Reducing invalid planning applications: a service pattern for digital planning submissions

Lambeth council is collaborating on a project with four partner councils to make it quicker and easier for people to submit planning applications.

In development
The Alpha was £98k; Beta is £350k – both funded by the Ministry of Housing and Communities Local Government (MHCLG).

The Project

Lambeth continues to lead into the BETA phase of this project working with Open Systems Lab and continuing our collaboration with Camden, Lewisham, Southwark and the newly formed Buckinghamshire council (formerly Wycombe DC) on this project. The Beta continues to be funded by the Ministry of Housing and Communities Local Government’s (MHCLG) Local Digital Fund. The Alpha stage saw us build the first version of the prototype. See our final Alpha report which includes links to the prototype. The Beta phase will continue to work and develop the new digital tool with the end result being to speed up and improve the submission of planning applications to both reduce the number of invalid applications submitted but also make the system more transparent and easier to navigate.

The Beta project will be building on our Alpha - to create a system that makes it easier and quicker for users to submit the correct information, whilst helping to avoid requesting duplicate information on multiple documents. We also want to develop a system that only asks for information that is unknown, rather than information that we already hold the answer to. So, for instance, if an applicant’s postcode indicates they live in a conservation area, we don’t ask for this information. The vision is to develop something that is openly available for any council to use.

Beta kicks off in June 2020. We will throughout the project be looking to encourage volunteers to offer their time to test and feedback on the design as we go along, so please do let us know if you’re interested in getting involved.
We will be keen to speak to users and stakeholders, including planning support staff, planning officers and planning managers, to understand a bit more about how they work and get their feedback on the prototype as it’s developed. We will also want to engage with users who will use the system and will be keen to approach users of the system including agents, resident groups who are interested in getting involved, councillors and other interested users. In particular, we hope to engage more / hear from potential users of the service who have disabilities or impairments.

The problem

A large part of the problem is the system is confusing and difficult to navigate for applicants and often applicants are asked for duplicate information which adds to the time it takes to complete and submit an application. As a result of this opaque and confusing system, a large percentage of the planning applications that councils receive in a year are invalid. This raises costs for all parties as well as increasing the amount of time, and frustration, it takes to get planning approval.

Reasons for invalid applications

The 10 most common reasons that applications are made invalid at Lambeth are:

  • Application submitted without a CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy) Additional Information form.
  • Application forms not signed and/or dated appropriately.
  • Forms not signed or dated or incorrect certificate completed.
  • Incorrect fee or no fee at all provided.
  • Drawings not labeled clearly, correctly or at all.
  • Inaccurate or incomplete plans and information.
  • Plan, elevation and/or section drawings that do not match each other.
  • Drawings not drawn to a recognized scale.
  • No red line is drawn around the application site on the site location plan. More details of this requirement can be found in the National Planning Practice Guidance.
  • Specialist reports not included – e.g. Design and Access or Heritage Statements. .


The hope is to design a system that reduces the number of invalid application submissions as well as making the current system more transparent and easier to navigate.
This will allow planners to spend more time planning, save money for applicants, increase customer satisfaction and make savings for the council.

Get involved

We are holding our Alpha Final Show and Tell on Thursday 23 April 2020 – if you would be interested in joining this remote virtual presentation, please contact There are only 25 spaces available. To gain access to the meeting, you will have had to contact us by 11 am on Thursday 23rd to confirm you would like to be added to the list. Attendance will be on the basis there are slots left on the list – and entrance will be strictly controlled to this privately held virtual meeting for security purposes.

If you would like to get involved in Beta – to help us design a better system for planning application submissions – please email us at

Involvement would include someone from the project arranging to either meet and/or visit you, to have a quick chat from 30 minutes to perhaps an hour, to understand how the service works for you currently and any challenges with the current systems you experience, and then showing you what we've designed so we can see what you like or don't like about it. We'll use your feedback to iterate and improve the designs. It is requested the following information is provided: * Your name
* Are you a resident/agent / previous or potential applicant/community group?
* Your email address
* Your telephone number
* Where you would be available to meet – e.g. at Lambeth Town Hall or in a local library etc.

More information

To find out more about the project, please visit the Reducing Invalid Planning Applications (RIPA) website

Watch the RIPA London Borough of Lambeth award video to find out more about our project application.

Read the final Alpha report – RIPA Alpha

To find out more about our experiences, what we’ve learnt so far – read the first log of the Beta phase

To find out what we aim to achieve in the future, and follow the Beta progress, read our Reducing Invalid Planning Applications project — Beta Phase blog.

Please follow this page for live information on our progress, what we’re learning and what we are building.


London Brough of Lambeth Planning Delivery Team PO Box 734, Winchester, SO23 5DG

Get in touch

For more information
Planning & Delivery Team