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Improving 1App

by on June 22, 2010

As I’ve previously mentioned now that our redesign is almost upon us we are turning our attention to weightier matters. We’re cutting back on non-essential work and re-using the savings to focus on improving 1App.

We are currently setting up the project, working out how much we can afford and how to ensure we deliver the most effective results.

We will be opening up lots of ways to get involved in shaping the future of the 1App system, but to get us started I’ve listed here are some of the improvements that you’ve already told us you’d like to see. 

  • Reduce the length of the forms. We’ll work with policy colleagues and design teams to find ways to make the form completion process shorter.
  • Reduce the need to re-enter data on forms. Our users tell us that having to re-enter address and personal information on forms is time consuming and frustrating, we’ll look at re-using previously provided data to quicken form completion.
  • Upload multiple attachments. Many of our users have commented that it would be easier if they could select more than one document to save time when uploading attachments.
  • Payment at the point of submission. It has been suggested that it would be more logical to pay at the point of submission rather than during the process.
  • Simplify the supporting documents section. This part of the process is currently confusing for users with mandatory, local and optional documents. We propose simplifying this to just mandatory and optional. We’ll also improve the overall layout of the page.
  • New progress meter for each section. Our users tell us it would help to have more information about how far through the application they are, such ‘80% complete’.
  • Resubmission. It’s possible to resubmit applications via the Portal but we can improve it – so we will.

Watch this space for more information, but in the meantime let me know if you agree with these ideas or let me know if you think we’re missing something.

17 Comments
  1. jason wilson permalink

    The residential sector equates to 80% of our workload.

    It would save us time and money if you had the option when submitting a full application to select residential or commercial application at the first page.

    If residential was selected then all the commercial forms didn’t appear as part of the application.

    • Clive Reynolds permalink

      The need to simplify the forms is essentail and has been support by our Members. In particular the householder forms, which constitute a large proportion of our application workload could be reduced in their complexity. Like many authorities prior to 1App the Forest of Dean District Council had its own simplified householder forms and the current system has been a retrograde step from this.
      Development Control Manager
      Forest of Dean District Council

  2. Ken Usman-Smith permalink

    And look at a process mappng of all application types from Pre-Application to Appeal Decison through to providing a copy of the decison notice and access to the files by future ‘place based’ developments.

    If a work flow ‘life of each application type’ is produced to go with each of the 1APP forms LPA’s can use it as the template to redesign what they do.

    We are all different and thats inevitable and useful, but workflow allows a local variation to be accomodated and will pick up on so many things that get missed or done wrongly because ‘we always did it that way’. Its an external benchmarking challenge and continuos improvement in action.

    It will also pick up the ‘pinch points’ and over processing in dealing with applications and give ideas to hard pressed LPA’s on where efficiencies and income generation possiblities lie.

    Its a big ask, but we are all doing this already. If we are not we simply will not survive. We may fall prey to private sector or partnerhips that are not a bad idea in themselves, but on our public sector ethos terms. We have the skills, we wnat to apply them fully but that need not make us lose the job we have if we work to do it better. And the Portal can help in that.

  3. Pete Brown permalink

    It seems that some LPA’s opt out of the payment on line option, payment by cheque being the only option that appears. Other LPA’s whilst appearing to offer payment via all cards in reality only accept payment by debit Card, credit cards are quite often refused, presumably the LPA’s want to save the fee. Could some pressure be brought to bear either to bring them all inline, or at least to clearly state what form of payment is acceptable. It is very frustrating having to re-enter card details in order to gat a successful payment.

  4. Robin Vaissiere permalink

    Chris, On speaking to one of our South East LPAs about this post, they were delighted that the area of attachments is being looked at, but asked if in addition, we can do more to ensure that applicants name their supporting documents more clearly at source. The LPA in question remarked that they often have to spend time renaming the submitted attachments, before uploading them to their online application register.

    A suggestion made by another LPA was that we should ask applicants to agree to use standard file naming conventions when registering.

    Attachments clearly named ‘Side Elevation exisisting’, and ‘Ground Floor Plan Proposed’ would greatly reduce the burden on the receiving LPA and make finding of the appropriate drawings for the public and consultees so much less time consuming, as opposed to having to open several drawings marked ‘Plan 123’ etc., in order to find the appropriate drawing.

    Robin Vaissiere
    Planning Portal Regional Account Manager

  5. The changes sound good. Can’t wait to see them implemented 🙂

    On the issue of naming of files, does this refer to the naming of the actual files, as opposed to the text entered into the Planning Portal to identify them?

    If the former, the company I work for, and I suspect many others, have our own standard filing conventions, and deviating from these when naming Planning Portal attachments would be something we would wish to avoid, as it would involve learning a whole new convention and be time-consuming to rename files at our end. It doesn’t fix the problem – it merely shifts it.

    We generally upload issue sheets with our drawings, identifying drawing numbers against a description of what the drawing actually shows. I think encouraging other applicants to do this would still save time for LPAs, but with little extra effort needed for applicants.

  6. My main frustration is at the supporting documents stage – having to select a document size and type every time is time wasting and tedious. Can the drop down menus be altered to retain the last setting or have some way of setting ‘favourites’ eg my drawings are always A3 pdf – if I submit 50 drawings, I have to select A3 AND pdf 50 times each AND tick 2 confirm boxes 50 times each!

    • Hi

      Dont submit 50 seperate A4 pdf`s make one pdf with all drawings in with an index page and then just submit one file.
      Where other manatory documents are needing an upload you can just say see All-in-One.pdf

  7. From an LPA perspective, I would like to see application amendments made clearer. We receive the whole application again, and it is not apparent what has been changed or amended at present, meaning that we have to wade through everything to try and spot the difference.

    Tracey Carter
    Technical Support Team Leader, St Helens Council

  8. Cadplan Architecture permalink

    1) There is not an option to name two people as joint applicants

    2) There should be separate forms for residential developments, for industrial premises, and for office/shop developments to avoid pages of irrelevant questions.

    3) Cut down on the fields on the document submission window

  9. edmund hopkins permalink

    The TPO 1app form needs to clearly distinguish for its users the difference between information that is mandatory and that which is not. Since the reason for work is required, that should have its own box.

  10. Jonathan Astill permalink

    TPO Applications on 1 app

    s.8 part 1 ‘Condition of trees’. The requirement for applicants to provide ‘written evidence from an appropriate expert’ should be discretionary rather than manadatory. This requirement often puts an unecessary financial burden on the applicant and frequently serves no purpose. LPA arboriculturalists should be suitably qualified to determine applications based on thier own observations, knowledge and experience.

  11. Warren Whyte permalink

    A few observations:

    No space for different surnames if a submission is for a joint application (as already noted).

    No proper payment receipt process needs urgent attention. I’ve even had a submission where the LPA claimed not to have received my payment! Ideally I would like my client to be able to log in and pay (rather than send a cheque in) so to avoid having to claim back the planning fee, and having the money passing through my accounts.

    A proper plan creation service. The existing one is a joke (and not platform independent) – in its process and in the quality received.

    Drawing submission process needs a proper review, not just a tweak. Look at how the various online photo companies are dealing with this… some have cracked it and others are getting bogged down in java. Please ensure the portal remains open to all formats including Macintosh.

    • Robin Vaissiere permalink

      Dear Warren, I would like to clarify a few points regarding payments that you have raised, as it may be that not everyone is aware of the options;

      ‘No proper payment receipt process needs urgent attention. I’ve even had a submission where the LPA claimed not to have received my payment! Ideally I would like my client to be able to log in and pay (rather than send a cheque in) so to avoid having to claim back the planning fee, and having the money passing through my accounts.’

      Planning Authorities currently have the option to offer three payment options for planning applications that are submitted online via the Planning Portal;

      1) Online payment – this uses the local planning authority’s own payment engine provider to collect payment, which goes direct to the local authority’s bank account and not via the Planning Portal.

      When the applicant selects online payment option, we open the local authority’s payment engine screens, you fill in the online payment form, the local authority’s payment engine provider checks your bank account to see if sufficient funds are available. If ok, the application fee is debited from the applicant’s account and credited to the local authority’s bank account. At the same time, the local authority’s payment engine provider creates an encrypted ‘payment successful’ message that is sent back to the Planning Portal, which then releases the application for submission.

      At the point of debiting your account, the local authority’s payment engine provider should then generate and send you a ‘transaction receipt’, this is not done by the Planning Portal.

      I understand that our development team is considering a facility that will enable your client to go onto the Planning Portal, input the relevant Planning Portal application reference number and pay for it online as you would do.

      Cheque payment – If you select this option, you can technically submit the application without payment (although the receiving authority is not oblidged to process it until the cheque is received), then advise your client to send a cheque direct to the local authority, quoting the Planning Portal reference number of the application on the back of the cheque,(address will be provided on the next screen). This will leave you to only bill your client for the work you have done and not get involved with the application fee, or refunds.

      Telephone payment option – we encourage local authorities to also offer this payment option, although probably only about 30% currently do offer the option to pay for a planning application by debit or credit card over the phone. Where they do, by selecting this option, you can technically submit the application without payment (although the receiving authority is not oblidged to process it until the telephone payment is received), then advise your client to pay the application fee direct to the local authority over the phone.

      If your local authority does not currently offer this option, please advise support@planningportal.gsi.gov.uk who will then ask the appropriate Planning Portal regional account manager to enquire if the local authority is able and happy to offer this option to applicants.

      In all payment options above, it is the planning authority, or the planning authority’s payment engine provider that takes your application fee payment and it is their responsibility to provide receipt of payment.

  12. Andrew McManus permalink

    I have used 1App for Tree Preservation Order applications, and I am totally disallusiond with it. What used to take 10 mins to fill out the LPA form now takes up to 3 hours of frustration, annoyance and un-necessary work, demanding un-necessary supplimentary documents to be uploaded, refusing to progress the application while not explaning why. Even the pdf version failed to learn from the old LPA forms that were designed and modified over many years until they worked. There is insufficient space for a map which is split between two pages. The forms are plainly designed by a committee whose only working connection with trees must be the paper that is made from them. I feel that 1App is an unreasonable additional burden to impose on tree owners who are already burdened with a TPO that was imposed on them “in the public interest”

  13. Adam permalink

    One small suggestion –I would like the application title at the top of each page while working my way through the form. It might sound silly but it’s easy to forget what site you are working on if you have multiple and similar applications, or if you start a form and get distracted before finishing. Having the name of the open application on every page would help to keep track of things.
    Thanks

  14. Improvements to Planning Portal website: here are some comments from members of the practice who regularly use the planning portal for submission of planning and building control applications.

    General behaviour:

    – Allow bulk uploading of documents (eg multiple selection, or selection by wildcard). The current system appears to upload each supporting document immediately when you name it in the Supporting Documents section. At this point the user is still building the application information and may spend some time in Planning Portal. During this ‘building’ of the application the real documents maybe subject to change but any changes made to the original supporting documents will not be picked up by planning portal. As the naming of these documents can be done well in advance of the planning portal submission actually being sent, it means that any changes made to the supporting documentation after the initial upload but prior to the actual submission are missed. So include an option to re-attach all existing supporting documents (attachments) so the user can be sure all the latest versions are picked up before they submit the application. Alternatively just upload the named documents when the whole application is submitted rather than whilst it is being built.

    – Allow bulk signature/confirmation of printability

    – Allow removal of all existing supporting documents (attachments) rather than just the current option of deleting them one by one.

    – “Remember” previously entered settings wherever possible and appropriate

    – Include a “Next” button at the top of each of the pages in the Forms section rather than just at the bottom of each form, so that users don’t have to scroll down each time if the page is not applicable to the application.

    Materials page

    – allow ALL items to be edited at once by clicking on one “edit All” button rather than seven individual “edit” buttons.

    Materials and Sewage pages

    – the user is asked to name references to all plans, access statements etc. This should allow the option to browse the users computer to pick up names rather than forcing them to type them in (and potential make mistakes). Is this info even necessary ? As each document is named and attached in supporting documents section anyway?

    Performance and security

    – When an action (eg removal of an uploaded document) takes some time to complete, show a “waiting” screen: better still, mark a document as deleted and remove it from the screen. Background deletion is generally more efficient

    – Ensure the site is tested using Mozilla Firefox as well as Microsoft Internet Explorer, and possibly other browsers

    – Improve the speed of the system

    – Improve the security of the payment pages (which do not ask for a card holder name or CVV code)

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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