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Pay and submit: the final stage of the 1APP Improvements project

by on September 13, 2012

I’m delighted to let you know that this Thursday evening we will be rolling out the final part of the current 1APP improvements project.

The Portal will be unavailable between 20:00 and 22:00 on Thursday 20th September.

It’s been a long Summer (and Spring) of system improvements – all based on suggestions and feedback from users, both applicant and LPA.

The change will introduce a new process for paying for and submitting applications.

At the moment, once a user pays for an application he/she then needs to submit it as a separate action. This has led to some users believing an application has been submitted once they pay for it.

We’ve now combined payment and submission into a single step, bringing our service in line with industry best practice and further simplifying the process of making an application.

We believe the change will result in more applications being submitted successfully first time, fewer calls to our service desk or LPAs and a quicker end-to-end application service.

We’ve made a new video help video which shows the new process, please take a moment to watch it.

I hope you’ll find this improvement useful. As I mentioned it’s the last big change of this project which began in the Spring.

Naturally, this doesn’t end our commitment to improve 1APP. We still have (and continue to encourage) feedback and suggestions on how to improve our service from users.

In the meantime, we will continue to pitch for the funds to improve 1APP and look at ways we can make small but significant improvements to the content on the site. More news on this as it happens.

If you’ve (no doubt) lost track of all the changes we’ve introduced, I published a complete list of them a few weeks back.

As ever, I welcome your feedback on the changes we’ve made to the service we deliver to you.

  1. And what about planning agents!,

    • Hi Glenn, not sure what you mean, sorry! I’ve counted agents as ‘applicants’ if that’s what you were wondering?

  2. This is fine for larger practices but not all of us are VAT registered because we deal almost exclusively with domestic clients on small projects and the addition of 20% would make us uncompetitive in most cases. If we were to pay all planning fees online it would seriously affect our ability to stay under the VAT threshold so we ask our clients to pay the LAs directly by Debit Card. This works well so perhaps the pay by cheque option should be changed to pay direct to local authority?

    • Hi Andrew, we looked at this and it almost made the cut for this project. Rest assured it is right near the top of the next things we’d like to do and our Head of Corporate Development is constantly bending my ear about it.

      • There are many smaller companies in this situation and I operate in the exact same way. An option would be for agents to forward a link to the applicants so that they could access the various payments options. Otherwise I will continue to select the cheque option and ask clients to pay by debt card.

  3. David Young permalink

    I totally endorse the comment made by Andrew Hirst, being in exactly the same position and having adopted the same policy with regard to planning and Building Control fees. Our clients are asked to supply cheques which are then forwarded on the day of the submission.

  4. Any chance of a bar code to aid LPA’s document management workflow please?

  5. The payment options don’t clearly match what is available in our LPA and are confusing. We offer, in order of preference: debit or credit card payment over the phone, or BACS trasfer (cheques are discouraged and are being phased out). These can of course be by the applicant, but if they delay it will delay validation and this could usefully be made clear. So the first option is ‘through the Planning Portal’ and they have the same option through the LPA. I doubt many LPAs offer payment via their web sites as these systems only work for paying bills where a LPA reference has already been created beforehand when sending out a bill. Did you work with any LPAs when making this ‘improvement’?

  6. Ben Powell permalink

    Further to the comments made by Andrew Hirst and David Young, I always get my clients to pay by cheque direct to the LA. It saves me from getting too near the VAT threshold, reduces my accounting and also my risk if the client does not pay up! My experience with getting clients to pay by phone or BACS to the LA has not been good as the payments often go missing, so for now I have gone back to using cheques.

    I would like the option for me to e mail your payment link direct to my clients. It’s amazing how quick the clients are to pay the planning fee so this would not take long!

  7. Shaun Andrews permalink

    Am I missing something? It appears to me that we, as agents, can still ask clients to send a cheque direct if its suits us. Payments don’t have to be immediately on-line, or through “our” books do they? You’ve just combined the submit and payment buttons. I don’t see any real difference that will affect VAT thresholds etc.

  8. Michael Yeo permalink

    Does this mean all applications have to be paid at time of submission – if so this is a bad idea for the majority of agents. A typical agent will not bankroll a clients planning fees.

  9. Jenny permalink

    I hope they still keep the other payment options – I like my clients to pay the council direct on the phone or by posting a cheque

  10. We are not removing any existing payment options merely moving the payment process to a more logical place at the end of the application process.
    We hope to add the facility to enable applicants to pay online without going anywhere near an agents account but this will come later in the year and only after further discussion with you good folks.

  11. As a one man architectural practice dealing almost exclusively with domestic clients I cannot accept the PR spin put on these changes by the Planning Portal. I do not pay any fees for clients partly because of the VAt question raised above but also we all occasionally get slow or non payers. These changes are not improvements they simply further undermine the role of Architects and other professional agents in minor and domestic works.

    • Hi Richard, I’m sorry I haven’t made this clear enough. We aren’t removing or changing any existing payment options.

      We’re simply moving the payment step to a more logical place at the end of the application process. This was a common error in the application process for customers using our service. Often they would pay for an application but not realise they then had to click ‘Submit’.

      Sorry for any misunderstanding.

  12. Michael Hayes permalink

    Does the Planning Portal have the figures on what percentage of applications were paid for online by card before the introduction of this improvement?

    • Figures: Cheque 77% Online 20.4% with the remainder split between BACS, LPA website payment and telephone payments.

      Edit: Data represents applications submitted via the Portal between 1 Jan – 31 Aug 2012.

      (Answered on behalf of Chris.)

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