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Local Authority Bulletin - January 2019

Published: Monday, 28th January 2019

Refunds for planning applications, New ReQuestaPlan features launched, Invalid planning applications – survey, Government consult on fibre broadband provisions for new homes and more stories...

It’s now been over four months since the introduction of our payment service.

We want to ensure that local planning authorities are benefiting as much as possible from the improved efficiency that the new service provides.

Following questions from some local authorities, we thought it would be helpful to outline our recommended refund process.

It is important that this process is followed when refunding planning applications submitted using the Planning Portal. We have experienced issues making refund payments to applicants when refunds have been paid to us without being accompanied by our completed refund form.

Our refund form captures the reference number of the application and other relevant details necessary to make the refund. You should email this form to us for every refund you send to us.

Following our refund process will ensure that we can promptly repay the money you refund us to the correct applicants.

Our refund process:

  1. Local planning authority determine that a refund is due

Identify that an applicant is due a refund from your authority.

  1. Local planning authority fill in refund form

The planning team should fill in our refund form, which you can find here.

Please note: If you use your own refund form internally, this can be sent to us instead, providing it captures the following data:

  • The Planning Portal reference number attributed to the application
  • The amount to be refunded to the applicant
  • The reason for the refund. We need this information to help us identify any potential areas for improvement in our system.

Once you have completed the form, it should be emailed to your finance team, so that they can initiate the refund.

  1. Local planning authority send the Planning Portal the payment and the refund form

Your finance team should:

  • Make the refund payment to the Planning Portal bank account by BACS. Our account details can be found below.
  • Email the refund form to, so we can match the payment with the applicant.

Our account details:

Account Name PortalPlanQuest 
Account Number 31076744
Sort Code 40-11-60
Bank Name HSBC
Bank Address City-of-London
60 Queen Victoria Street

Please note:  It is important that the payment is made before the form is sent to us.

  1. The Planning Portal receive the refund

Once we receive the money and the form, we identify the recipient of the refund.

  1. The Planning Portal refund the applicant

We then refund the money to the account that the applicant originally paid from.

To do this, we use the following payment methods:

Initial payment method Refund method
Online Online
Telephone Online
Bank transfer BACS
Cheque  BACS

Payments should be transferred to us from your authority as quickly as possible once you have identified that a refund is needed, and certainly within 14 days. If you follow the process as laid out above, we will be able to process the refund quickly. In fact even though our terms state that it could take up to 14 days to issue a refund once we receive it from the LPA, we have often been able to issue refunds within 24 hours.

As soon as the refund has been made, we send confirmation notifications to both the applicant and local authority so there is a full audit trail.

If you have any queries on the above process, please don’t hesitate to contact our refunds team

Following the recent updates to the ReQuestaPlan website, TerraQuest and the Planning Portal are pleased to announce some additional updates made on the online mapping website.

Users of ReQuestaPlan now have access to advanced drawing tools for creating site plans. These functions include:

  • Measurement lines – to accurately draw your extensions or proposed development
  • Custom shapes – chose between rectangle, circle and other shapes to illustrate your proposed development
  • Add real environmental image features, such as trees, fences, bin stores, hedge rows and car parking.

These additional features can be found under a new button, next to your property boundaries, as shown in the screenshot below:


These updates will allow your authority or your customers to create site and block plans quickly and easily; prices start at just £8 for a site plan and £10.50 for a block plan.

View the full price list or visit for more information on the improvements.

Please contact our Service Desk if you have any queries, by emailing

At the Planning Portal we are always working towards minimising invalidation delays. Over recent years we have conducted research in partnership with local authorities, to help us understand more about the issue of invalidation.

This research has highlighted some of the main reasons behind invalid applications and has led to the launch of ReQuestaPlan, our compliant site location plan tool, and more recently our Financial Transaction Service. It has also helped us to improve the advice and guidance we give to customers submitting applications, bringing down the number of invalid applications across the country.

However, we are always striving to improve our service.  We know that the invalidation of applications remains a key issue for local authorities and has a major impact on the tight planning resources.

With this in mind, we’ve designed a short survey to help us capture data on invalid applications at your local authority.  The information you provide will help improve our system and achieve greater efficiencies for all involved in the process.

Complete the survey

The survey should take around 15 minutes to complete and to help you prepare, a copy of the questions being asked can be found here.

The feedback will be collated and analysed into a report that we will share with local authorities and those that regularly submit applications. We shall also be conducting a similar survey with regular applicants across the different professional types that submit applications. This will allow us to evaluate feedback from all those involved in the application process to then create a complete end-to-end report.   

Remember - to avoid invalid applications occurring at your local authority, you should ensure that your planning application requirements are always up to date on our system.

You can find guidance on how to do that here.

If you require any further information, or any assistance in completing the survey, please contact

The government is considering making fibre broadband connection compulsory for all new homes.

A consultation on the issue, which closed in December 2018, asked for feedback on three main proposals;

  • The updating of Approved Document Part R to make it compulsory that all new builds are built to support gigabit-capable networks;
  • The imposing of a ‘duty to connect’ provision on network operators;
  • Mandating that developers and network operators should share the cost of this work.

The outcome will be available soon.

You can find out more about the consultation by visiting

The following article is provided by RTPI’s ‘The Planner’ magazine:

Urban characterisation can help to resolve the planning struggles, explains Nairita Chakraborty.

There’s an unprecedented number of densification programmes across big cities alongside new planned urban extensions to existing smaller towns. In London, larger ‘opportunity areas’ are introducing new urban characters near the established neighbourhoods, often at what seems (to residents) too fast a pace.

In delivering such schemes, how do we resolve that age-old planning struggle and balance the needs of developers and local communities?

Historic England has been promoting character-based approaches to development for some time. Urban characterisation studies are a useful way of understanding an area’s context and providing design guidelines on development opportunities.

The NPPF and the London Plan require developments to respect local character and context, defined by area-based assessments. This design-led approach makes local context a key part of the process. The challenge is to ensure that the policies deliver viable schemes.

A design-led approach prompts a much-required ‘bottom-up’ method, making local character and context an essential part of the plan process.

Haringey in London has seen huge development pressure; Tottenham is identified as part of the mayor’s housing zone. Undertaking a borough characterisation study as part of the local plan helped us to identify areas of intensification, location of tall buildings, and where urban regeneration and townscape improvements could be targeted.

"How do we resolve that age-old planning struggle and balance the needs of developers and local communities?”

The analysis was used for greater insights into the kinds of interventions that were appropriate for the physical characteristics of the place and its social and cultural issues, informing the site allocation plan.

But there was no way for the study to consider the commercial viability of the identified sites which questioned the deliverability of the corresponding design and density guidelines. This was a continual battle with the developers bringing forward the identified sites, almost all with much higher densities and heights than anticipated. It also didn’t consider economic context or the timeline of deliverability.

One way to overcome this would be to undertake an economic viability review at the site allocation stage. But such studies require specialised urban design skills, which are scarce.

Most planning policy comes down to viability, and the need to build for realistic commercial gains becomes a priority to the detriment of the character of a locality. Urban characterisation studies should help towards finding the middle ground.

Nairita Chakraborty MRTPI is an associate, heritage, at Iceni Projects and sits on Historic England’s advisory committee.

Nairita Chakraborty, The Planner