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Find out about permitted development - 2015

Why important

Planning is another popular topic, attracting over 6% of council website visitors. Over the past three years we have analysed the task of commenting on planning applications and the task of finding out about the planning decision. Now we turn to the start of the planning process and the task of obtaining advice about permitted developments.

Date of assessment

Coverage

All councils, except shire counties and districts in Northern Ireland (379 councils in all).

Overview

In terms of being able to find the relevant information, many councils handle this task reasonably well, with 47% achieving our standard. However, there was all too often a disconnect between what the council website covered and what the Planning Portal explained, the outcome being confusion for the general public.

Find your council report

Check ‘coverage’ to see if your council has been surveyed. Go to councils page and select your council. Look for link to task report under 2016-17 results

Headline results

47%

Achieved standard

The standard
  • At least 5 questions from 9 answered 'Yes'
  • Question Q23 must be answered 'Yes'
  • Question Q30 must be 'No' (content must not be out of date)
  • Promotion of task rated satisfactory or very good
  • Customer journey rated satisfactory or very good

 

Questions

NB Question highlighted in red is an ‘essential question’ that must be answered correctly for the council to meet the standard for this task. Questions highlighted in blue affect star ranking

Questions to be answered "Yes"
Does a site search return the correct result listed in the first five results? 84%
Is there a clear link on the planning landing page to information about the need for planning permission (eg 'Do I need permission?') 74%
Can I access further guidance about planning rules for extensions such as conservatories? 77%
Am I informed that I might apply for a Lawful Development Certificate to confirm that my proposed development does not require planning consent? 44%
Is it clear that a fee is applicable if I apply for a Lawful Development Certificate? 30%
Can I download an application for a Certificate of Lawfulness to submit to the council with the appropriate fee? 39%
Is it clear who I should contact if I need further advice about my proposed development? 64%
Does a Google search lead me to the task? 86%
Is there an entry in the A to Z index? 69%
Would you recommend that other councils look at this implementation as an example of good practice? 11%
Out of date information, answered 'No'
Did you come across any out-of-date information about this task? 4%
How effectively is this council promoting this as a task?
How effectively is this council promoting this as a task? 1.9
Overall, how do you rate the journey plus task completion?
Overall, how do you rate the journey plus task completion? 1.8

Task report

Good practice

Finding the task

  • Find the task by entering ‘council name’ planning permission into Google (or other search engine).
  • From the planning permission page there should be signposting to ‘Do I need planning permission?’ or similar.
  • Provide prominent links from sections on planning applications / planning permission. Take visitors to the same page from any site search result or A to Z entry.

Completing the task

  • Drop the jargon, especially from higher levels of the site – ‘Do I need planning permission?’ is more meaningful to householders as a heading than ‘Permitted development’.
  • If they have to be used, ensure that technical terms and jargon are clearly explained up front.
  • Consider carefully how to use the Planning Portal to complement information on your site; do not just link to the portal home page for all queries. 
  • Follow best practice by linking to individual Planning Portal pages for common projects such as conservatories, loft conversions, porches, etc, as well as the interactive house.
  • Provide clear information on access to council advice for this task, what different options cost and when they might be appropriate, e.g. informal free advice from a planning officer or a chargeable pre-application advice service.
  • Make clear what people will receive - an informal e-mail, a written letter of advice or a legally binding certificate.
  • Include information about lawful development certificates (LDCs), fees applicable and a link directly to the relevant form.
  • Make clear the difference between different types of LDCs (existing / proposed).
  • Provide clear contact details for those seeking informal advice.

Poor practice

  • Only the pre-application advice service is mentioned; as a result householders may think their only option is to pay to find out if they need permission.
  • Lawful development certificates (LDCs) are often omitted from any content about permitted development and only found on the list of planning forms.
  • Links to apply for an LDC take users to a long page of planning forms, forcing them to scroll through many forms before finding the right one.
  • Fees are buried, and sometimes found in a separate document instead of together with this form.
  • Jargon and officious language is rife at all levels. Many sites over-use the passive voice, long sentences and more complicated words such as ‘required’, ‘primarily’, ‘issued’ and ‘submission’ where there are simpler alternatives.
  • Some sites dive straight into legal references and links such as ‘Statutory instrument (SI-2014-0564)’ before offering a simple overview.
  • User journeys have not been thought through. As a result basic householder information for the uninitiated is lacking or buried within a large range of material aimed presumably at professionals.
  • Links to the Planning Portal go to the home page only.

Reviewer's tip

Make sure you provide a clear framework of information about permitted development and include clear links to the best bits of the planning portal. This includes the interactive house/terrace and individual guides about specific types of developments (loft conversions, extensions, porches).

Provide information about each of the options for verifying permitted development, including any ‘informal’ advice from planners right through to to LDCs. It should explain exactly what costs are involved and what you will receive, eg an informal email, a written letter of advice or a legally binding certificate.

Sites that we recommend

Bedford BC

Links through to the Planning Portal at the appropriate page. Very smooth process.

Bournemouth BC

A really useful page about permitted development with images of the Planning Portal’s interactive house and terrace. There was very clear information about the processes related to projects under permitted development and clear explanations about the different levels of confirmation you could get for your project. This included paying for a simple letter and also paying for a certificate of lawful development. The information is arranged in a logical sequence and the task journey has been well thought through. Very good indeed.

Bristol City

The task is well promoted. The page ‘Do you need planning permission?’ contained good information about lawful development certificates. I was signposted to the Planning Portal to view the interactive house, but there were also a number of individual links to specific householder developments including one for conservatories and one for extensions. Good.

Broxtowe BC

Very good integration with the Planning Portal. Clear initial information with appropriate links to Planning Portal.

Calderdale MBC

Couldn’t fail to get to this content; on the landing page even a direct link to the Planning Portal for conservatories. Clearly written, nicely laid out.

Further information

We assessed this task primarily using the council's facility.

 

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