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Local Authority bulletin - January 2020

Published: Tuesday, 28th January 2020

Forthcoming updates to our online application service New Measures to improve building safety standards Updated advice to support the Building (Amendment) Regulations 2018

We are working to ensure that all users can realise the benefits our online products and services provide.

Following the successful launch of the outstanding Prior Approval application types, we are continuing to deliver key improvements and new functions.

Next up is:

  • A new version of our data standard (schema) that is used to efficiently transfer application data to Local Authorities; and
  • A set of changes for applications made to Local Authorities in London, based on requirements from the Greater London Authority.

In response to the challenges issued by bodies looking into the future of planning, and the expected direction of government’s ‘Accelerated Planning’ white paper, we are continuing to increase our rate of change.

We want to ensure that all our users are on board for this journey and can work with us to deliver the improvements and realise the benefits that the sector requires for it to be fit-for-purpose.

New version of our data standard

The new data standard (v2.0) includes significant updates over the previous version (v1.3), allowing it to contain information relating to the:

  • Recently launched Prior Approval application types;
  • London-specific questions to be introduced in parallel with this change (see details below);
  • Forthcoming updates to existing questions (see details below).

All ICT suppliers were informed of these changes in August 2019.

In order to benefit from the increased amount of information that is available in the new data standard, your ‘1APP connector’ software (that requests and downloads applications from the Planning Portal; and transfers the information into your systems) will need to be able ask for it and process it correctly.

When in discussion with your supplier, you should ensure that they are committed to ensuring that you are able to work with the full range of information from all the application types we provide by requesting and utilising the latest version of our data standard.

If not, you will continue to receive information from us ‘as is’ and manual effort will be required for you to cross reference the PDF application forms we provide against the data that your systems are unable to properly handle.

At present, only around half of Local Authorities in England and Wales request the current version (v1.3) when downloading applications.

Changes to applications in Greater London

These changes, requested by the Greater London Authority and enabled through legislation, introduce additional questions (or replace ‘standard’ questions) to collect further details on proposals.

This is to help Local Authorities determine applications correctly, based on more detailed information; and to allow London-wide policies and targets to be implemented and monitored.

When you start a new application for a location within Greater London, depending on the type of application you are making (Householder, Prior Approval, or Full/Outline Planning Permission) you will see additional/amended questions covering:

  • Existing and proposed uses
  • Parking and electric vehicle charging points
  • Residential units and other accommodation
  • Waste, recycling and environmental impacts
  • Utilities and water management
  • Open and protected spaces
  • General scheme and development information.

Where these are relevant to the proposal, it will be mandatory to provide this information. Failure to do so may mean that the application cannot be submitted; or that it will be invalidated once received by the Local Authority.

When are these changes coming?

We are aiming to launch these changes late March.

More exact timings to be confirmed nearer the time.

We are planning to set aside a week to allow Local Authorities and their ICT suppliers to test the changes once we are happy with them, and a subsequent period to review/respond to/resolve any issues raised. A separate communication regarding this will be issued shortly.

What else is planned?

The changes detailed above are the second of a three-part project to overhaul the current application system.

The final part will see an update to many existing questions on the system. We will communicate full details in due course, but in summary:

  • The implementation of the new data standard will allow us to resolve some outstanding issues on the existing system, including the current manual workaround for residential categories and units.
  • There are a wide range of other fixes to existing questions planned such as the move to an optional free text ‘title’ across all questions where names are requested, and changes to ensure compliance with the Government’s form templates and current legislation.
  • Finally, we are updating the optional/mandatory settings on several questions and/or allowing users to state that information is not relevant to their proposal. This will help ensure that applications contain the necessary information to be validated successfully when received by the Local Authority.

Next steps

We would recommend contacting your ICT supplier to understand when they will be ready for your system to utilise the new version of the schema and allow you to realise the full benefits it offers.

Further communications will be sent as the project implementation progresses although if you have any queries concerning the changes, please contact us at or find out more by visiting the Greater London Authority website.

TerraQuest’s 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 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 local authority back office system. An application can be received, validated and be on a case officers worklist within just 48 hours.

The complete service will:

  • Receive and register:
    • electronic applications submitted using the Planning Portal
    • paper allocations that are sent directly to TerraQuest from the local authority
    • other electronic applications that are sent from the local authority to TerraQuest
  • Process all payments through the Planning Portal payment service
  • Validate all application types based on both national rules and local validation lists
  • Manage invalid applications working with agents and applicants
  • Manage incoming queries via email and phone

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

The successful delivery of the PAVS creates remarkable flexibility in planning departments and the service is tailored to suit the specific needs of each authority.

Here’s what two local authorities using the PAVS have to say about their experiences;

Arun District Council uses the TerraQuest PAVS to validate Householder and Advertisement Consents. We treat the service as an extension to our own validation team and it provides us with greater resilience especially during busy periods.
The staff are very approachable, and we have been pleased with the service that has been provided to date.
Nicola Spencer, Arun District Council

We engaged with TerraQuest, initially on a short-term contract, at a time when we were short on resources and our validation performance was suffering. TerraQuest’s integration to our systems was seamless and they offered an affordable
and high-quality service which we ended up using for an extended period. I’d recommend TerraQuest as a professional team who offer an excellent service.
Drew Powell, South West Devon Partnership (South Hams District Council & West Devon Borough Council)

Benefits of using TerraQuest planning application validation services

  • 48-hour service level agreement with 98 per cent of applications 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

Find out more

For a free consultation, please contact the TerraQuest team via email or call 0121 234 1300 and find out why many local planning authorities are benefitting from our service.

After gathering extensive feedback from users, TerraQuest have recently announced the launch of the latest version of their online plan creation tool, ReQuestaPlan.

ReQuestaPlan allows users to create and download Ordnance Survey location and site plans to support their online planning application.

Improvements have been made over recent months; additional features and enhancements to existing elements were made following responses and suggestions from users. These new features include:

For location plans:

  • The ability to make minor changes and re-download a previously brought plan
  • A new DWG format map size at 1:100 for just £14:00, excluding VAT
  • An A3 plan option for 1:1250 scale map.

For site/block plans:

  • The ability to add arrows, electric charging points and hatch pattern to shapes
  • A new colour palette option for shapes
  • The ability to rotate shapes and features directly on the map.

Please note: If you are using ReQuestaPlan and the new features are not visible then please clear your cache to refresh the view.

We welcome your feedback so please get in touch with any suggestions or comments you have on the changes. We can also arrange demonstrations, so you get the best out of the solution. Please use the following contacts to get in touch with the ReQuestaPlan team.

Tel: 07545 937798 

Tel: 0333 323 4589

Account Management

Zaha Hadid Architects (ZHA) has won permission for the world's first timber football stadium in Gloucestershire.

Forest Green Rovers Football Club's 5,000 capacity wooden stadium was approved by Stroud District Council's planning committee in December 2019. The same committee had initially refused the plans back in June 2019, citing noise, traffic and impact on the environment. The proposals were subsequently revised.

Changes include swapping one grass pitch to an all-weather pitch with access to local clubs, a revised landscaping strategy, increased matchday transport and clarifications regarding noise.

The application also includes landscaped parking and two pitches, one a 4G playing surface with access for the local community.

Club chairman Dale Vince said: "It is still going to take several years. I think it is going to take us a year of detailed design work. This is an outline planning application. The best case is three years if we started tomorrow."

Forest Green Rovers is sponsored by green energy provider Ecotricity and has made a commitment to environmentalism. Last month, the club even announced that it would switch its players to bamboo shin pads to reduce its reliance on plastic.

This article was first published by CIAT.