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Planning validation requirements: Moving to a planning statement approach instead of checklists

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We are delighted to publish the second of two reports from our cross-sector working group on the planning system.

This is the second of two reports on the planning system published by a cross-sector working group convened by The Housing Forum.

Local planning authorities often require a wide range of information from planning applicants at different stages of the planning process. In particular, they are required to maintain a validation checklist and to update it at least every two years.

The breadth of planning policy coverage has grown significantly over the last decade or so and this has resulted in the need for a significant body of evidence to be submitted as part of major planning applications (residential schemes of 10+ homes) in particular.

Requiring a large amount of information at an early stage increases the workload for planning applicants and officers and leads to changes further down the line, undermining community confidence.

Validation checklists

Of the 30 local planning authorities sampled, only 11 had checklists dated within the last two years (the National Planning Policy Framework requirement). A further 10 had checklists which were between 2 and 5 years old. We also found that:

  • In total, 119 different types of documents were asked for across the 21 local planning authorities whose checklists were reviewed.
  • Individual local planning authorities had between 21 and 42 documents required for all planning applications. This rose to between 32 and 79 documents when including documents required for some types of application only.
  • Documents such as affordable housing statements and transport assessments were almost always required. In contrast, a total of 40 different types of document were asked for by only one local planning authority each.

Following these findings, The Housing Forum is calling for the government to replace validation checklists with a system based on planning statements.

To do this:

  • Government should review and update the national information requirements and widen their scope to provide consistency of information on key matters. This would enable the government to remove the requirement for local planning authorities to publish a list of local validation requirements.
  • Government should build on the evidence collated by The Housing Forum in this report to undertake a root and branch review of current local information requirements to establish whether the planning system is the right mechanism for each.
  • Government should encourage the use of summary templates for the submission of evidence with signposting to where in the more detailed associated evidence. The justification for the findings can be found.
  • Government should reduce the disproportionate burden on ‘small major’ schemes by increasing the threshold for the definition of ‘major’ and ‘minor’ applications or introducing a three-tiered structure of small, medium and large applications.

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Read the full report for practical insights and analysis.