More grumbles are reaching our ears about the length of time Local Planning Authorities are taking to validate Planning applications at present.
Now while we all have some sympathy with the internal communication difficulties, and therefore delays, being imposed by Covid, I suspect that poor management is turning this into a vicious circle that will be costing the building economy a huge amount of time and money, overall.
Planning applications have ‘statutory’ determination periods that in theory mean that LPA’s are obliged to determine applications within fixed periods – 13 weeks for major applications, 8 weeks for most other stuff. The problem is that the clock starts ticking on these determination periods from the day after a VALID application is RECEIVED… so if an LPA takes 4 weeks to validate it, it halves the time their Officers have to actually determine the application and effectively makes it impossible, with minor applications like householder extensions, because of the periods required to advertise and consult upon the application.
As a result, there is clear evidence (though obviously denied by individual LPA’s) that the administrative staff dealing with the validation process are doing their utmost to find problems with applications, in order that they can claim they are ‘invalid’, thus buying their Officers more time on processing periods.
The evidence is that well over 50% of all applications are rejected as invalid upon first submission – many for entirely trivial reasons – and the cumulative time and effort battling a way through this process must be costing the industry an enormous amount in total. There used to be published national guidance encouraging LPA’s to adopt a more flexible approach to the validation process (link: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/7727/1505220.pdf ), but astonishingly, this has now been withdrawn and replaced by guidance stipulating a much more rigid and buereacratic approach (link: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/making-an-application#validation-of-an-application )
If the Government wants to speed up the Planning process, they’d be well-advised to address some of the basic bureaucratic bottlenecks, before adding further complexity and confusion with their endless stream of amendments to Permitted Development rights.
In the meanwhile: the trick to achieving first time validation is careful scrutiny of your LPA’s Local Validation Requirements. Even we don’t get it right every time (we don’t think there’s an Architect or Planning Consultant out there who does!) , but we manage first-time validation of our applications a lot more often than not, so contact us if you need advice on the application package required for your particular proposal.