Brian Waters for September’s AJ planning column

As promised in the planning white paper, the dog-days of August saw the publication of guidance on validating planning applications* which will have a dramatic effect on our work in preparing them and on their cost to clients.

The ‘draft’ guidance for Local Planning Authorities shows how the information required to process an application has ballooned over recent years and the concomitant need for a host of specialist inputs.

It introduces another delay in the introduction of the national application form which will be obligatory for online and written applications from 6 April 2008 (delayed this time from 1st October 2007). The new form is to be used for any of the following:

• Householder consents

• Outline and full planning permission and approval of reserved matters

• Listed Building consent

• Conservation Area consent

• Advertisement consent

• Consent under Tree Preservation Orders

• Lawful Development Certificates

• Applications for Prior Notification under the General Permitted

Development Order 1995

• Removal or variation of conditions.

The new guidance follows reports of inconsistencies in the way in which authorities have been validating applications and particularly their demands for additional information intended to delay validation and to make meeting targets for their processing easier. The governing regulations [T&CP (Applications) Regulations 1988] will remain in force. Regulation 3 sets out the bare minimum required to make an application valid and regulation 4 provides that LPAs can request further information following validation so as to enable it to determine an application.

Presently authorities simply demand more information before they will validate, and threaten a quick refusal otherwise, saying they won’t have the time to wait and meet their target. Under the new regime they will be able to demand up to 41 items to make an application valid, provided these items have been included on an adopted list which is published by the authority.

The temptation will be for authorities to throw everything into their local lists on the precautionary principle, so putting applicants at the mercy of their discretion when arguing about what is appropriate or proportionate in the particular case.

Every authority is now invited to consult on their proposed list before adopting it (it will then be subject to 3-yearly review). It is therefore imperative that architects and their clients should scrutinise these proposed lists and demand that each item should  be clearly delimited in the circumstances where it can be demanded, and that the wording be specific rather than ‘catch-all’. Authorities will need reminding that they continue to have Regulation 4 to fall back on.

The Guidance is clear: “the combined use of the national and local list will afford the authority more certainty when submitting applications and ensure that the information requested is proportionate to the type and scale of application being made.” Simply for an authority to trot out most or all of the list given in the Guidance will not achieve this. It specifically says: “it is recommended that local planning authorities adopt specific local lists that are linked to the standard application form and tailored to their own context and requirements and include indicative thresholds and criteria for the submission of particular types of information.”

The Guidance provides a different selection of items for each type of application covered by the national form. For a planning application this is listed in the box:


• Affordable housing statement

• Air quality

• Biodiversity survey and report

• Conservation Area appraisal

• Daylight/sunlight assessment

• Environmental Impact Assessment

• Evidence to accompany applications for town centre uses

• Existing and proposed car parking and access arrangements

• Flood risk assessment

• Foul sewerage assessment

• Heritage Statement (including historical, archaeological features and

• Scheduled Ancient Monuments)

• Impact assessment

• Land contamination assessment

• Landfill statement

• Lighting assessment

• Noise impact assessment

• Open space assessment

• Other plans (3 copies to be supplied unless the application is submitted

• electronically. All plans and drawings should include: paper size, key

• dimensions and scale bar indicating a minimum of 0-10 metres)

• Photographs/photomontages

• Planning obligations/draft Head(s) of Terms

• Planning Statement

• Regeneration statement

• Statement of Community Involvement

• Structural Survey

• Transport assessment

• (Draft) travel plan

• Tree survey/Arboricultural implications

• Utilities statement

• Ventilation/extraction statement

• Site waste management plan (including relevant refuse disposal details).

A footnote adds:  Other local requirements may be included by local planning authorities if there are clear references and linkages made to relevant national/local policy requirements. Local lists should be subject to consultation and adoption and applicants should check the relevant LPA website for specific requirements and/or discuss with their planning authority.

—————————END BOX————-

The need for vigilance should now be clear!

The ACA has written to all member practices suggesting they monitor the authorities where they are active and respond as suggested here. Architects might similarly involve and encourage their clients.

To add a note of irony, or is it just confusion, May’s Planning White Paper says: “Later in 2007 we will start a further review with the objective of reducing information requirements [for validating planning applications]”. The ACA is campaigning for the review to precede the new arrangements – the further delay in introducing the ‘standard’ national application form allows just such an opportunity.

If an authority is refusing to validate your application, and you are sure that it is valid, then take a deemed refusal to appeal after eight weeks of its [recorded] delivery. The Inspectorate will process the appeal if it agrees that the application was valid. See PINS letter of 31 August 2007 to Islington Planning under ref. App/V5570/A/07/2050872.

*The Validation of Planning Applications – Draft guidance for local planning authorities from:

Brian Waters is principal of BWCP and director of planning at HTA.