility. This could effect a shift that brings planning back to its key principles: creating good places for the people who need them.

Jennifer Ross MRTPI, The Planner