Latest news

Local Authority Bulletin - October 2019

Published: Tuesday, 29th October 2019

Schema project - progress update, LPA best practice hints and tips, Planning Portal Conference: Discussion topics, and more stories...


You may have seen the announcement in September’s bulletin about the improvements to the 1APP online application service we are making.

One of the key improvements we are currently working on is the addition of the 16 missing ‘Prior Approval’ application types to the 1APP online application service for England.

This has been requested by local authorities for some time and will ensure that these application types can be made online. This is also one of the main requests we receive from applicants and agents too, who also want a consistent, standard online process to submit all types of application to each authority nationally.

The project to implement this is well underway and we expect to start testing the development shortly and be scheduled to ‘go live’ next month.

The prior approval changes are part of a wider programme of changes to the 1APP application service that will see enhancements and fixes made in response to LPA and other user feedback, improving the existing question sets and validation to better capture responses (including updating the residential categories as per MHCLG’s template) and implementing the Greater London Authority (GLA) requirements on additional question sets to some application types.

To introduce the changes in a smooth, controlled way and ensure ICT suppliers have time to develop their 1APP connectors, we are taking a two-phased approach to its delivery.

The first phase will deliver the 16 prior approval types so that applicants can submit them online from November 2019.

The second phase is planned to go-live in early 2020 and will deliver the enhancements, fixes, question set improvements and the GLA requirements. This phase will include the new 1APP schema so that ICT suppliers can retrieve the new prior approvals into the back-office systems and realise the other benefits from the improvements being made.

What does this mean for LPAs and the receipt of applications?

Effectively the 1APP connectors will continue to retrieve the current applications as-is, however, the prior approvals will need to be manually downloaded from your authority’s Planning Portal account.

This will only be a temporary step whilst the ICT suppliers upgrade their 1App connectors to retrieve the prior approvals in early 2020. To assist with this, we communicated the changes to ICT suppliers in early August 2019 and offered support to help with any development queries they may have.

You may recall back in 2013, we introduced the non-material amendment application type and used a similar implementation approach.

How do I know a prior approval form has been submitted and how do I download it?

Local authorities will be able to quickly determine if it’s a prior approval form by checking the subject line of the application submission email notification.

This will contain the scenario number. The new Prior Approval types will be numbered from 40 – 55 and will need to be manually downloaded. You may be able to setup a mailbox rule to identify these applications so please discuss with your IT department.

It is important that Prior Approvals are actioned ASAP as they receive deemed consent after 56 days if they are not determined within this 8 week period. Therefore, it is paramount that they are receipted and processed correctly.

Read our guidance on manually downloading applications.

Each LPA has a Planning Portal account to download applications. If you need confirmation of your individual authority username or need help to access your account, please contact our service desk support@planningportal.co.uk or on 0333 323 4589.

We would also recommend contacting your back-office system provider to understand when they will be ready for your system to utilise the new version of the schema and allow you to realise the benefits it offers.

Further communications will be sent as the project progresses although if you have any queries concerning the change, please contact us at communications@planningportal.co.uk.


Following feedback from LPAs, it’s become increasingly clear that many planning authorities are not realising the full benefits of integrating with the Planning Portal’s online application system. 

This integration should be enabled via a ‘connector’, part of your back-office systems that allows submissions from the Planning Portal to be automatically downloaded and processed.

So, what application data is being made available in submissions from the Planning Portal?

When an application is submitted, our system generates a data file containing:

  • All of the information entered into the online application form;
  • Details of all the supporting documents that have been provided;
  • The fee that was calculated; and
  • The version number and unique Planning Portal reference number for the application.

This data file is packaged into a ZIP file alongside the generated PDF application forms (full and redacted); the supporting documents; and PDF summaries of the fee calculation and contents of the submission.

When the connector downloads the application, it should process the data file and use it to populate the relevant areas of your back-office system.

Therefore, if you feel that information is ‘missing’ from submissions you should check exactly what data from this file is being processed.

Application forms

One major confusion we’ve encountered is due to ambiguity around the use of the PDF application forms that we generate as part of an online submission, with some LPAs using these as the primary source of information that they then manually re-key into their systems.

As all the information entered into the online form is included in the data file, this should make it easily accessible in your back-office systems. If you are not able to access this information, please contact your ICT supplier to check that this data is being utilised and, if not, to update your systems so that it can be going forward. 

The PDF application form should simply act as a publishable ‘hardcopy’ version of the information to allow you to meet the legislative need to provide a register of applications, and manually crosscheck any details as required.

Supporting documents

Some LPAs have mentioned they still access the Planning Portal to manually retrieve documents, but there should be no reason to do this if your connector is properly set up.

You will need to understand if integration to your Document Management System is correctly configured to process and index supporting documents. All of the information is there to be utilised for this and to help reduce the manual effort of sorting and renaming.

Each supporting document will have a ‘document type’ and a ‘file name’ (e.g. ‘design-and-access.pdf’). In regard to file naming, we promote best practice to try to ensure that the name reflects the document type and its contents rather than something generic (e.g. ‘plan1.pdf’).  As a result of this, document naming has dramatically improved over the past decade.

A future enhancement we are looking into is regarding the introduction of a standard plan naming list. Attached is a list of proposed new standard plan types, based on feedback from LPAs and applicants/agents. When it is put in place, these will be added as ‘document types’.

The proposal is to retain the ‘Site and Other Plans’ option (as specified by national legislation), but on selecting this, provide users with the list of standard plan types to choose from. There will also be an ‘other’ option, but this will require the user to provide a description of the plan.

This information would then be included in the data file to allow automatic processing into the back-office system, giving clearer and more comprehensive document types and further helping to reduce the manual effort of sorting and renaming.

We welcome your feedback to help us to continue to improve our services, and if you have any questions please contact us via communications@planningportal.co.uk


With just over two weeks until the Planning Portal Conference 2019, we thought we would share the topics that we will be covering, some of which will have a major impact on planning and building in the future. As a local authority it is imperative that you understand what this will mean for you. 

The Building Safety Programme, which was established to ensure the safety of residents in high-rise buildings, looks set to bring in fundamental changes to planning and design. The government is looking to bring in new responsibilities, meaning more building safety compliance for planners and designers. Lorna Stimpson, CEO at LABC will share key information on the development of the programme and more detail about what this will mean for planners and architects as well as the role of local authorities. 

Lorna will then be joined by Adrian Dobson, Executive Director at RIBA, Peter Baker, Director HSE Building Safety Programme Response and Paul Timmins, Vice President at ACAI. This panel discussion on the Building Safety Programme will be chaired by Angus Law, Lecturer of Fire Safety Engineering at The University of Edinburgh. 

Following the Grenfell tragedy, this is a pertinent topic and will be vitally important for planners, designers and local authorities to stay abreast of developments. 

As technology continues to move at pace, more and more advancements can be used to aid planning and design. What does this mean for planning in the future? How can technology be used to benefit the planning system? Do local authorities have the budgets and skills to advance with new technology? Kevin Crawford, Chair of the Technical Standards Taskforce, moderates a panel discussion as we hear from suppliers in the market; PlanGrid, Esri/Landclan, Urbanist Architecture as well as Scott Alford from the Planning Portal who will discuss the advancement, challenges and benefits that new technologies will bring. 

We are pleased to announce that we can offer local authorities a special rate of £99 for one day or £175 for both days.

For the full conference programme and to register to attend, visit www.planningportal.co.uk/conference 


We really care about your experience of using the Planning Portal and would like to know if there are ways we can improve. We would really appreciate it if you could help us by taking a few minutes to give your feedback. Simply click on the link below for our short survey. 

Participate in this survey here.   

This should take you no more than five minutes to complete. Respondents will be entered into a prize draw and one lucky winner will receive a £100 Amazon voucher.


The national design guide sets out the characteristics of well-designed places and demonstrates what good design means in practice.

Housing secretary Robert Jenrick launched a housebuilding design guide at the Conservative party conference in Manchester which will hold local councils to account over national standards.

Unveiling the guide, the party said 'there is no accepted national standard for the development of homes, only vague documents with little enforceable power. This new design guide will introduce a national standard for local authorities to adhere to.'

Jenrick said: “I am replacing the existing vague and outdated guidance with a brand-new national design guide. It will be produced with a more ambitious and firmer vision for better designed homes.

“This new design guide will have real clout. There will be a national standard for local authorities to adhere to but we recognise that what good likes like differs across England. So, for the first-time local authorities will be expected to design their own locally applicable guides in keeping with the national standard, which must deliver the quality of homes that we expect.”

A Written Ministerial Statement setting out the guide’s purpose and how it is set to be used will be unveiled shortly with the National Planning Policy Framework then expected to be updated to incorporate its proposals.

To access the guide, click here.

This article was originally published on the CIAT website