Validation checklists “not working well” and should be replaced with simpler planning statement system, says housing membership body

The government should scrap the requirement on councils to use planning validation checklists and replace them with a simpler system of planning statements, the Housing Forum said. 

Research published by the membership body shows local planning authorities currently require applicants to provide between 21 and 42 planning documents, depending on the local planning department.

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A new Housing Forum report has found that 19 out of 30 local authorities do not have up-to-date planning validation checklists

Local authorities are required to use validation checklists, a list of required documents and information that must be submitted by an applicant, and update them at least every two years.

The Housing Forum’s analysis found that 19 out of the 30 local authorities sampled did not hold up-to-date validation checklists, leading them to conclude that the validation checklist approach is “not working well.”

Across the 21 local planning authorities whose checklists were reviewed, 119 different types of documents were asked for. One local authority asked for a total of 40 different types of planning documents, including window plans and an air quality assessment.

The Housing Forum is calling on the government to update national information requirements to removed the requirement for validation checklists, and replace it with a system based on the submission of planning statements.

Under the Housing Forum’s proposed alternative system planning authorities would be encouraged to simply publish a summary list of local plan policies and associated guidance which has ‘planning weight.’ This would include the evidence needed to demonstrate policy compliance.

It also said the government should encourage the use of summary templates for the submission of evidence with signposting to more detailed associated evidence for the justification for the findings.

Launching the report, Shelagh Grant, chief executive of the Housing Forum, said:

“Our research clearly shows that the validation checks system is not working as intended. Local planning authorities lack the resources to keep them up to date, and housebuilders are facing a mountain of information to submit, much of which does not improve outcomes for residents.

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“Moving to a system of planning statements would reduce the burden both on housebuilders and on local authorities, and make it easier for everybody involved to enable the provision of a quality home for all.”

The Housing Forum carried out its planning validation requirements research by selecting a sample of 30 local planning authorities from across England.

Stratified random sampling was used to produce a shortlist of 30, nine local authorities were excluded from the analysis as three had validation checklists which were more than five years old, one had an undated checklist, three had checklists with only scant information and two had no lists available.