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Local authority bulletin - March 2019

Published: Tuesday, 26th March 2019

Register for one of our free regional events, 1App content improvements, LPA validation survey. And more news...


Once again the Planning Portal team will be hitting the road and hosting several events around the country and we invite all English local planning authorities to attend.

The events will be free with the agenda to cover our payment service, combating invalid application delays, system improvements and company priorities for the year ahead.

It’s also a great opportunity for you to give us feedback and network with other local authorities.

To reserve a place you will need to register for a specific event.

Register at an event

The locations and dates of the events are as follows:

  • Yorkshire (Kirklees) 24 April, 09:15 – 14:00
    Huddersfield Town Hall, Corporation Street, Huddersfield, HD1 2TU
  • North West (Liverpool)  25 April, 09:15 – 14:00
    Liverpool City Council, Cunard Building, Water Street, Liverpool, L3 1DS
  • Central London (Camden) 1 May, 09:15 – 14:00
    St Pancras Meeting Rooms, St Chad's Street, London, WCH1 8AG
  • South (Guildford) 2 May, 09:15 – 14:00
    Council Chamber, Millmead House, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 4BB
  • South East (Sevenoaks) 3 May, 09:15 – 14:00
    Sevenoaks DC Council Offices, Council Chamber, Argyle Rd, Sevenoaks TN13 1HG
  • Midlands (Birmingham) 8 May, 09:15 – 14:00
    Room 101, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Centenary Square, Broad Street, Birmingham, B1 2EP
  • East England (Cambridge) 9 May, 09:15 – 14:00
    Cambridge City Council, The Guildhall, Council Chamber, Cambridge, CB2 3QJ
  • North East (Durham) 10 May, 09:15 – 14:00
    Durham County Council, County Hall, Durham, County Durham, DH1 5UL
  • South West (Bristol) 14 May, 09:15 – 14:00
    The Engine Shed, Brunel’s Boardroom, Station Approach, Temple Meads, Bristol, BS1 6QH

The events should last no-longer than a half day and refreshments and lunch will be provided.

Upon completion of the registration survey we will send you a confirmation email of your booking within two working days.

Who should attend? 

To ensure those with direct responsibility for development management attend, we recommend that Development Managers and/or Planning Administration Managers, or individuals in similar roles, register for these events. (Please note; places are limited to two attendees per authority).

Please contact communications@planningportal.co.uk  if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you there.


In our bid to improve even the smallest of details of 1App, we have deployed a set of content updates which went live on the Planning Portal on 19 March 2019.

Many of the changes made improve our help text or questions. For our users, the main change they will notice will be to the completion status updates on the application overview screen.

You can find a summary of the changes below. Full details of recent 1App changes can be found in our Change Log on the Knowledge Hub. You will need to join the Planning Portal local authority group to view the content.

Application completion status updates

The completion statuses have been re-titled to better match the amended workflow introduced by the payment service. This should provide applicants with a more accurate impression of the status of a draft application.

The updated statuses are:

  • Fill in forms
  • Provide documents
  • Calculate fees
  • Choose payment type
  • Final check
  • Pay and submit

Application question content updates

Following user feedback and our team’s review, we have altered the wording of some questions text to make them clearer.

Changes have been made to the following questions:

  • ‘Materials’ for householder, full, outline and listed building applications.
  • ‘Advertising details’ for advertisement applications.
  • ‘The site’ for agricultural/forestry prior notification applications.
  • An updated title for the ‘Removal/Variation of a condition’ question in the corresponding application type.
  • Content and help text for tree works applications.
  • Content and help text for telecoms prior approval applications.

Update to fee exemptions content

A change has been made to text relating to the ‘free go’ exemption. These updates will be displayed in both the online system and the PDF fee summary you receive in application downloads from us.

Other 1App content updates

We have updated content at the start/end points of the fee calculator to reinforce the need to contact the Local Authority if the user is not sure about the applicable fee for their application.

These changes are part of an ongoing exercise to try and minimise incorrect fee calculations in application submissions.


In last month’s bulletin, we sent out a survey, asking for feedback on invalidation at your Local Authority. We’d like to thank everybody who has completed the survey so far, and ask you to please complete the survey if you haven’t already:

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 survey will close on Friday 5 April at 4pm.

The information we’re gathering will help us to get a clearer picture of the causes of invalidation, so we can prepare to tackle the issue head on.

We are always looking for ways to improve our service in order to decrease the number of invalid applications. Previous research conducted around invalidation led us to launch ReQuestaPlan, our compliant site location and block plan tool, and more recently our application payment 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.

The feedback will be collated, analysed and put 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, including your CIL 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 communications@planningportal.co.uk.


On the 1 April 2019, five new councils are being created to replace 15 existing councils across Dorset, Somerset and Suffolk following  approval by the government last year.

In Somerset and Suffolk there are three pairs of non-metropolitan districts councils merging to create single larger entities. In Dorset, the county council and its districts along with two current unitaries are merging into two new unitary councils to cover all of Dorset.

These changes will be reflected on the Planning Portal but the only real difference that applicants will notice is the change to the council names. Applications can continue to be submitted and will be received by the new authorities in the usual way.

Please note that the planning and building control registration systems for both the new Suffolk authorities will be offline between 27 and 31 March 2019 as they introduce new IT systems to prepare for the formation of the new councils. They will be unable to acknowledge, register or issue decisions on any applications during this period. Applications submitted during this time will be processed in the week commencing 1 April 2019. Please accept their apologies for any inconvenience caused.

New councils 2019


The Planning Portal has processed over 42,000 building control applications since launching the service. Now we have passed this milestone, we’d like to urge local authorities that aren’t already signed up to the Planning Portal’s building control application service to do so.

As the national planning application service, the Planning Portal is a trusted name. The increasing use of our building control application service shows that we are becoming an important presence in building control as well as in planning.

The majority of local authorities in England and Wales are already benefiting from being signed up with the Planning Portal’s building control application service. We currently have over 70% of local authorities signed up. But if your local authority is not listed, it means that when applicants come on to our site to make online building control applications, their only option is to complete an offline form and post it to you. However, we cannot trace this process so they may use an alternative submission option or go to an approved inspector.

As the number of building control applications submitted through the Portal continues to grow, now is the time for local authorities to act, to ensure they don’t miss out on crucial business.

So, if you aren’t already, make sure you sign up to the Planning Portal’s building control service today.

To register your local authority, simply fill in this pdf and return it to either scott.alford@planningportal.co.uk, or ian.foster@planningportal.co.uk


On 28 February, the Planning Advisory Service launched a survey of planning departments on behalf of the Local Government Association (LGA) and the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG).

The purpose of the survey is to understand the impact of the 20 per cent increase of planning fees for local planning authorities in January 2018, the improvements it has facilitated and the long term resourcing pressures and skills gaps remain more generally.

All local planning authorities received a copy of the survey by 5 March. The deadline for responses has been extended to Thursday 28 March. Responses will also be welcome after that date.

MHCLG announced, alongside the Spring Statement, an intention to publish an Accelerated Planning Green Paper later in 2019. It will consider how greater capacity and capability, performance management and procedural improvements can accelerate the end-to-end planning process. Therefore answers provided to the survey may be important for the government to better understand the skills and resources that are required to ensure the long-term health of planning departments. You may therefore want to ensure you make your views known.

Find out more about the survey.