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Local authority bulletin - April 2019

Published: Tuesday, 30th April 2019

Report: The Planning Portal improves application efficiency for LPAs and agents with the implementation of its payment service, Register for one of our free regional events...

The Financial Transaction Service (FTS) has brought about a great many changes in the way in which planning applications are submitted since its introduction six months ago; increasing efficiency, reducing invalid applications and saving both time and money for agents and local planning authorities (LPA) alike. Prior to the implementation of the FTS, around 60 per cent of invalid applications were due to missing payments, which has now been eradicated by combining the application and payment process, creating a simple, cohesive procedure. Applications and their payments are now clearly linked which means that a huge deal of time, money and resources are saved by LPAs and agents as they no longer have to chase up payments or, in the case of LPAs, provide their own in-house payment alternatives.

We have shared some of this feedback over the past few months and now we have collated all of the information into a six month report. The report details the success so far of the payment service, what local authorities and planning agents have to say about the change in how they work and what updates you can expect from the Planning Portal.

Read the report.

Through the creation of a set of easy to use, standard payment options, the way in which planning applications are paid for has been revolutionised. There has been a significant reduction in the use of offline payments due to the implementation of the ‘nominate’ option and encouraging users to use methods other than cheques. The use of cheques has reduced drastically from 31 per cent to two per cent, freeing up resources and saving time for all concerned. 

The ‘nominate’ option has been hugely popular with planning agents and allows them to send a payment request directly to their clients rather than having to process it themselves, creating a more streamlined and beneficial payment course. Payments may also be forwarded within an organisation, reducing pressure on companies’ administrative and financial teams.

The FTS includes a round-the-clock support service, with all payment options being available for use 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, whilst our in-house customer service team are always available throughout the working day to deal with queries about using the service. This ensures that processing payments for applications is easier than ever, benefiting both agents and their clients.

If you’ve got any comments or suggestions for further improvement related to the FTS or the Portal in general, please leave us a comment or contact us via

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 are free to attend 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 for an event.

The locations and dates of the events are as follows:

  • South (Guildford) 2 May, 09:15 – 14:00
    Council Chamber, Millmead House, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 4BB
  • 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 if you have any questions. We look forward to seeing you there.

The Planning Application Validation Service (PAVS) is designed to reduce the time and cost taken to submit, process and approve planning applications while enhancing the applicant’s experience.

PAVS helps local planning authorities (LPAs) to successfully handle their increased workload, clear application backlogs and meet service level commitments by validating all types of electronic and paper planning applications. The service checks against national and local planning policies and directly uploads into the LPA back office system. An application can be received, validated and be on a case officers worklist within 24 hours.

Some LPAs have chosen the service just for some application types, whilst others have chosen for PAVS to validate all types of planning application they receive.

The successful delivery of PAVS creates remarkable flexibility in planning departments; the service is tailored to suit the specific needs of the authority and the technical validation meets both national and local guidelines.


Benefits of using TerraQuest planning application validation services

  • 48 hour Service Level Agreement with 98 per cent processed within 24 hours
  • Manage peak workload demand
  • Consistency in validation decisions
  • Invalid application resolution
  • Enable case officer to focus on application evaluation  
  • Improve customer service experience through prompt contact

For a free consultation, please contact the TerraQuest team via email or call 0121 234 1300; and find out why the London Borough of Hillingdon, Arun District Council, Tandridge District Council and other Local Planning Authorities are benefitting from our service.

There’s a growing case for a reconsideration of use classes amid changing shopping, working and leisure habits. Nigel Hewitson imagines a use classes order fit for the 21st century.

 “Flexibility may well be the key to guarantee the continued viability of traditional office space”

The way we live, work, shop and spend our leisure time – and consequently the way we use land – is changing faster than at almost any time in history. Yet the categorisation of uses currently contained in the Town and Country Planning (Use Classes) Order 1987 (other than the deletion of various now-archaic uses – my favourite being ‘breeder of maggots from putrescible animal matter’!) – has changed remarkably little since the first Use Classes Order came into force in 1950.

The rise of the internet has meant that ever more of us shop online. In 2018, 10 per cent of total retail sales were online but, more alarmingly for our town centres, one survey found that 51 per cent of UK consumers prefer to shop online. It is no wonder that conventional retail stores – even household names – are disappearing with alarming rapidity.

The watchword for town centres needs to be flexibility – both more flexibility in the uses permitted in town centres and more flexibility in permitted changes of use to ensure continued vitality and to respond to the changing way we shop.

We should expect a growth in 21st century uses:

  • More and smaller pure click-and-collect units
  • Collection centres for Amazon parcels (for example), inevitably with drone facilities
  • ‘Reverse vending machine’ facilities where you can return recyclables (cans, bottles and so on) for small amounts of money
  • More leisure-related uses n Fewer out-and-out shops ;
  • ‘Touch down’ space with superfast broadband connection for agile workers
  • More leisure uses.

I envisage a new A1 use class that would encompass not just traditional shops and financial services (thus abolishing A2 – betting and pay-day loans having been made sui generis in 2015) but also many of the 21st century uses listed above. In town centres (but not in residential areas), I would also relax the distinctions between restaurants, pubs and takeaways (use classes A3-A5).

The internet also enables us to work more remotely from the traditional office. That, and the financial drive for employers to save costs by using less office space, has meant that more and more of us are working from home – often referred to as ‘telecommuting’. In April 2016, the Office for National Statistics found that 4.2 million people (around 15 per cent of the workforce) regularly worked from home, and some industry commentators believe this is set to increase to 50 per cent by 2020.

If the trend towards telecommuting continues, there will be two major effects: a reduction in the demand for office space (and the need to do something else with it) and changes to the way we use our homes.

Again, flexibility may well be the key to guarantee the continued viability of traditional office space. As office occupiers use less of the space available over time, consideration will need to be given to uses that might be suitable in existing and proposed office buildings.

Particularly in large office buildings, these might include small retail, food and drink units aimed primarily at the office workers, as well as other uses of interest to office workers such as gyms. These are certainly far better located in former office space than close to residential premises. Linking in with the changes to the high street, this may also include click-and-collect centres, enabling workers to get their online purchases delivered to where they are actually going to be during the day.

The other side of the telecommuting coin will be changes to the way we use our homes.

Case law already accepts that a business can lawfully be run from a home without the need for planning permission but, as the incidence of home/business use increases, it would be wise to redefine ‘dwelling’ to expressly include home working and set parameters to the levels of disturbance other residents can reasonably be expected to put up with. It may even be that we reinvent live/work units as a new use class to establish control over businesses in residential areas.  

March 2019
The Planner, Nigel Hewitson (Nigel Hewitson is a consultant at Gowling WLG)