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Architect Bulletin - September 2018

Published: Wednesday, 26th September 2018

This month's bulletin includes an update on the Financial Transaction Service, a list of FAQs, information on 1App changes and more...

It’s now been over two weeks since we launched the new Financial Transaction Service, and as things start to settle down, we thought now would be a good opportunity to update you on the process.

So far, the new service has mostly been received well - we can see the volume of applications remains fairly consistent with previous levels. We have also seen a lot more customers starting to use our online payment options, including the option to nominate a third party to pay online, which was known previously as our ‘Payment ReDirect’ service. Online methods are now used to make 85 per cent of payments. 

However, as expected with a project of this size, there have been teething problems and we want to let you know what they are and how we are working to fix them:

Email notifications on the ‘nominate a third party to pay’ process

We have encountered an issue with the process to nominate a third party to pay. This is causing the nominee and the agent to receive daily reminder emails, and after seven days a payment cancellation email, even if the application has been successfully paid. We have been working to urgently fix this and stop the additional emails. Subject to further testing, we expect this issue to be fixed early next week. In the meantime, you should ignore the additional emails once payment has been made. This issue is NOT impacting the submission of your applications.

Disabling the ability to export draft application forms to PDF

We are aware that this is causing problems for some agents and we are working with our technical supplier to resolve this as quickly as possible, without simply providing a ‘submittable’ application form which could be emailed to local authorities.  As soon as we have time frames on this, we will advise via our blog. 

We apologise for any concern or confusion caused by these issues and thank you for your continued patience while we work to fix it over the coming days.

A selection of FAQs and guidance specifically written for planning professionals

Last month we announced some imminent updates to our online planning application service, and we are happy to announce that the updates are now live.

To recap, the changes are outlined below:

Application question content update

  • Authority Employee/Member - The wording of this question has been updated to account for the changes made by the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG). The information requirements of this question remain as is.
  • Residential/Dwelling Units - A workaround has been put in place to allow users to provide the correct details in regard to housing categories and dwelling types.
  • 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 has been 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 has been 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.

When clients ask for recommendations on a builder to use for their project, why not direct them to the Federation of Master Builder’s (FMB) ‘Find a Builder’ tool available on the Planning Portal.  You or they can search for builders who can work competently and efficiently on any size of project. 

All of the builders listed on the Find a Builder directory are FMB members, meaning they are independently inspected and vetted against a strict criteria on joining. They are obliged to follow a rigorous code of conduct, so you can be sure they will get the job done professionally and to a high standard. They can also offer you a warranty on all work carried out.

So whatever the needs of a project, use FMB's Find a Builder service to find the professionals who can help make it happen.

Earlier this month, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) published new and updated Planning Practice Guidance (PPG). This reflects the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), which was published in July. Here, The Planner has highlighted some key changes, many of which were set out in the revised PPG in March.

New guidance


•Local authorities are not “obliged” to accept needs from neighbouring areas if they can demonstrate doing so “would have an adverse impact when assesses against policies in the NPPF”. Inspectors, though, will expect to see that local authorities have addressed key strategic matters through “effective joint working” and not deferred them to subsequent plan updates.

•Local authorities should produce and update statement(s) of common ground throughout the plan-making process. The PPG states that it should include a number of points, including: the location and why; the key strategic matters being addressed by the statement; governance arrangements for the cooperation process; and a record of where agreements have (or have not) been reached on key strategic matters.

•On evidence gathering, the PPG encourages “authorities to use social media tools and other platforms to communicate with communities, where appropriate”.

•Includes a section on how it can be demonstrated that large-scale developments can be developed within a set timescale.

Build to rent

•Local authorities should use a local housing need assessment to work out whether there is a need for build to rent homes in their area. If a need is identified, local authorities should include in their local plan a policy that sets out an approach to promoting and accommodating build to rent.

•The PPG states that 20 per cent is “generally a suitable benchmark” for the level of affordable private rent homes to be provided, and maintained in perpetuity, in any build to rent scheme. Additionally, national affordable housing policy requires a minimum rent discount of 20 per cent for affordable private rent homes relative to local market rents.

•Consideration should be given to a “covenant period” for the retention of private market rent homes in that tenure. Also, potential compensation mechanisms should be considered in case private market rent homes are sold before the expiration of an agreed covenant period.


Neighbourhood Plans

•In order for neighbourhood plan areas to benefit from the limited protection of paragraph 14 of the revised NPPF – from the presumption in favour of sustainable development – neighbourhood plans must include housing policies and allocations.

•Policies and allocations must meet the identified housing requirement “in full”, whether that is derived from “the standard methodology for local housing need, the housing figure in the area’s strategic policies, an indicative figure provided by the local authority, or where it has exceptionally been determined by the neighbourhood planning body”.

•Where a neighbourhood plan-making body wants to allocate sites for development an appraisal of options and assessment of individual sites against clearly identified criteria will need to be carried out. Allocated sites should be shown on the policies map with a clear site boundary drawn on an Ordnance Survey base map.

Housing and economic land availability assessment

•This section introduces the housing delivery test, the rule book for which can be found here.

•The housing secretary will publish the Housing Delivery Test results annually in November. The test does not apply to “National Park Authorities, the Broads Authority and development corporations without (or not exercising) both plan-making and decision-making functions”.

•Areas that already have or are producing a joint plan can monitor their five-year land supply and have the Housing Delivery Test applied over the whole joint planning area or on a single authority.

•If housing delivery falls below the housing requirement, certain policies in the NPPF will apply:

- 95 per cent of the Housing Delivery Test results, an action plan will be required.

- A 20 per cent buffer on a local planning authority’s five-year supply if housing delivery falls below 85 per cent.

- The presumption in favour of sustainable development if housing delivery falls below 75 per cent, once transitional arrangements have ended.

This will apply until the subsequent Housing Delivery Test results are published, or a new housing requirement is adopted.

•Action plans will be produced by the local planning authority, and identify the reasons for under-delivery and for improvement.

•Local authorities are still required to review their five-year housing supply annually.

Housing need assessment 

•The standard method (consulted on last year) should be used to assess housing need, while “any other method” will be used only in exceptional circumstances.

•If a local authority uses an alternative approach that results in a lower housing need than the one calculated using the standard method, it “should in principle be considered to be unsound”. If an alternative approach identifies a higher need than the standard method it should be “considered sound as it will have exceeded the minimum starting point”.

•Local housing need calculated using the standard method can be relied upon for two years from the time that a plan is submitted to the Planning Inspectorate for examination.

The PPG in full can be found here on the MHCLHG website.

Laura Edgar, The Planner