‘It’s about time’: Architect Danny Campbell welcomes government move to drag planning applications into digital age


NEW government apps aimed at speeding up applications for extensions and home improvements in England will help drag the ‘laborious and time consuming’ process into the digital age, according to the founder of the UK’s fastest growing home architecture firm.

The two web apps, announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick yesterday (Wednesday, June 30) are a step towards a fully digital planning system and will save time and money for developers, architects and homeowners by speeding up and simplifying the application process.

Many home improvements – such as extensions and loft conversions ­– don’t need full planning permission, but complicated rules often result in homeowners wasting time and money by submitting invalid applications for ‘permitted developments’.

The new app for homeowners uses simple language and diagrams to help navigate the system, posing question to determine whether the plans meet local and national requirements. Crucially, users can then apply within the app for the certificate they need to show their plans are permitted development, allowing building to go ahead.

They will be piloted in three English council areas before consideration for roll out across the country.

Danny Campbell, founder of HOKO, said: “It’s about time this issue was addressed. The planning application process in England is incredibly time consuming and laborious – around a decade behind every other sector in terms of technology and accessibility.

“As a business, our aim is to provide the perfect client experience, which is why if a client wants to move quickly, we want to help them do that. However, negotiating the planning process is a constant lull we cannot avoid, and the inevitable delays are the bane of any project. Any advance assurance an application will be processed provides an advantage to the homeowner, the architect, the builder, the economy – basically anyone.

“I can also see the app helping architects build a better rapport with clients by removing so much of the admin from the relationship and allowing both to focus on the project. This technology, and hopefully further developments to come, will certainly help the process in terms of speed and efficiency.

“We are pushing for the death of paper plans and drawings in the planning process. Reviewing drawings when 3D images are available is as old fashioned as sending a letter instead of an email – as planners frequently do – and I hope this will lead to the opportunity to simply upload digital models for review.”

He added: “I will be monitoring the progress of this app closely and hope it leads to a more systemic approach to the assessment of applications, as well as the submission of them. At present, the planner can effectively perform the role of pseudo-architecture critic, making or breaking a decision on a whim or opinion rather than against set, objective criteria. This is an area in which we, as an industry, need to see progress.”

Glasgow-based HOKO Design expanded across the UK earlier this year opening new studios in Bristol, Brighton, Birmingham, Inverness and London. The firm is committed to new technologies in its pursuit of the perfect client experience, making use of VR design and AI to help complete administration tasks.