Are you interested to find out more about the planning history of a site in England or Wales?
You might be considering purchasing a site, or want to get planning permission for a development or alterations to a property. Getting planning permission via your local authority is usually the first task for any development work (with some exceptions) and planning issues can make or break a project so it is worth being well informed about the decisions and policies which apply to the site you are looking at.
Many people might consult the planning department by phone, or ask an architect or planning consultant for advice, but you can make a start yourself. Today a wide range of planning information is made available online, and some local authorities publish all or most of the application data they hold, so you can download it and view it at your leisure.
This article explains two ways you can get internet access to this information
First stop – The Planning Portal
The Planning Portal is the government’s online doorway into the planning process. Here you can search for generic advice about all aspects of planning and building regulations processes.
When you arrive at the site, identify yourself as “General Public”, Professional User” or “Government User” as appropriate. Different versions of the site are available for each of these user types. Then if you want to find out about a particular site, click on Local Information on the left hand menu.
Here you can enter an address or postcode and find out the name of the Local Authority responsible for the site you are researching. Links will then be available to the website of the Local Authority and its current Planning Policies. If you are lucky, a link to their online planning information will also be available. Typical titles are ‘view planning applications online’ or ‘online planning gateway’.
Although every Local Authority in England and Wales is signed up to the Planning Portal, the service is somewhat patchy, so once you have the Local Authority, you might have to search elsewhere for the link to their online information.
Second Stop – Search for Planning Online
Local Authority websites are notoriously difficult to penetrate, being very large and cumbersome. Fortunately however, their sites are usually indexed well by Google and you can take advantage of this.
If you can’t find the direct link from the Planning Portal, try sending a query to www.google.co.uk entitled “Chelmsford Planning Online” (substituting the name of your chosen Local Authority). With a bit of scanning of the links which result, this should take you direct to the relevant pages managed by the Local Authority, where you can search for the information they hold on a site and view the planning applications and relatively current information about their progress.
The more progressive Local Authorities have maps on which you can overlay the sites of Listed Buildings, Conservation areas and various planning policy areas etc. Some even have the wisdom to give you the name and direct telephone number of the Planning officer handling the application you have an interest in, which can save you hours of waiting on their telephone systems listening to Vivaldi.
When you get to the online sites, remember to read the disclaimers and the Terms and Conditions and remember to check the copyright status of documents.
Some Local Authorities point out that they don’t hold the contents of every file online, so it is important to speak to a planning officer and/or a suitable qualified professional before you make a commercial decision based on the information online.
These caveats aside, you can now access a great deal of information about the planning system direct to your desktop, which can aid your preliminary research and save you a great deal of time and energy.