1APP improvements: what do they mean for LPAs?
This is the first of two posts I’ll be publishing over the next week to look at the key 1APP improvements we’re introducing over the next month or so.
This post will largely focus on benefits from the perspective of LPAs. Next week, I’ll follow up with a post for professional applicants, so stay tuned.
This is quite a long post so please bear with me…
When we were planning and prioritising the 1APP improvement project we were keen to make sure there was something included for all our key partners.
LPAs have played a leading role in supporting the Portal in the delivery of online planning services and a major factor to us achieving 60% of applications online by encouraging their customers to submit online. Thanks again for that and for your ongoing support.
With the first of the 1APP changes going live last night, I thought I’d give you an update on those changes and give you an insight into what’s coming in May.
Last night, we introduced a standard naming convention for all supporting attachments submitted with Portal applications. This is now communicated with all applications via the 1APP connector to your back-office system and is a change that many LPAs have long called for.
This will allow LPAs to better index supporting documents from the planning back-office to the document management systems, reducing the manual effort of renaming attachments for publication on their websites.
Within this change release we’ve also adding an extra question when selecting your application form:
“Is the applicant(s) address the same as the site address?”
If you click ‘Yes’ then the system will auto-populate the same information into the appropriate Applicant Details address.
This will ensure consistency in these instances where the two are the same (and a saving for agents that previously had to re-type this information).
That’s live now. Further key improvements coming shortly include:
Sentence case for address chooser
Currently the site address for all applications is displayed in upper case. We’ve been told by many that this looks untidy when communicated in standard letters and other correspondence leading some LPAs to edit and retype this. To alleviate this we are making some changes which will result in the proper sentence case being displayed. We’ve had a lot of calls from LPAs to fix this.
Expect this to be updated sooner rather than later – we’re planning to roll this particular change to the Release site on 16th April and to the Live site on 19th April.
The following improvements will be coming in May.
Better process for adding supporting documents
According to agent feedback, one of the bugbears with our service is the process for attaching supporting documents to an application. They regularly ask us to simplify this and make it less repetitive and that’s just what we’re doing.
This should have little impact on LPAs although agents will answer fewer questions when attaching documents.
Improving the payment process
We’re moving payment to the final part of the submission process, which will alleviate receiving payments for applications before they are submitted, or as is sometimes the case, not submitted.
As part of the change, LPAs will also be able to configure which off-line payment options they support and have a Portal account to update these details.
Therefore if supporting cheque, telephone, BACS or payment by council website you’ll be able to update these details yourselves and save them on the application service – a bit like you currently configure your planning application requirements.
We will also be improving the on-screen advice for applicants making cheque and telephone payments to make sure they provide all the necessary information to facilitate easier reconciliation of these payments.
We know the majority of you would prefer all payments to be made online but this should go someway to improving the current service while we continue to encourage all agents to pay online.
Simpler help and guidance
A key change for new users, we’re improving the presentation of the help and guidance text by putting the information in the context of the questions.
This will remove the frequent barriers faced by new users who are unfamiliar with planning and making applications by giving them clear guidance on what they need to provide.
It should also reduce the level of contact to LPAs (and our service desk) regarding questions starting “How do I…” and “I don’t understand…”
Highlighting mandatory questions on the forms
We’re making it easier to complete the forms by highlighting mandatory questions with an asterisk.
This is a common barrier for new users who are currently unsure which questions must they complete. This means it will be easier to see – at a glance – what needs to be done and reduce calls from all users about what is required.
We see the improved enhancements to help, guidance and what must be completed on the forms as a major step forward in attracting first-time submitters, especially citizens, to submit online rather than by post.
This should help to achieve LPA channel shift objectives by providing simple and usable online services as we look to increase these channels of engagement.
Phew. I hope that you’ll agree that these changes will enhance the current service and help us to achieve continued take-up of online applications.
I’ll be in touch again to let you know when you can start seeing the benefits as soon as we firm up the delivery timetable for these changes.