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New content and a new collaboration for the Portal

by on July 4, 2012

I’m pleased to be able to let you know about a brand new service on the Portal and a new kind of collaboration between the Portal and its partners.

As you know, we’ve been in the business of developing useful tools for the planning system for some time.

The interactive guides, volume calculators, fee calculators and carbon calculators (to name a few) have all proved popular with users and there’s always a clamour for more.

Given the financial constraints we’re all facing we needed a new way of fostering innovation and delivering new tools for planning.

So we’ve opened our doors to the wider market to suggest and develop ideas for Portal Useful Tools.

Today, we launch the first of these new-style Useful Tools – a service that lets you Find Local Plans for your area, giving neighbourhoods better access to documents that can help them shape local spaces.

I’d like to congratulate Fusion Ltd – one of the UK’s leading providers of planning policy data – as our first commercial partner to go live with a Useful Tool.

The tool lets you search for local policy documents by LPA or postcode and buy and download what you need quickly and securely.

You can check it out here. Click on ‘Search Documents’ to get started.

Shan Dassanaike, managing director of Fusion Online Ltd, said: “Fusion Online Ltd is proud to be working as Planning Portal’s commercial partner, providing detailed information on adopted and evolving planning policy documents for England and Wales.

“The Planning Portal has demonstrated that like Fusion Online, it is dedicated to supporting both the private and public sectors in negotiating the planning process. I look forward to supplying the Planning Portal’s growing user base with clear and accurate data on an ever increasing number of planning policy documents.”

I look forward to announcing some more partner-developed Useful Tools soon. In the meantime, if you are interested in working with us to develop a Useful Tool you can learn more about the process here.

8 Comments
  1. C.P.Davison RIBA permalink

    The Planning Portal is essentially a vehicle for making planning applications and Appeals and to date has been very very useful. It appears to have had a sudden rush of blood to its head and is encapsulating all and sundry. I sense that it will be privatised within the next day or so and all its excellent work will be gone, except of course on payment of further fees. We do not require bombarding with smart shots from the Portal Director every 5 minutes unless of course we are all going into the business of virtual planning which is about the only form of developing going on at the moment! Slow down.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Thanks for the feedback I’m glad you find the service useful.

      I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “smart shots” if you are referring to my blog posts then I apologise but in these days of austerity the blog is just about the only communications channel left open to us.

      As for the diversification, this is driven by necessity. We only receive minimal funding and without other forms of commercial revenue we would be unable to make improvements to the service such as those recently made to 1APP.

      The new tools are privately developed and paid for, with the portal receiving a revenue for any sales made. We check and vet the services but if we deem them to be of interest to our audience then why not give them a platform.

      I’d also like to say that whilst you’re correct that for many the Portal is simply a vehicle for submitting applications and appeals, for many others it is much more. Many appreciate the news and interactive tools, 80,000 subscribe to the former by email and around 70,000 visit the interactive house each month.

      There were 2 million downloads of the Approved Docs last year whilst the 10 million page views we received in May can’t be explained away by applicants and appeal activity alone.

  2. Simon Evans permalink

    I don’t see that this new development is a bad thing, providing it doesn’t take over (which is of course a real danger – baby and bath water etc).

    Personally, I have a natural instinct to baulk at the idea of paying for something that ought to be freely available like Planning Policy documents. However, those of us who have to trawl through appalling local authority websites to try to track down elusive documents know what a waste of time it can be. So busy people are likely to be willing to pay for a service that does that for them.

    A question I have about this particular service is how comprehensive and reliable it is likely to be. Planning documentation online at point of supply (ie LAs) is so confused (what with local Plans, LDFs, saved policies, supplementary guides, etc) and so difficult to access, I wonder how any organisation can hope to provide a service that is truly accurate and all encompassing. However, I guess the proof is in the pudding and if it ain’t it won’t get used.

    • Simon

      Thank you for your comments. Your are quite right that in fact our longest standing clients are those that monitor the status’s of planning policy documents being produced across the UK (normally for retailers, large house builders, etc). Our team has been providing this service for over 20 years and started in the 90’s by having to make around 100 calls a month to Council’s to identify the position of their Local Plans or UDP documents.

      This process increased following the implementation of the Planning & Compulsory Purchase Act (2004), and again following the implementation of the Localism Act (2011), which has led us to now make over 2,000 calls a week! We monitor the status of policy documents individually and pick up on dates for consultations stages for over 2,000 planning professionals through our main site at http://www.fusiononlineltd.co.uk, which are mainly medium to large planning consultancies, firms of Architects, Lawyers and Surveyors. We have set up close working relationships with Local Authorities to try and ensure that the information we get from the council’s are accurate and detailed. This poses its own challenges as we rely on the information provided to us by the Local Authorities, however we have continued to grow over the years and I am very proud of our clientbase and our ever evolving services on our main site
      (www.fusiononlineltd.co.uk). In addition I am now very proud of being
      able to now work with the Planning Portal.

      Due to the sheer number of policy documents being produced and the time involved in trawling through LA websites or trying to speak to the right person at the Council, we thought we would look to work with the Planning Portal to offer our services to anyone with an interest in the evolving policy frameworks across England and Wales. This service is smaller version of our main site and is being offered to provide a quick (and hopefully affordable) way for anyone to understand which policy documents, being produced by their Council’s, are adopted or evolving. If more functionality or geographical coverage is required then I would refer users to our main site at http://www.fusiononlineltd.co.uk, where upon contacting us we can arrange for an online demonstration of our site, which requires a login and password to enter.

      I hope this is helpful in explaining how we monitor the policy documents; however if you have any other questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you again for your comments.

      Shan Dassanaike, Managing Director, Fusion Online Limited.

  3. Another disbursement to add to the terms and conditions list!!. Just checked my 2 nearest (Welsh) Authorities. On one if shows up only1 SPG (adopted but one of circa 23 others of same status) whislt on the other doesn’t show up any SPG… dead in the water day 1 for me.

  4. PS to last post, thought I’d check Flintshire too. shows 13 plans, some not relating to that authority (Flintshire is in Wales not FIFE!!); plans which have been replaced as “adopted” and the adopted UDP as under preparation. and Typos too. Poor

    • Shan Dassanaike, MD, Fusion Online Ltd permalink

      Thank you for your comments on the Fusion system. Unfortunately, during the process of “going live” on the Portal, the system experienced a few technical glitches which stemmed around geographical coding and access of an archived data set. This has now been rectified, and further precautionary checks are being completed. Furthermore I would like to confirm that this did not affect the system as a whole, rather a small number of individual documents out of over 17,000 policy documents currently held on the system. The Fusion Online team has been providing data on planning policy documents for over 15 years to over 2,000 planning professionals across the UK, and we remain dedicated to providing a service that is valued by the industry.

      Feedback is always welcome as it ultimately allows us to continue improving our services, and therefore I welcome your comments and the opportunity to respond.

      The Fusion Online system is in fact a powerful tool in assisting both the public and private sectors to navigate the fluid and ever changing planning policy environment.

      Many Thanks. Mr Shan Dassanaike (Managing Director, Fusion Online Ltd).

  5. Just an observation. Unless I missed something, the Authority search only brings up documentation produced by the Authority, not all of the documents relevant to the Authority area, and the postcode search doesn’t pick up all the information for two tier areas. I appreciate this would make the system more complex, so all that is needed is probably a caveat on the website about the information not returned by the search functions.

Please leave a comment below but be aware of a few house rules: keep it polite, please don’t criticise any named individual or organisation (either private or public). However, you can say what you like about the Planning Portal as I’ll be happy to respond directly. Please note, all comments will be moderated before being published.

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