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From Nanny State to Canny State!

by on June 8, 2010

I’m sure that for those who have spent all their career the Civil Service the current maelstrom is nothing new. A storm to be weathered before calm descends once more.
For those of us still fairly new to the scene (8 years in my case) all this uncertainty is at once disconcerting and exciting.
The Planning Portal is no stranger to uncertainty, having finally found our secure place in the Department, we now find ourselves like everyone else looking into an unclear future.
Whereas in the past we have managed well for funding and support we are now facing a more constrained outlook. I take this as a very clear remit to carefully scrutinise all we do, to ensure we are adding value where we can and paring back where we are not.

Dictionaries describe the word canny as “careful; prudent: astute; shrewd; frugal and thrifty” not bad adjectives to describe our current state of mind I think. Hence ‘Canny State’

This doesn’t mean that we will do nothing, quite the opposite. I believe that the Planning Portal has a central role to play in turning the Coalition Governments ambitions into reality. We occupy a unique position in the planning industry; working as we do with all sectors to facilitate innovation and drive efficiencies. We have a truly engaged audience that don’t mind telling us when we are getting it wrong or right)and we will seek to involve you in the decisions we take.

At this moment we are reviewing all of our services and making decisions on their future, some will fall and others will be brought to the fore.
Our redesign (Portal 2.0) is now in testing prior to going live in Summer and this will provide an enormous opportunity to stimulate development by the creative amongst you. Whilst the personalisation options will mean the Portal is even more relevant than before.

We are very keen to play our part facilitating The Big Society and are working hard to ensure anyone involved in planning can find the information they need, when they need it and in a form that is suitable for their level of expertise.
Around half of our customers are citizens, so we will continue to focus on simplification and ease of use, whilst a similar number are professionals, therefore improving 1App for business will be equally important and we will be commencing an open dialogue on 1App shortly.

I will release news of the changes we are making as they arise over the coming weeks, however I’d be delighted to recieve your feedback on where you feel we ought to be concentrating, where you feel we ought not and any observations on the Portals role.


  1. S. Bean permalink

    I would agree that the Planning Portal is one of the innovations of the past decade. The free access to Planning Advice and Building Regulations has been of great of benefit.

    I puzzle at the distinction you make between Citizens and Professionals. We are all citizens, whatever our profession.

    This leads me to a final thought, as an private sector professional I would like to see a breaking down of the barriers erected by the public sector in the past decade. Petty Planning rules and restrictions coupled with checking in proceedures and the excessive use of planning Conditions, these are brakes on allowing the economy to move forward.

    • PortalDirector permalink

      Hi Simon,
      I make the broad distinction between citizens and professionals because we have found they have quite different information needs although both groups are equally important to us.

  2. Ken Usman-Smith permalink

    The diferent Stakeholders have very different impressions of whats most important and what they want My 18 years as a civil servant and 20 years in local governmant (with 10 years private and 3rd sector squeezed in) has taught me that, so Chris has it spot on!

    The next few years will transform the planning process and will risk a polarisation of the different view’s. The need for local communities to be the final arbiters of schemes is at the heart of where we are going of course. But equally the NIMBY and developer view of what is best for the area will produce massive tectonic pressure with regular eruptions of ash clouds over the planning process.

    Typically the LPA sits at the centre of that perfect storm and so concilliation will be the emerging top competency skill for the planner. But then it always has been core, and the real issue will be if the vision in the plans meets the ambitions of the local community, and thats rare but not impossible.

Please give us your feedback but we won’t publish any comments that are not constructive or that criticise any individual, any named business or any local authority. Please note, all comments will be moderated before being published.

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