Wednesday, 9 January 2013

More validation nonsense

You will have seen the comment posted on my last item on this topic. It seems that Hyndburn are not the only council making unreasonable demands in relation to the submission of planning applications. The following is the slightly abridged text of a letter recently issued by the London Borough of Newham.

I am writing to advise you that the Council has undertaken a review of the Local List of Planning Application Requirements and that from the 1st January 2013, the following will be required to be submitted with every application: -

For any application submitted by post, an electronic copy of the application submission (all plans and documentation) will need to be provided: -

o The electronic copy of the submission should be provided on a CD which is submitted with the application submission. Alternatively the documents can be emailed to [the council’s email address]

For all applications submitted by post or via the Planning Portal: -

o 2 paper copies of the application submission (all plans and documentation) will be required for any application that is referable to the Greater London Authority (GLA);

o 1 paper copy will be required for all other applications.

Applications will be made invalid until the above requirements have been complied with. Subsequently if the above is not received within 21 days, the application file will be closed.

So if you apply via the Planning Portal, they still want a paper copy (!!!), and if you apply in writing, they also want an electronic copy! This is frankly unacceptable, and arguably unlawful. Applicants for planning permission have the choice of either applying electronically via the Planning Portal or applying on paper, delivered by post or by hand. LPAs can’t have it both ways. The position is governed by the Development Management Procedure Order, and councils cannot demand more than is required by that Order.

My informant tells me that Newham are notorious for obstructive validation practices. On one occasion they printed an applicant’s colour plans on a monochrome printer and wrote to his agent to complain that there was no red line around the site on the location plan!

As I wrote in response to the comment on a similar demand being made by Hyndburn BC, it is high time the government got a proper grip on this and put a stop to all this nonsense. The new section 62(4A) of the 1990 Act may provide some limited relief from oppressive conduct of this sort on the part of LPAs, as it will restore the right to appeal against non-determination in a case where an LPA is unreasonably refusing to register an application (a step which has been denied to applicants since the High Court decision in the Newcastle case). Under section 62(4A) the LPA will no longer be the sole arbiter of the validity of a planning application; an objective test of reasonableness will apply, and LPAs may find themselves facing costs awards in addition to losing appeals in such cases.

But as I wrote before, most applicants simply don’t want this hassle, and can do without all the delay, worry and expense of running an appeal against non-determination. If Yorkshire’s largest export wants to prove that he really does have some use after all, he should bend his mind to this as a matter of urgency. It would do more to free up the planning system than any amount of tinkering with other aspects of the system.



  1. Hitting the nail on the head again - with a classic example of councils perverting their validation powers to make everything more of a hassle for those applying. Anyone else noticing (and now tediously annoyed) that council planners want more and more extraneous information as a unnecessary crutch before they deign to make a decision??? Planning used to be about getting things done - now it is so process obsessed with a decision is so hard to come by that it is a wonder anything ever gets done.

  2. They have the power to make our lives a misery if you step on their toes, sorry knuckles. One of my pastimes is removing Section 106 agreements that don't perform a proper planning function, a recent case is a local occupancy restriction on a dwelling in 19 acres in a spectacular hillside position overlooking Anglesey. It took the planners 3 months after validation to tell me the stated date of the agreement on the application was wrong, at the same time they wanted evidence of attempts to sell the dwelling and TWO valuations comparing the value both with and without the occupancy restriction, an absolutely pointless exercise. The problem with some planning departments is the culture which has been created by people who believe they have the power to do whatever they wish, particularly if you have annoyed them.

  3. I've had YEARS of problems with inconsistencies and tactical games played by Newham (and they've even twice acknowledged that they are instructed to find any excuse to delay validations to give them more time!).

    It's not just immoral and infuriating, but SERIOUSLY effects our relationships with clients. I've several times given them FAR more than they had asked for on previous compatible application, or than is required, just to play it safe, and STILL been asked for some completely unreasonable and even inappropriate and information.

    In December I received a similar letter to that quoted in your blog. I submitted two applications in November and did not receive such a nonsense letter. I assume that it's a new inventions which, again, puts me in trouble with a client. In this case it was an application the needed to be submitted by mid December. Due to the council's game-playing, the copy in the other formate was submitted just after the deadline. They are now technically able to argue that the application was not submitted on time. If they do, we will certain appeal and go for costs and may even take them to court. We were NOT for-warned of their new requirements and applications submitted immediately before then were validated WITHOUT this idiotic and unreasonable claim for duplicate information. It seems inconsistency and constantly moving the goal posts so that it is virtually impossible to ever submit an application that is validated first time, are Newham's forte. It appears (from your blog) that it is now their trade-mark.

    I have picked up many applications by others that have been validated with very little information and decided as valid applications. Then been retained to resubmit them and I've prepared full documentation in excess of that submitted previously by others (only months before). But we've then been asked to submit even more information – sometime completely irrelevant documentation. In one case asking for 12 times (in terms of man-hours) the amount of information for a resubmission than the original submission made by another agent a few months earlier).

    It is impossible to know where we stand before making a submission. That is WRONG. How can one possible give a fair fee quote and timescale to a client when such and an ad-hock, unpredictable and completely irrational and unfair practice is the norm for that council.. We have NO problems with ANY of the 12 other councils I deal with. Complaining doesn't help as, either they 'appear' to be nonplussed an not understand what one is talking about, or they just turn against you and make your life difficult (as Evan Owen above rightly points out). They have the power so we can do nothing. Just go with it and suffer, or confront them and suffer greater loss and problems.

    Has anyone else noted that they have, for the past couple of years, also been sending neighbour consultation letters with applications for certificates of lawfulness – both proposed and existing! Those are NOT planning applications where neighbours could reasonably be allowed to offer a view, but applications on facts. Not the views of neighbours. No other council I deal with does this and I was shocked to find them doing it. Is it legal? It seems like a ploy for some reason – what is their motive? Their assessment and decision has (legally) nothing whatsoever to do with any neighbour – at least that's what I understand from other councils as well whom I've discussed this with.

    I'm SO glad I've found your blog and realise now that I shouldn't take their validations games personally anymore, as I had done. I shall bookmark you page and look forward to reading more. Excellent. Thank you – and to my fellow readers for their – valuable – input! I'm posting as 'anon' for obvious reasons! If we go to court – especially if we win (which I expect us to!) - I will publish under our practice's name.

  4. Incidentally, has anyone noticed the inconsistencies in Newham's decisions where there are a multitude of consents for large developments that have no character (and often down right ugly rectangles) or any relationship with the neighbourhood (other than conflicting with it) and yet any small operator has their applications refused on grounds of not being in keeping with the neighbourhood. Maybe have a look at the new building by the listed Town Hall and see how that meets any of their policy requirements – or even the London Mayor's, whom they love to quote against any but the big developments. I'm glad I don't have to live in Newham and live with the ugliness that is beginning to dominate their borough ('inspiring people' it says on their letterhead – is that a trade descriptions breach – or does it mean inspiring people to revolt!). Good luck to anyone who has to live or work there. (Where people live work and stay!!!! That's actually their motto and is even quoted in planning appeals and their planning policy!)