So, Chris is off to pastures new and though we’re disappointed that he decided not to join us on the next phase in the Portal’s evolution, the team’s enthusiasm to get cracking continues unabated.
The team and I will do our best to move this blog on along in the next few months and will continue to keep you up to date with the improvements and developments here as they happen.
One immediate change you’ll notice is that from this week I’ll also be posting our weekly news headlines. They’ve been popular when we’ve posted them in the past so I hope you’ll enjoy them. Do let me have your feedback on this and indeed anything else – I’m sure you won’t by shy!
For long-term blog subscribers, you may remember me holding the reins whilst Chris was leading our bid last year. For those that don’t, I’m one of the Portal’s deputy directors, focused on delivering the best possible experience to our customers – agents, applicants and LPAs alike.
I’m a relative newbie in Portal terms – I’ve only been here six years! Feel free to look me up on LinkedIn, where I’d be happy to connect.
I’m sad to announce that after 13 years at the Planning Portal, including the last 9 as Director, I am leaving the Portal for pastures new.
Being part of the Portal team from launch to the point of maturity and transfer to the private sector has been an absolute privilege and one that will be difficult to match.
I joined the Portal in 2002, before the first electronic planning application was created and leave it at a point where every local authority is a partner and around 90% of all planning applications are submitted electronically.
We began as a tiny group of enthusiasts from PINs and the private sector with a Mission to transform planning. I believe we’ve achieved that goal decisively, helping the planning sector to become a leader in the transformation of public services to a digital model, delivering more than £600M of savings to local Government and business along the way.
It’s been a fantastic experience working with partners across local and central Government, industry and agencies and I feel proud to have played a part in such a fantastic transformation.
There has been true collaboration and a willingness to embrace new ways of working throughout the industry. This was especially evident in the creation of 1App, which required compromise and tenacity on all sides to bring together the myriad variations of planning application forms into a cohesive set that has led to efficiencies for applicant and local authority alike.
As you’ll know from previous posts the Planning Portal is about to enter a new and exciting phase of its evolution by becoming a private sector company under a joint venture between TerraQuest and DCLG.
I’m certain that the venture will be a huge success, just as almost everything the team has turned its hand to has been.
Having been together since the beginning the Planning Portal team are more like family to me than colleagues and it will be very difficult to wave them off to new adventures without me, but I know they’ll flourish and I wish them every success.
As for this blog, Sarah Chilcott and the team will continue to keep you abreast of events and you can be sure at the very least of a significant improvement in grammar.
For those that wish to keep in touch you’ll find me over on LinkedIn.
All my very best
35,652 Online Planning Applications passed through the Planning Portal cogs and wheels in January 2015, a whopping 14.6% increase on January 2014.
If you keep up submitting at that level for the remainder of the year we’ll easily process half a million app’s in a single year!
I couldn’t let the milestone pass without comment now could I!
As of the past weekend there’s now been more half a million views of the blog since I launched it back in 2009, in which time I have published 465 posts, which have received around 3,000 comments and attracted more than 1,000 followers.
Commercial matters have meant that I’ve needed to keep a lower than customary (for me) profile of late however I hope to ramp up the content and interactivity in the very near future.
It’s an exciting time for the Portal and I’m looking forward to getting into lively debates about the our new direction and all the good stuff it will bring.
Thanks for reading.
It’s been a while coming but it can now be revealed that TerraQuest has been chosen by DCLG to partner with them in a joint venture to provide the ongoing delivery and commercialisation of the Planning Portal service.
The joint venture has indicated it will not charge applicants or LPAs for using the Portal’s 1App planning application service and that a new and improved 1App and website will be delivered by TerraQuest’s prime subcontractor Civica, later in 2015. The existing service will remain in place until the new website is launched – so there will be no disruption to our customers.
It is the intention to transfer staff to the new business before the end of the financial year however the JV is subject to final negotiation and therefore any questions regarding the process of commercialisation should be directed to PlanningPortalFuture@communities.gsi.gov.uk
The Portal team look forward to working with TerraQuest and DCLG in the new joint venture and are excited at the prospect of moving the service forward.
In case you missed it, DCLG has challenged local authorities and other parties to come up with new and innovative ways of communicating statutory notices.
If you can think of a better way of advertising a planning application than attaching it to a lamppost then you have until 28th January to submit a proposal to DCLG to apply to take part in a pilot.
The article on GOV.uk states: “The pilots will explore how we change statutory notices so that they reach more people, are easier to read, give greater visibility and transparency to big issues and reduce costs in a sustainable way.”
Last year we added a useful tool to help applicants and agents easily identify the payment options local authorities support when submitting online.
We have now updated the tool. The latest version of the LPA Payment Options Checker is available to download from the Planning Portal’s Useful Tools page (you’ll need Excel installed).
This should help agents plan which payment method to use as the application service doesn’t tell you the different methods LPAs support up front.
Hopefully this will help to manage customer expectations around registration and validation.
Non-receipt of the fee remains one of the top reasons for LPAs invalidating online applications. This is most common where the application and all supporting documents are sent online but the fee is paid by cheque.
Receipt of the fee is a requirement for validation and due to postal delays there’s no guarantee LPAs will receive it in good time causing administrative delays.
To help with this validation issue we have been encouraging LPAs to support additional payment options, including payment by telephone and via the council website.
Both these options let the applicant or agent pay quickly and efficiently, which in turn lets the LPA register and validate applications – a win-win situation.
Finally, a request to LPAs: please check the payment options you support.
It would be great if you could spend a couple of minutes checking that your payment options are correct including the cheque payment address.
There are still quite a few LPAs without a cheque payment address which could mean chasing payment or cheques being sent to the wrong address – with lots of office moves recently we don’t want the cheque going astray.
An instruction on how to update your details can be found on the Planning Portal.
Happy New Year to everyone.
Planning gets a lot of stick in the press and from many quarters but what often goes unheralded is the leading role it has taken in the shift from paper to electronic public services. Very close to 90% of all planning applications are now submitted online, which is a fantastic achievement for all concerned, from agents and applicants to LPAs and indeed ourselves.
Clearly there is much to be improved, but I have every confidence that we will be driving positive change throughout the year to come and beyond. Before ploughing on though here are a smattering of statistics that illustrate the continuing growth in digital submission.
Online Planning Applications in 2014 = 438,551
Online Planning Applications in 2013 = 362,882
That’s an increase of 20.9%
Total Website Visits in 2014 = 15,039,298
Total Website Visits in 2013 = 13,450.768
That’s an increase of 11.8%
(It’s worth remembering that every visit to the Planning Portal website for information or guidance is a phone call, visit or interaction with a Local Authority prevented – and thereby money saved for LA’s)
Total Building Regulations Downloads in 2014 = 2,251,829
Total Building Regulations Downloads in 2013 = 1,942,807
That’s an increase of 15.9%
We’re expecting 2015 to be a momentus year for us all at the Portal and we are really looking forward to getting our teeth into the challenges ahead.
All our very best to all of you.
Here we are again, the Christmas party beckons and it’s time to reflect on the year gone by.
As you’ll no doubt be aware it’s been an interesting year during which I spent a few months on the outside, looking in at the business and talking to customers and supporters about the future of the Portal.
It was extremely gratifying to hear so many good things about our work and our people, from right across the industry.
Ultimately, we weren’t successful in our bid to run the Portal but we gave it a good shot and learned a lot in the process. Now like everyone else we wait to hear what the future holds for the Portal and we’re truly excited (and a little nervous) about the prospect of taking the business to the next level with a new partner.
None of this excitement prevented us from concentrating on the day job though, as the team continued to deliver improvements to the system and in support of policy throughout the year.
Earlier in the year we pushed beyond our Ministerial target of 80% of planning applications online more than nine months ahead of time while in November we reached the heady milestone of our 2,000,000th online application.
I can honestly say that I have no idea what the next year will bring for the Planning Portal but at the very least I hope it brings you and your families all that you wish for.
Well ‘tis the season of goodwill so please enjoy our festive greeting and very best wishes for a happy and prosperous New Year. (You may need to ‘play’ the presentation as it behaves differently in different browers!)