The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has released details of two new web apps to support members of the public and planners through the planning application process.
The public facing app is named RIPA (reducing invalid planning applications) and has been designed to help homeowners and developers check whether their applications can be quickly approved.
MHCLG said it uses simple language and diagrams to help them navigate the system, asking a series of questions and determining whether the plans meet local and national requirements.
Users can then apply within the app for the certificate they need to show their plans are permitted for development.
The second app, named BoPS (back office planning system), has been created for planning officials to manage permitted development applications, tracking progress and adding the information they need to make decisions.
MHCLG said the apps have been designed with support from the Local Digital Fund and are now being tested by three local authorities – Southwark, Lambeth and Buckinghamshire – as a step towards replacing paper based processes with digital, as outlined in last year’s Planning for the Future white paper.
A spokesperson said the apps have been taken to minimum viable product stage and the ministry is now encouraging other councils to join in the beta testing.
MHCLG pointed out that many home improvements, such as kitchen extensions and loft conversions, do not need full planning permission, but the rules are complicated and often result in people submitting invalid applications.
Secretary for Housing Robert Jenrick MP said: “We want to speed up the planning process, to help families make improvements to their homes more quickly.
“These apps are a step towards a planning system that is transparent, efficient, and end-to-end digital – saving time and money for developers, architects and homeowners, and letting planners focus on the merits of applications rather than chasing paperwork.”
The Local Government Association also welcomed the development but with a note of caution.
Its planning spokesperson Councillor David Renard said:“Councils want to work with government to deliver a locally led planning system which enables communities to shape and define the area they live in.
“We support measures to make the planning system more accessible and efficient. These new apps are another tool to make it easier for residents to engage in the planning process, which will also help councils to track applications for permitted development across their area.
“However it will be important that there are multiple channels available for all residents to check whether they need to apply for planning permission, as not everyone will necessarily be able to use the apps.”
Image from iStock, Studio Chlorophylle Serge Nied