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Local Authority bulletin - February 2020

Published: Tuesday, 25th February 2020

Forthcoming updates to our online application service, Planning Portal exhibiting at the LABC Annual Conference, Hackitt urges digital solution to 'flawed' product testing.

Once again, the Business Development Team will be on the road, travelling around the country to present our plans for the year ahead and new product information to Local Authorities.

By keeping our promise of listening and learning, there will be a few changes to the format of the events this year. We have received feedback about the locations of the regional events, so for 2020 we have decided to add two new locations; Nottingham and Manchester to make them more accessible for everyone. We have also changed the Yorkshire location to the City of York.

A list of the confirmed event dates and regions are below:

  • Guildford - Thursday 23 April
  • Bristol - Friday 24 April
  • London - Tuesday 28 April or Thursday 30 April (TBC)
  • Kent - Wednesday 29 April
  • Birmingham - Tuesday 12 May
  • Cambridge - Wednesday 13 May
  • York - Thursday 14 May
  • Nottingham - Friday 15 May
  • Manchester - Tuesday 19 May
  • Liverpool - Wednesday 20 May
  • Durham - Thursday 21 May

Another change for this year is that we are reaching out to invite local authorities to ask us a question. We will collate and answer all questions at the events. More information on this to follow.

We recommend sending two attendees from your authority to find out what’s new, network with other authorities and ask any questions on the services we provide. Don’t forget, its free to attend with lunch included, so be sure not to miss out.

Event Registration

We will be sharing registration instructions in the coming weeks so make sure you and your colleagues join the ‘Planning Portal Local Authority Group’ on the Knowledge Hub. You can also request to receive our monthly Local Authority bulletins, to sign up please email and include your email signature. Please do not request to book a place using this email address.

Further to the update featured in last month’s bulletin, we are pleased to announce that phase two of our three-part project to overhaul the current application system scheduled to be implemented on the evening of 20 March. You can expect 1App to be unavailable from late on the Friday afternoon until Saturday morning. The exact times of this downtime will be signposted on the Planning Portal in the coming weeks.

In case you missed it, here’s the details of the project and what you can expect to see.

Following the successful introduction of the outstanding Prior Approval application types (phase one), we are continuing to deliver key improvements and new functions.

Next up is phase two:

  • New version of our data standard (schema) that is used to efficiently transfer application data to Local Planning Authorities; and
  • Changes to applications in Greater 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 to ask for it and process it correctly.

When in discussion with your supplier, you should confirm 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 have scheduled to implement these changes on the evening of the 20 March. There will be some downtime to the application service while this happens, but more information will be signposted on the Planning Portal and Knowledge Hub in the coming weeks.

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.

The Planning Portal team are pleased to be supporting our partners and exhibiting at LABC’s 2020 Annual Conference, titled ‘The Challenges of Raising Standards and Delivering Effective Building Control’. The popular members event will be held on 23 and 24 March at the Jurys Inn, Hinkley Island in Leicester and bookings can be made online.

LABC describes the conference as having ‘three streams’, which are defined as:

  1. Change and development within the LABC network, between regions and the Nations and within LABC itself 
  2. Best practices and raising our game in delivering a measurable compliance service
  3. Understanding and contributing to regulatory changes that will raise standards in fire risk, energy conservation, ventilation and inclusive design

Always drawing in leading expert speakers in their field, a packed programme and highly respected exhibitors, the two-day conference promises to ensure another insightful annual event hosted by LABC with an abundance of networking and learning opportunities.

Booking is open to LABC members only with five purchase options available. We look forward to seeing you there.

Book your place online

View the conference programme

Construction product manufacturers must make greater efforts to use digital standards and processes to fix the “flawed” regime for testing products, says Hackitt.

Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of the Transition Board to establish the new Building Safety Regulator, was speaking at the NBS Construction Product Leaders’ Summit in Birmingham.

Hackitt said: “Product testing, marketing, labelling and approval processes are flawed, unreliable and behind the times.”

She made it clear that forthcoming regulation will directly impact the construction product materials supply chain. Manufacturers will have to provide data and performance accreditation, use standardised systems and take a more collaborative approach, including adopting a transparent attitude to data sharing. 

She added that digital will be the norm, so the sector can expect to see less substitution, and 'value engineering' will move from being about cost reduction to focus on quality. Product stewardship will lie at the heart of this new approach. "This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to leave the race to the bottom behind and change industry practice for good."

Richard Waterhouse, CEO of NBS, commented: “It is clear manufacturers, specifiers and construction firms must act now and get their houses in order, otherwise they will not be able to do business. Very soon, digital will be as essential to a build as bricks and mortar are today.”

He added: “Digital drives up standards, reduces mistakes and saves costs. Information is key at every step of the way and this starts with the materials manufacturers and their product information. There’s a move to consistency and a more structured approach, and manufacturers must seize this opportunity. That way, specifiers can make better decisions based on up-to-date, verifiable product information.”

Also at the event, NBS previewed NBS Source, a digital platform embedding standardised construction product information, using data from thousands of manufacturers, in the places specifiers need, across the project timeline. It aims to help manufacturers meet the drive for high-quality digital product data, and support specifiers in making the right choices for their projects.

Article published by CIAT, sourced: Construction Manager